It’s common knowledge that we need general, ambient lighting in our homes, but there are things to consider before you get out the ladder. To avoid surprises, it’s helpful to understand how your new lighting will look. If you recently swapped out your incandescent bulbs for compact fluorescent ones with a screw-in base, you will likely have discovered that the light quality is different — whiter. The same is true if you have traded in your vintage Christmas lights for new LED mini lights. All lighting is not alike.
Do you like warm light or cool light? You have probably heard lighting described as having a color temperature, which is measured in degrees Kelvin (K). Simply put, this indicates whether the light will appear warm or cool — more yellow or more blue.
Desirable temperatures for home lighting depend on the effect you want to achieve:
• 2,700 K: Warm, similar to soft candlelight
• 2,900 K to 3,200 K: Warm, the Goldilocks zone (for many)
• 3,500 K: Neutral
• 4,000K: Cool. Mimicking natural daylight starts here; the light gets colder depending on the time of day. (Surprisingly the light we perceive from the sun is cool.)
• 5,000 K: Cold
Let personal preference guide you. If you are drawn to rich, warm colors, or your home is traditional or Arts and Crafts style, lighting that mimics incandescent or even candlelight may be desirable. A modern or contemporary home might look better with cooler-temperature (whiter) lighting.
Lighting experts draw on a toolbox of techniques to elevate look and functionality, but don’t overlook the basics.
8 Ways to Get Your Ambient Lighting Right
1. Exploit natural lighting. For rooms used primarily during the daytime, natural light can be adequate and inviting. Consider passive light sources first.
Tip: Check local building codes to determine if you can enlarge or add fenestration (openings in a structure).
2. Expose your rooms. In the northern hemisphere, east-, west- and south-facing rooms are great candidates for increasing natural light. Each exposure offers unique lighting. North-facing rooms draw on natural light as well but typically need assistance from an artificial light source.
Tip: Add windows to the southern face of your home to get the maximum benefit from natural light.
3. Reflect natural light. This room has lots of natural light, drawing on a less-obvious strategy. Anytime you introduce mirrors, like the ones on the wall behind the sectional here, you reflect and amplify the light.
Tip: Place a mirror opposite any available window if you have a dark basement or family room. No matter how small the window, it will bounce more light around.
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