Lighting 101: Lumens, Layers and Thoughtful Design

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When making lighting choices, our first impulse may be to consider fixtures in terms of style and finish. Indeed, the style of a fixture impacts the cohesiveness of home design. A bold chandelier makes a statement and can bring focus to furniture, artwork, or design features. But to truly achieve excellent design that enhances the beauty, function, and safety of your home for the present and future, one should consider light quality.

The sheer number of choices in bulbs, fixtures and smart technology can be overwhelming, and there is no one right answer for everyone. But there are several universal elements to consider when making your lighting choices, especially when designing a home you intend to live in for years to come.

Light Levels and Quality

What works well for our eyes in our 20s will not work well for our eyes in our 70s. So, if you plan to stay in your home as you retire, or if you plan to have visitors and family of variable ages in your home, think ahead with your lighting choices. Providing light with higher lumens will give you and your visitors enough light to safely navigate pathways and to distinguish details in the room. Consider adding a dimmer to allow for lower lighting levels when you are trying to relax. LED lighting allows you to increase lumens at a much lower wattage, which in turn enables you to increase your light output while using less energy (think: electric bill) and staying within the safety ratings of your fixture. Light temperature (measured in Kelvins) and color rendering indexes (measured from 0-100) impact a room’s ambiance or mood but also impact your ability to distinguish colors and to highlight your home’s paint and furnishings.

Think in Terms of Layers

Remember your great-grandmother’s home with the single square ceiling light fixture in the center of each room and the shadows it cast in all corners? A layered approach to lighting creates good work surfaces, decreased shadows and increased warmth. As you choose each room’s lighting, consider a combination of lamps, recessed lights, ceiling lights and natural light. Task lighting is especially important over work surfaces such as kitchen countertops, desks, and garage workshops/hobby workspaces. Under-cabinet LED lighting is especially useful over kitchen countertops, as is drop pendant lighting over kitchen islands. Stairways and porches with changing levels of elevation can be dangerous, especially for visitors or people with low vision. Adding stair lights in the staircase or LED rope lights under the handrails will increase lighting on stair treads. Landings at the top and bottoms of stairs should also have adequate lighting.

Technology and Thoughtful Design

In addition to having adequate lumens and layered lighting sources, utilizing technology will simplify your lighting. Smart Outdoor lighting is important for both navigating in the dark and increasing home security. Consider outdoor lighting with light sensors to provide adequate lighting on porches and sidewalks as the sun sets. Motion-sensitive lighting is also available for outdoor fixtures. Both light sensors and motion-sensitive lighting eliminate the need for remembering to turn on your lights and has your outdoor lighting waiting for you if you arrive home after sunset. Motion-sensitive lighting is also available for indoor lighting needs. For example, LED strip lighting with a motion sensor can be attached to a bed’s siderails and activate when you get out of bed during the night. There are also light-sensitive and motion-sensitive night lights to illuminate pathways through the house and exits/entrances. Check out the motion-activated toilet night lights for another way lighting technology is keeping us safe. Dimmers provide flexibility with lighting, allowing us to increase or decrease our light to fit our tasks and the visual needs of multiple family members or to create the ambiance we are seeking.

Thoughtful lighting enhances the beauty of your home and maximizes safety and security. Creating consistent lighting levels and reducing glare and shadows will help you maintain your lifestyle and enjoy your home.

RES Aging In Place Team

If you are building a custom home by design or planning a remodel to prepare yourself to age in place, look to Residential Engineering Services & Design (RES) to lead you through the planning process. RES has experience with Universal Design and Aging in Place concepts. We are an experienced professional team with a Certified Aging in Place Specialist. Our design team will meet with you to plan, design, and engineer a home to live in for a lifetime. Contact us today to schedule your consultation.