How best to shed light on a dark room

August 23, 1992|By Rita St. Clair

Q: I keep reading how important it is to light a room properly. Now that I'm about to redo a living room, I'd like some advice on choosing the right kind of lighting. The room is going to be furnished in contemporary style.

A: Before you choose the lighting, you must plan it. Among the factors to weigh are the function of the room, the layout of the furniture, and the placement of art and decorative objects. All these elements, along with your own needs, will determine the type of lighting that should be used in the room.

I personally believe that a variety of lighting sources are needed in most residential spaces. So as you go about your remodeling project, don't discard all the old table lamps because you prefer the effect of recessed or track lighting. The space will be better, I think, for having a mix of both old-fashioned and contemporary lighting arrangements.

Today's high-tech lighting can pinpoint a specific work of art or bathe a textured wall in a warm glow. Cove lighting and torchieres will make a standard-height ceiling look taller. And track lighting, even though it's capable of producing all sorts of effects, is often regarded as user-friendly, since its basic functions can be performed without complicated calculations.

As for the venerable table-top lamp, if it's properly shaded, it will produce a glow almost as flattering and as romantic as candlelight. Portable stand-up lamps are highly effective in illuminating furniture, objects and people.

Has all this convinced you to use more than just a couple of lighting sources? I hope so, because I also recommend that you mix the levels of lighting in the room by installing dimming switches.

The photo may help you decide what types of lighting to install. Assuming that your own setting resembles this large, formal living roomwith a 9-foot ceiling and with a single focal point, the solution could be rather simple. Here, ceiling-recessed wall washers were installed 3 feet apart from one another and 3 feet away from the wall, against which is placed the 19th century Chinese painted screen. This arrangement illuminates the screen while also producing ambient lighting for the entire room.

Since this setting is intended mainly for entertaining, the requirement was for soft illumination. Properly scaled table lamps with ivory silk shades were thus placed on each side of the screen. They help to subdue the harsher light from above that shines on the screen.

Because I'm not familiar with the specifics of your room, I have discussed lighting possibilities in a general way. In order to create the proper effects you will need to be precise in regard to placement and type of lighting. This is a tricky area of design -- so much so that I must depart from my usual practice of encouraging self-reliance and individual initiative. After you have evaluated the situation, you may find it wise to seek some expert advice.

+ Los Angeles Times Syndicate

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