The Role of Light in Interior Design

Large iron chandelier

Light plays a dramatic role in interior design, going beyond look and functionality to how a space affects our mood. The amount and location of natural light sources, how you plan to use the space, and the overall feel you want to create should all be considered when examining the role of light in interior design schemes for your home.

Light Sets the Mood:

Serene, vibrant, gloomy – the amount of light in a space will determine which of these adjectives you use to describe it. While mixing light and color is the best way to create the mood you are looking for, it is imperative that the symbiotic relationship between the two be considered when choosing a color scheme. Paint, which covers the vertical plane of a space, is particularly affected by light. The same color on four walls can take on four different looks depending upon how the light at that part of the day interacts with it. When we choose paint for our clients, we insist that they test the colors by painting a large piece of cement board or poster board and place it all throughout the room at different times of the day. Many times that grey-toned tan during the day becomes greenish at night, bringing a totally different look and feel.

Decorating with Draperies

It is also important to consider how the mood you want to create in a space may change depending upon the time of day. Perhaps you are a person who likes to wake up slowly in the morning by sitting in a softly-lit kitchen enjoying your coffee and paper. However, during the busy evening time, you need enough light in that kitchen to cook, entice the kids to do homework, and have family discussions. Into the later hours of day, dimming the lights down helps evoke a relaxing atmosphere. Light is at the heart of all of these moods and people use it this way without even thinking about it. Your design scheme must give you the ability to control the light in your space, allowing the mood you want to create to come alive. Dimmers are central to this control. If your lighting fixture can take it, put a dimmer on it!!

Light Is Functionality:

A central determining factor in your ability to use a space effectively is the amount of appropriate light. The size of the room does not matter—inadequate or improper light affects the quality of your living! A poorly-lit kitchen makes preparing meals challenging, while a southern-facing bedroom with lots of uncovered windows makes the all-important toddler nap impossible! The effect of natural light should even be considered when placing a new home on a piece of land. The western sun beating down on a wall of windows will make that space unbearable to use in the late afternoons and evenings.

iron kitchen lighting

How you plan to use a space throughout the day must be considered when creating a lighting plan. What kind of light do you need: ambient? task? accent? layered? Each room will have a different lighting need. Most rooms in today’s homes have canned lights for overall lighting. However, placing too many of these lights can make your ceiling look like Swiss cheese (not attractive), provide more light than necessary, and give the space too much of the same kind of light. Canned lights are direct illumination sources that come from the ceiling. Indirect light from other heights creates a more pleasing and functional design. At Hoskins Interior Design, we try to light most rooms with a combination of lighting to create the desired look. We love lamps because they allow better control of the functionality of the light since you can place them where you need them. In a kitchen, under cabinet lighting, appropriately sized-pendants over an island, and cabinet lights for mullioned doors are a must. Again, don’t forget the dimmers!

Window treatments and glass-tinting film are your friends when you are trying to control how natural light will affect the functionality of your space. Sunlight fades fabrics and flooring, so place tinting film on windows to protect your design investment. Natural light also adds glare to computers and TVs – window treatments can help alleviate this issue. And, for that napping toddler, room-darkening shades are a lifesaver.

Finally, the style of your lighting will affect its functionality too. For example, sconces with opaque shades will provide directed light with no ambient illumination coming off it. Lighting has become quite technical these days as technology continues to advance. Many lighting options require special bulbs that have the same wattage you are used to but give off fewer lumens and therefore less light. If you are planning a large remodeling project or new home build, we suggest bringing in a lighting specialist to help guide you through your options.

As you can see, to create a beautiful and functional home, light cannot be an afterthought. For more information on choosing the right lighting for your space, read our blog: Creating a Beautiful and Functional Whole House Lighting Design. Or, feel free to send us an email or give us a call at 317.253.8986.


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