Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Design Tip - Lighting Strategies

Lighting plays a critical role in how we perceive a space and can even influence how we act in that space. It can affect performance, mood, safety, security and decisions. And it is critical to a well designed space. Before you go out and pick out a chandelier or lamp, consider the mood you are looking to achieve and keep a few key factors in mind.

The first step in producing the right lighting design is to ask what the space is used for. Then you can successfully determine quantity of light, color quality, brightness and direction.

Here are a couple of approaches to lighting design that homeowners can use to determine their lighting needs.

A simplified way to create a good lighting plan within a space is to ensure that the lighting system provides;

          Ambient illumination for orientation and general tasks in the space

          Task illumination for local, more demanding tasks, and

          Accent illumination to highlight special objects of interest or to guide occupants.

An example of this scheme is an open office plan with workstations; we might provide indirect fixtures to provide ambient illumination, task lighting at the workstations for work, and accent lighting to highlight pieces of corporate art on the walls.

A typical general approach to lighting design is, after determining how the space is used, to provide general, localized general, localized and task illumination to meet these needs.

General lighting provides a generally uniform light level on the workplane throughout the lighted space. 

Localized general lighting is similar but is tailored more to the location of tasks in the lighted space. 

Localized lighting, also called supplemental lighting, is used to provide light to a specific area.

Task lighting delivers light tailored for a specific task.

Other types of lighting you may want to consider when developing your lighting plan are;

Key Light.
When we shine a light on an object from a single point source of light it is called key light; it highlights contours on the object and creates shadows; the exact effect depends on the angle of the beam of light. Most of the time we want to light the object so we can see its front. In these cases, the light source may be best placed in front of and to the side of the object at an angle of 45°.

Fill Light. It can either be directional or diffused. In our example we could shine a directional light on the object from the opposite direction of the key light, softening or eliminating shadows depending on the strength of the fill light relative to the strength of the key light. We could also place fill light sources behind the object to light the entire room evenly.

Suppose we wanted to emphasize the shape of an object as a silhouette. In this event, we would soften or even eliminate the key light and directional fill light, and instead provide only fill light, either intense or diffused, depending on the clarity of the silhouette and the drama we want to produce.

The effect of uplighting is either very desirable or very undesirable because it is unusual. Effects range from intimate to eerie. A lot of landscape lighting includes uplighting to accentuate bushes and trees.

Sparkle And Glitter Effects.
To add an atmosphere of elegance, we could add little lighting points of interest in the form of sparkle or glitter. This effect can be produced by either producing sharp reflections on specular surfaces in the room (sparkle), such as silverware in a restaurant, or by making the light source itself a source of interest (glitter) such as with a chandelier. Beware of glare in such cases.

Grazing And Washing Surfaces.
On walls or on the surface of an object, we can change the way light impacts them so that we can produce different effects. Suppose we have a brick wall with a rough texture that we want to emphasize. We could graze the surface with light, meaning the light would strike the surface at a sharp angle. In this case, the light source would be mounted close to the wall. Now suppose the wall is smoother, and we want to emphasize that smoothness. We could wash the surface with light, meaning the light would strike the surface at a wider angle. 

Keep some of these techniques in mind and you'll be able to create a mood that is just right for your space!

Happy Decorating!

(Image: Light)