Interior Design Blog

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Designing with Light Part 2: Choosing Fixtures

Designing with Light Part 2: Choosing Fixtures

Last week we talked about the importance of lighting in creating the mood or ambience of a space and how it can be used to in different ways to enhance both. Lighting can also be used to enhance the style or décor of a room, dressing it up or down, making it feel exciting and lively, or calm and soothing.

When it comes to creating an interior style with lighting design, the fixture is the most important element. There are many general types of fixtures:

  • Chandeliers
  • Pendants
  • Ceiling Mounted Fixtures
  • Wall-mounted Sconces
  • Bath/Vanity Fixtures
  • Portable Lamps
  • Track Lighting
  • Recessed Lighting
  • Under-cabinet Lighting

Each of these fixtures lends itself to delivering one or more of the types of lighting – ambient, task and accent- and come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes and styles.


Designing With Light Part 2: Chandeliers

Chandeliers add a decorative focal point to a space and help to define the style of almost any room of the house. Traditionally used in the dining room, recent trends have included them in large living rooms, kitchens, foyers, and even bedrooms and bathrooms.

Some chandeliers are designed with both traditional up lights as well as down lights to accent table settings or provide task lighting. Many are available with either fabric or glass shades which reduces glare and also adds an element of style in your interior lighting design. They are available in a variety of light sources including incandescent, halogen and compact fluorescent. Adding a dimmer gives you greater flexibility and control to suit different activities or moods.

Pendant Lighting

Designing With Light Part 2: Pendant Lighting
Pendant Lighting

Pendants are similar to chandeliers, but typically smaller and more compact- usually with just one element. They can provide both task and ambient lighting, and are available in an unlimited range of styles, shapes and colors. Pendants have become very popular in recent years, and can be suspended over kitchen islands, breakfast areas, game tables and other work areas. When they are used over a bedside table in place of a lamp, they free up surface for other items.

Ceiling Fixtures

Ceiling fixtures are excellent for ambient lighting, providing very practical illumination in hallways, foyers, bedrooms, kitchens, baths, laundry rooms and closets. Also available in a variety of sizes and styles, they can be equipped with incandescent, fluorescent or halogen bulbs.

Wall-mounted Fixtures

Designing With Light Part 2: Wall-mounted Fixtures
Wall-mounted Fixture

Wall-mounted fixtures or sconces can create a unique sense of sophistication and style in a room. Many are designed to match chandeliers and other fixtures in sets to create a sense of continuity in adjoining areas. They provide ambient and accent lighting in hallways, over dining buffets, and in entries. In a powder room or bath they can also be a source of task lighting.

Bath / Vanity Fixtures

Designing With Light Part 2: Bath / Vanity Fixtures
Bath / Vanity Fixture

Bath / vanity fixtures supply task lighting while supplementing general lighting provided by ceiling fixtures. It is critical to include both types of lighting in a bath where personal grooming will take place to avoid creating shadows. Vanity fixtures can be mounted either above or to the side of the mirror. They can be found in a wide range of styles, colors, shapes and sizes to fit any room, some with glass or fabric shades.

Portable Lamps

Portable lamps provide task, general or accent lighting with the flexibility to move the light wherever you need it. Table lamps, floor lamps and torchieres (floor lights with an uplight) are all types of portable lamps, and are unlimited in their variety to complement any design style. They can use incandescent, halogen, compact fluorescent, and now LED bulbs.

Track Lighting & Rail Lighting

Designing With Light Part 2: Track Lighting / Rail Lighting
Track Lighting

Track lighting and rail lighting are very similar in both style and functionality. Track lighting has changed dramatically in recent years, trending toward smaller fixtures or decorative pendants. Track lighting provides very functional ambient, task or accent lighting in a flexible system. You can swivel, rotate and aim the individual light fixtures in any direction, highlighting specific points with the versatility to change whenever the need arises.

Newer low-voltage track lighting systems are very small and have many interesting shapes, sizes and colors with different pendants and decorative fixtures.

Rail lighting has addressed the increase in popularity by providing bendable, flexible and decorative systems that are easy to include as a decorative element in any space.

Recessed Lighting

Recessed lighting is the least sexy of all the fixtures because it is usually designed to disappear in the background of a room. Newer recessed cans are smaller, while still providing very good general light. They are used in any area of the home, including outdoors on porches, patios and under eaves. Ideal for any type of ceiling, they are often used in the kitchen, hallways, and other high traffic areas. Available in incandescent, compact fluorescent, halogen and now LED bulbs.

Under-cabinet Fixtures

Under-cabinet fixtures offer both task and accent lighting in places like kitchens or laundry rooms. They are also used in display cabinets to highlight collections, three-dimensional art and sculptures. The latest options are super slim LED strips that emit no heat and provide a nice bright and long lasting light.

In addition to the various types of fixtures, you also should consider installing dimmers and lighting control systems throughout the home or at least in key areas, Dimmers provide manual control over the brightness of almost any type of fixture, which allows you to create a mood appropriate for the activities happening at any given time. Lighting control systems allow you to set scenes that are commonly used over and over again at the touch of a button. A favorite option for many people is the “all off” button which lets you turn off all lights throughout the house with one touch, rather than going room to room.

Next week, we will look at the various options of lighting sources and the reasons for using each.

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