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How to Use Lighting Design in Your Apartment

May 26th, 2017


To look at a designer’s picture of a finished room, interior lighting is a voodoo art. The right things just magically pop out, the right spaces recede, the right ones are inviting…it’s hard to know where to start. Well, we’ve got you covered. Here are five steps you can take to add thoughtful lighting to your apartment decor:

1. Notice lighting types:

Interior designers identify lighting by three different categories: ambient, task, or accent. The first, ambient light, is the general illumination for the whole room so you don’t run into things. It usually comes from your ceiling mounted fixtures. The second, task light, is pretty self-explanatory: it’s what you use to make it easier (or possible) to do a given task, such as reading, working, cooking, etc. Finally, accent light is the fun stuff, the special lighting you use to draw attention to the things you want people to notice: architectural features, artwork, focal point furniture, decorative elements. Your apartment should include all three types, coming from sources at different heights to give the light an element of movement.

2. Play with reflection:

Reflection plays catch-and-toss with light, and is a great place for you to experiment with your apartment decor. Look at places where you have solid, non-reflecting furniture and imagine what would happen if you added some sheen. You don’t want to go crazy, but a gold table base, or a mirrored tray, or a silver pitcher can carry brightness around the room. See whether you have a spot for a mirror on an interior wall, which reflects not only the outside view, but the natural light in a way that gives you a virtual added window.

3. Eliminate smudgy shadows:

Good lighting design depends on both light and shadow. Otherwise you end up with a living room that feels like an operating room. But the shadows that lurk under cabinets and shelves make your room feel smaller. Add accent lighting in shelving units, under kitchen cabinets, and on the undersides of overhanging shelves. You’ll be amazed at how much more expansive the room feels, and the way those work spaces become focal points (and also more pleasant places to work).

4. Pay attention to bulbs:

With choices today in incandescent, halogen, compact fluorescent, filament, and LED, you can no longer just pick up any old 60-watt bulb and be done. Use this primer to get acquainted with the different types of bulbs and their brightness and color, and then take a field trip to look at in-store displays. The main goal is to be consistent in the color and intensity of light in your apartment decor so you don’t have one bright-white light source looking out of place in a room of warm yellows. The same goes for lampshades—stick to one color, or at least close companions.

5. Play with accent light:

With a clip-on picture light you can elevate a framed movie poster or preschooler’s marker drawing to a special work of art. The fringe benefit is that you’ll elevate your entire apartment decor at the same time. Direct an uplight onto a plant, wall hanging, piece of pottery, or yes, another piece of framed art, for a subtler effect. Whatever you choose to focus light on becomes important because you’re saying it is.

Beautiful lighting doesn’t have to be confined to the pages of magazines. If you take these steps, you’ll have lighting design that’s sure to elevate the look of your apartment decor.


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