Tinkering with lighting may be the easiest way to re-energize a room, but because it’s so obvious, it’s often overlooked.
“People underrate the importance of lighting,” says Sharon Wayne, a lighting consultant at Galaxy Lighting in Colorado Springs, Colo. “The lights you use and how you use them can drastically change the mood of a room.”
Placing or replacing lights in the house is less time-consuming than wallpapering or repainting and in some cases can make just as much of a statement.
First consider what kind of light to use: fluorescent, incandescent or halogen.
Halogens are the newest and hottest - literally - lights going. They have a tungsten filament like standard incandescent bulbs but are filled with a different gas at higher pressure. As a result, they operate at higher temperatures.
They emit a brighter, clearer light than incandescent or fluorescent bulbs. Colors look truer when illuminated by a halogen bulb.
Because they burn hotter than incandescent bulbs, many halogen fixtures are dishlike, with large openings to allow the heat to escape. Halogen lights tend toward a contemporary look and are especially popular in track lighting, hanging lights over kitchen islands, dining rooms, as reading lamps and in torchieres, the 6- to 7-foot tall floor lamps.
Halogen lights are more energy-efficient than incandescent bulbs, providing double the light output for half the energy consumption. They are more expensive than incandescent bulbs, but they last longer.
Fluorescent bulbs provide “cool” color, generally a bluish or blue-white light. Because of the color of light they emit and the fact they do not generate a noticeable amount of heat, fluorescent lights are commonly used in kitchens and for close task lighting, such as at desks.
Incandescent bulbs, the most frequently used, emit a warmer color - one that is more a warm yellow, similar to the late afternoon sun - than fluorescent lights. Incandescent bulbs can produce a significant amount of heat, which makes them unsuitable in some cases, for instance, close to a task area.
Incandescent bulbs also come in colors, the most popular of which is pink, with warm, soft light. Many incandescent bulbs have various interior coatings to diffuse or soften the light they emit, which helps reduce glare and soften shadows.
Different types of light can be used together to create different effects, depending on the room and the purpose of the light.
Ceiling lights - regardless of the bulb - are good for general illumination. Table lamps are great for reading. But don’t expect one type of light to do everything.
A solution is to develop “layered lighting,” Wayne says. Layered lighting, like layered clothing, can be adjusted to varying conditions.
Layering lights can create moods. Light can highlight one area and make another recede. Lights focused on artwork serve as a beacon, drawing people toward it.
For those who wish to use lights to decorate, Pete LoPresti of Home Lighting suggests an inexpensive and easy option - dimmers, which can cut energy use, extend bulb life and create varying moods in the room.
The simplest dimmers start at about $7. Those with preset memory options can cost more than $100. LoPresti recommends getting a dimmer that costs $20 or more; those and above will reduce energy rather than burning off the excess energy in heat. They also perform better and tend to reduce or even eliminate the buzzing sound often associated with dimmers.
Track lighting is another inexpensive lighting option with dramatic effect. It’s a good option when recessed lighting is too expensive or difficult to install.
Other trends include:
Rope lighting, which is a clear tube with small lights inside that can be strung along cabinets or up stairs - sort of a variation on theater aisle lights.
Cove or “minitrack” lighting installed in such furniture as armoires, under or over cabinets or along the ceiling’s edge.
Iron lamps, floor and hanging models.
Small character lamps that fit on bookshelves.
Wall scones, which are turning up in metals. Adding texture to the wall, they tend to be put in dining rooms, stairwells and bordering mirrors.
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: EXERCISE CAUTION WHEN USING HALOGEN LIGHTING Halogen lamps have come under growing scrutiny lately. More than 100 fires and 10 deaths have been attributed to them since 1992, the most recent being a fire that destroyed jazz musician Lionel Hampton’s Manhattan apartment. The lights are sleek and snazzy - and hot. The 300-watt bulb used in floor lamps can burn as hot as 970 degrees Fahrenheit, compared to a 150-watt incandescent, which reaches about 340 degrees. The danger comes primarily from curtains or drapes that billow and touch the hot bulb. If using a floor lamp with a reading lamp arm, make sure it is a safe distance from the back of a chair or couch. Never drape anything on the lamp arm. Another danger is shattering. Any trace of moisture, dirt or skin oil on the surface can cause the bulb to shatter when it is turned on. To avoid this, use a tissue when changing the bulb. Always replace the bulb cover, and don’t look directly at the bulb when turning it on. Halogen bulbs are safest in track lighting, in recessed cans, and in outdoor security lighting. Halogen bulbs do not come with a three-way option, but they can be used with a dimmer switch. Gazette Telegraph
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