Lighting is important! Without it, you’re just “in the dark.” That might be OK for a while, but sometime soon, you will want to “see the light!”
A lot of lighting in residential interiors happens without a vision, a plan, or a purpose. It is especially important in brand new homes or remodels; that a floor plan showing the furniture arrangements, is drawn up and that a “reflected ceiling plan” is done on top of that, so that we know where lighting needs to be positioned. This enables us to see what we want the lighting plan to accomplish for us. That all revolves strongly around developing the ambiance, mood, and feeling.
The idea is that we want to see the effects of the lighting, not just the lighting sources themselves. In certain cases like with chandeliers and such, the aesthetical value of the fixture is very important, just as the lighting is very important.
Another aspect is the more we can “zone” lighting and put different fixtures on dimmers or rheostats the better we are, because it gives us a broader range of play and control. With the proper lighting within the space, we can generate a broader range of emotional impact!
In order to accomplish that, we need to know how dark or light the space is going to be, what kind of textures and what kind of materials are we going to be dealing with, what is it that were going to be lighting; whether cocktail tables, seating groups, artwork, and sculpture etc.
I am going to cover briefly three different lamp styles or bulb styles. A “lamp” is what we call it in the profession, vs. a bulb that most everybody else in the world would call it.
- Number One is the “A” lamp, similar to what Edison designed, and what most people put in a table lamp. With this lamp or bulb, light is emanating out in all directions. Therefore, there is no particular control of this type of lamp.
- Number Two is the “reflector” lamp. These usually come in “spots” or “floods,” referring respectively to a tight beam spread or a wide beam spread. Since it is cone-shaped, it is very focused lighting, which emanates outward like a fan in 360°, because it has a base reflector.
- Number Three is a refinement of the “R” or reflector lamp. It’s called an MR-16. It’s quite a bit smaller, with a mirror faceted reflector and it operates off a transformer, stepping the voltage down from 120 volts to 12 volts. This type of lighting is “low-voltage” lighting. There is much more control with these lamps and they are more “color corrected” in that they render colors better and with more balance in the warm and cool areas of the color spectrum.
You’ll see MR-16’s used in jewelry stores because their balanced color rendering properties. A diamond splits light into the colors of the rainbow. This is part of what jewelers call “fire.” They want those gems to have a lot of “fire,” “sparkle,” and color.
Where we position the fixture, that actually holds the “lamp,” which actually does the work, is dependent on what we are lighting. Whether it be a painting or sculpture; we have to position the fixture depending on how low or high the ceiling is, the angle of “attack,” the beam spread of the lamp, the wattage of the lamp, and the distance the lamp is placed from the object being lit. This all falls under the subject or category of photo-metrics.
If you think of a flashlight, there is a reflector and a bulb or “lamp” at one end. You hold the barrel of the flashlight with your hand. Imagine the flashlight, as the fixture that holds the lamp. Your hand actually directs the light beam where you want it to go. On the other hand, consider the fixture analogous to your hand. Your hand just holds and directs the light. Some flashlights are adjustable as far as the beam spread. You can screw them down tight for a tight beam spread or loosen them up for wide beam spread. So remember, the “lamp” or bulb is what actually does the job!
In summary, we have to work the lighting plan backwards and determine the effects that we want to accomplish with the lighting, what kind of lighting illumination levels we want in order to bring in a lot of variety and interest, as well as enhance textures, so that objects and the environment really come “alive.”