Decorative Lighting Tips

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What do I need to think about when choosing a decorative light fixture?

Decorative Light Fixtures

Plain or fancy, traditional or modern, the right decorative light fixtures can bring a room to life. Here are some questions to ask when deciding what to buy:

  • Will this fixture be used for general lighting (shedding light over most or all of a room) or accent lighting (light for a specific task or to highlight a specific object)?
  • Where do I want people's eyes to go when they enter the room? Sometimes, the light fixture is part of a decorative scheme and you want it to stand out; in other rooms, a decorative light fixture needs to harmonize with the style of other objects without drawing attention away from them.
  • Do I need a dimmer? These are good to have in general lighting (except in kitchens and bathrooms), but are less important for accent lighting unless you want to be able to create specific lighting effects.

I need to light a space with fluorescent bulbs, but the fixtures are ugly. What can I do?

Decorative Fluorescent Light Covers

Ordinary fluorescent light covers -- the kind you see everywhere, in stores and offices and hallways -- tend to yellow and crack with age. Today's lighting designers are moving toward decorative fluorescent light diffusers, which soften the light while providing attractive touches. Some even allow you to look up at "sky" or "balloons" instead of bulbs and fixtures! These are particularly valued in medical, dental and other health-care settings, as a way to put patients at their ease, but there's no reason you can't use them in your kitchen, bathroom or any other place that needs an uplifting view.

What are some creative ideas for using light in a room?

Unusual Lighting Looks

Looking for unusual lighting looks for your home? Try some of these unique ideas:

  • Use holiday or party lights near the ceiling to add to the ambient glow and create a festive atmosphere year-round in a living room.
  • Use your own favorite photos to make custom lampshades -- great gift for grandparents or kids.
  • Use a colorful, artistic lampshade as a focal point in an otherwise neutral room. You can change the shade with the seasons or at your whim for a relatively low price, and change the entire demeanor of the room!
  • Use track lighting in different colors to target decorative lighting toward different art objects or antiques in a room.

What do I need to think about when lighting a commercial space?

Commercial Decorative Lighting

Besides harmonizing with the image of the business, decorative lighting in commercial settings needs to highlight the most marketable features of the business, be easy to clean and maintain and provide beautiful light for as little energy as possible.

Fluorescent bulbs, which are cheap to operate, have been the top choice in commercial decorative lighting for some time.

A thoughtful lighting design is not at the top of most business owners' minds, yet good lighting can have great results when it comes to directing customers' attention to important locations.

There's no need to stick with plain, dull fluorescents -- many online lighting stores offer a wide variety of commercial decorative lighting sources that will enhance the experience of your space for employees, clients and visitors.

What are my choices in decorative light switch covers?

Decorative Light Switch Covers

Swapping out light switch covers is a quick an inexpensive way to add a decorative touch to any room. There are thousands of possibilities for decorative switch plates! Decorative light switch covers range from the plain (including colored plates to match kitchen and bathroom countertops) to the fancy (a plate that looks like a Frank Lloyd Wright doorway, or that bears the image of the Mona Lisa, or is shaped like a tractor).

Light switch plates come in different standard sizes to match your configuration. A single up-and-down switch is an S, while four wide switches (like those used in dimmers) are an M, and so forth.

What kinds of bulbs can I use for decorative effects?

Decorative Light Bulbs

Decorative light bulbs can add a stylish touch to your rooms. A traditional dining room might use flame-shaped bulbs in a chandelier. Some of these bulbs have a "flicker" effect meant to simulate a burning candle. These can annoy the eye quickly, so if you use them, make them an accent rather than the primary source of light in the room.

Another noteworthy light bulb quality is the "temperature" of the light it produces. "Cool" bulbs produce a strong, bright white with blue overtones, good for task work; "warm" bulbs shed a yellower light which may make a room seem warmer and is more suited to social areas.

If there is too great a difference between the lighting at your local home-decorating store and the lighting in your house, it may be very hard to match colors accurately. Try to get a sample chip or piece of whatever you're thinking of buying, and look at it carefully in your house, under your normal lighting, before making a final decision.

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Guru Spotlight
Lynne Christen