8 Brilliant Design Tips for Lighting Your Home

Realtors have a mantra; we have all heard it because it is so true: location, location, location. As designers, we have a few mantras as well, and one of them is: lighting, lighting, lighting.

As an interior designer in Sarasota, Florida, I often write about the beautiful Sarasota sunsets and skies, the special colors we enjoy in the gorgeous Sarasota natural environment, and how we use all of these elements to enhance the interiors we create. The Sarasota color palette is sparkling azure blue, clear aquamarine, and effervescent sea green. The neutral effects of soft whites and sand colors complete the palette.

How do we make the most of those incredible colors and show them to their best advantage?

The answer is lighting with a Capital L. Even the best designs will fall flat, literally, without proper lighting.

How do we achieve proper lighting?

Always remember human scale. People enjoy lighting at their level, whether they are reading, walking through a space, focusing on artwork, or lighting a kitchen or workspace.

Table lamps give a glow to a room, are at human scale, and add warmth. Even in minimalist and very modern or contemporary rooms, we use table lamps liberally as they offer pools of light where you need them, and add romance and comfort to a room. In most spaces, table lamps are the perfect solution.

Floor lamps also create lighting magic if used in the correct way. They are a wonderful functional and aesthetic light source. Try using them in corners to light up the perimeter of a room and, of course, by that favorite chair for reading.

if you love to read in bed, make sure that your lamps are about 30" in height. That height will work whether you are sitting or lying in bed.

Table lamps and floor lamps need not be purely functional. One of the joys of using both is that they can become sculptural and artistic objects that add to the design interest of your room. Just about anything can be made into a lamp: a vase, an actual sculpture, something from the natural environment, a found object. Be creative...design something unusual and interesting.

Lamp shades are also important. If you want to see that lovely glow from your table or floor lamp, make sure you use a light-colored, see-through fabric rather than a dark fabric shade or a paper shade. One of the best benefits of table and floor lamps is their glow, and the light needs to be able to transmit through the shade.

Lighting work areas can be fun as well. Kitchens, laundries, and workrooms need very bright and functional lighting in general, but these spaces also require the ability to adjust the light source. In the "old days", we had to rely on recessed lights and track lighting, but today the market offers varied and fascinating light fixtures that attach to ceilings in all sorts of configurations and wattage. Having the ability to tone down or brighten these rooms is necessary, and having dimmers throughout gives us that flexibility.

The bathroom is the room where lighting needs to be ultra-flattering. Bathrooms require a general, overall light source so we use decorative ceiling fixtures that spread light throughout the room. Recessed lights are used over the sink and vanity areas to provide good, functional light for shaving and make-up application (separate shaving and make-up mirrors are a real plus for this also). Sconces on the sidewalls of the vanity or the back wall provide soft light to illuminate the sides of your face.

The bottom line is that lighting needs to be functional as well as artistic and enhancing beauty. Both objectives are achievable with a little knowledge and free reign on your creativity.