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Luxury Lighting Guide

Legendary designer Charles Eames once said, “The details are not the details, they make the design.”

And when it comes to designing a truly luxurious space, the detail of proper lighting should always be right at the top of the room’s hierarchy of needs.

The value of perfected lighting is more more than functionality. It is the glue that ties elements of style together, while portraying a personality of its own. Lighting works in conjunction with colors to morph reality. It has the power to make a small room feel larger or vice-versa. It can add, subtract and change directions.

Lighting accentuates furniture, draws your attention to art or other design features and, perhaps most importantly, shifts the viewer’s mood.

Two Types of Light

All lighting sources can be divided into just two categories: natural and artificial. Ideally, every room in your home should be illuminated by a combination of the two.

Natural lighting brings warmth, both literally and figuratively, but it’s important to note that there can be too much of a good thing. A room that is over lit with natural light is prone to glare and overheating during warmer months.

Sheers and other window treatments let you control natural lighting, while slat or louver blinds provide an extremely variable intake of sunlight.

Artificial light serves to highlight features and create a division of spaces.

Five Categories of Artificial Lighting

Not all artificial lighting is created equal. Recognizing how each category of lighting plays into your luxury lighting plan is key to success.

  • General: Think of this as the light that “turns on” the space. The switch you flip when you walk into the room to make it usable. The idea of general lighting is to provide the option for an even glow from wall-to-wall. For this reason, rooms with ornate chandeliers are usually paired with second-tier general lighting fixtures to combat unwanted shadows.
  • Ambient: Used to create drama and shift attitude when entertaining. Ambient lighting should be controlled using a dimmer switch to adjust appropriately for the time of day and type of gathering.
  • Task: Reading. Cooking. Working. Task lighting provides an intense, concentrated beam of light aimed at work areas such as desks, countertops or lounge chairs.
  • Mood: The right-hand man of ambient lighting. Mood lighting is more about style than function. Lamps are the most common form of mood lighting along with real or faux candles.
  • Accent: Illuminated artwork, sculptures or distinct design features fall under accent lighting. The primary purpose of accent lighting is to prevent key elements from getting lost in a well-lit space.

Combine and intertwine lighting categories carefully room by room.

Putting Them Together

Taking theory to practice is easier said than done, but here are a few pointers to get you started:

  • Analyze the room’s furniture. What is each piece used for? Does its purpose require any specific lighting?
  • Lighting control should always be responsive. Provide plenty of options for personal customization on a use-by-use basis.
  • Never illuminate a space with a single light source. Layers eliminate shadows and create depth.
  • Consider neighboring lighting schemes when shifting from room to room. Dark to bright and vice-versa can cause confusion and fatigue.
  • Use wall lights on shorter walls to draw attention away from extra-long walls.

Test and adjust. Once you believe a room is complete, give it a real trial run to see how it makes you feel. It’s common to not get it right the first time. Make changes as necessary until the space exudes the mood you’re looking to create.