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2011 - Volume 2 Issue 1
Casas Bonitas
Article: Bob Skolnick
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Lighting is one element that can dramatically influence the feel of a room and make it warm and inviting, cozy and comfortable or just the opposite - cold and completely distant. The colors, textures, forms and shadows are all affected by the type and source of lighting chosen. Natural lighting is a major factor in architectural design and must be decided first. The introduction of mechanical light finishes the lighting plan. Table lamps, chandeliers, ceiling cans, or accent lights; decorative lights are one of the best ways to accentuate your architectural elements and furnishing. Lighting has several functions - it serves as a general or decorative element, accent light, task lighting and finally, it illuminates the entire house with a soft glow. These lighting functions can’t be satisfied by one single source of light. Your light plan must also consider the family makeup and how the home is used for different lifestyle activities.

    "Creating a lighting plan with a professional lighting consultant allows for best day and nighttime uses of each room"

Anne Perez,
Designer’s Mart
  "You can increase the drama of a space, the functionality of a space, the efficiency of a space ten fold with effective lighting."

Wayne Hilton,

Designer’s Mart
6960 Gateway East
El Paso, TX
106 Wyatt Dr.
Las Cruces, NM

Westside Lighting Gallery
5375 S Desert Blvd.
El Paso, TX
The Residential Lighting Plan

Developing a lighting plan with the help of a professional architect and interior designer will help to unify all of the other elements of your home’s design, harmonizing colors, textures, room sizes, ceiling heights and furnishings. Your design team may feel the need to bring in a lighting design specialist to consult on the lighting plan of your home. It is important that the lighting and the placement of outlets, lighting fixtures, the type of fixtures and automated lighting controls be discussed at an early stage in the design planning. A lighting design specialist not only will consult, but can assist in resourcing and come back after installation to ensure all fixtures and controls operate as intended.

The Interior of Your Home

Your residential lighting plan should follow the motifs of interior architecture. Every home has its own unique look and feel. This is especially true for custom homes, where an architect and interior designer plans the living space around the lifestyle of the homeowners. The lighting fixtures you install within a home have to work within the framework of the home’s interior. Custom home lighting plans require a blend of decorative and general lighting. Sometimes, as we see in the case of art lighting, you do not want the light source to show at all – only the subject being illuminated. At other times, however, decorative fixtures actually function as important elements of interior design. Beam spread and lumens have an important factor in the effective application of light.

The larger and more sophisticated a home is, the more challenging it will be to illuminate. Specialty rooms like kitchens, guest rooms, dens, and playrooms may need a separate lighting plan to support special functions and activities that occur within those rooms. Any type of special artwork or display you have in your house will need special art lights or display lights that will properly differentiate the piece from its surroundings without overpowering the rest of your decorative scheme. Connecting these many elements together is something that is very difficult to do without special training, and is also impossible to do without specification grade equipment engineered for high-end residential lighting design.

Lighting plans are affected by many factors of the home design. Room sizes dictate the number of lighting fixtures and the wattages that must be used to provide general lighting. Variations in ceiling height, daylight and construction materials form a three-dimensional framework around the floor plan. Custom home lighting fixtures must be chosen based on their ability to harmoniously complement interior surfaces and architectural elements. Otherwise, fixtures will appear too obtrusive and diminish the room’s aesthetic values. Creating a multi-layered interior lighting design in this fashion will ensure decorative appeal and satisfactory lighting levels at once. Kitchens are an excellent example where a layered lighting plan is very effective from up-lighting over cabinets, LED lighting under cabinets, pendant lighting to accentuate work and counter areas and ceiling can lights for general lighting. Master bedrooms also are typically planned with layered lighting. In bathrooms, you can add ambience and night lighting with a toe-kick lighting placement.

Too much light creates either indirect glare or glare reflecting off glass and hard surfaces. It also creates a “flattened” look where everything looks two-dimensional. This works against interior decorating and is best avoided through a more strategic and selective blending of general and accent lighting.

Recessed low voltage accent lights add great value to any project; accent and pendant lights create focal points and are used to illuminate fine art, furniture, dining tables and plants. Accent lighting fixtures typically have small apertures which tend to hide the light source and minimize visual glare. They can also be used as an effective general lighting source in some contemporary lighting floor plans.

Ceiling fans come in many styles, and kits are available to match them with other lighting fixtures you select. Ceiling fans are now available with excellent wall and remote controls. Some controls can change the rotation direction for either summer cooling or winter heating. In the Southwest, it is always right to use ceiling fans for air circulation in any room. Some ceiling fans have DC motors for stronger air movement. When selecting a ceiling fan you have choices in fan blade pitch; the greater the degree of pitch the more the turbulence.

Home lighting plans today are required by law to be at least 75% energy efficient CFL or LED bulbs. CFL light bulbs are now coming out with a dimmable ballast. CFL bulbs come with different levels of illumination and color variations. Choices that you make in CFL bulb selection will dramatically affect the lighting in a particular area. While LED is more expensive initially, when projected over time, the cost is very realistic. LED light bulbs last for years and make sense when you have high ceiling can lights or chandeliers with multiple bulbs.

Automated Lighting Controls

Creating moods and levels of accent lighting can be designed into a home automation system using user-friendly lighting controls. They can create any number of lighting layers and effects with automated programs, hand-held remotes, pre-programmed themes linked to home theater and dimmers, and wall-box controls geared toward one-touch friendliness. Lighting can also be tied to motion sensors that can progressively turn off lighting in the evening, in children’s bedrooms, closets and dressing rooms. Sidewall foot lights for stairs can be programmed to progressively turn on and off as you ascend or descend. Lutron lighting controls, one of the world's largest and most successful residential and commercial lighting control companies, offers a wide variety of options and Lutron dealers can work with you to plan and program the Lutron systems. Properly managing your lighting levels and layers will provide energy savings that reduce your electrical bill.

The Exterior Lighting Plan

Your residential lighting plan should emphasize your home's exterior appearance while concealing the lighting fixtures themselves as much as possible. They must also meet the night sky initiatives required by many communities. Because the entry of the home is the most prominent feature of the house and the surrounding property, exterior illumination should enhance its architectural preeminence and aesthetic elements. Exterior light plans may include automated controls that are tied to either specific timing or motion sensors. Entrance walkway lighting provides guidance and safety.

Professional landscape lighting should act as a luminary mirror to house lighting. This requires consulting with a professional who is familiar with both landscaping technique and architectural theory. There are certain basic forms that occur within both natural formation and man-made creations. Multiple layers of light are required to effectively accomplish this. It takes more than a single layer of illumination to highlight earthwork features such as gardens, flower beds, birdbaths, fountains, and shrubs. Trees need their own separate lighting to both illuminate leaves and branches and create special pools of luminance at the bases of their trunks. Home security lighting has to be provided with flood lighting, and special structures like patios and gazebos need both additional general lighting and low-voltage accent lighting to effectively blend, form and function.

This article was developed with the assistances of Anne Perez, lighting design consultant at Designer’s Mart with locations in El Paso and Las Cruces. ///
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