Picture the last play or art gallery you visited. Both would be diminished without the proper light. Your home works the same way. Lighting can make your home a more welcoming, comfortable place. Creating lighting effects does not mean the fixtures become the main attraction. What we're after is the effect that a fixture creates. The eye perceives lighting in many different ways. Think about your camera. How many adjustments do you have to make to get an accurate picture of what you see? There are just as many factors to take into account when lighting your home.

Home lighting falls in three categories: ambient, task, and accent. The main living areas of a home should have a flexible combination of all three. Ambient lighting provides general illumination — the background brightness that gives a room a comfortable glow. It helps you move through a room safely and easily. Indirect uplights, such as wall sconces, light rooms softly and evenly for a diffuse effect. Task lighting is directed to places such as a kitchen counter or a desktop, where close work is done regularly. Accent lighting focuses on special features in a room, such as flower arrangements, artwork, or a special area rug, with low-voltage pendants or small, adjustable ceiling-mounted spots.

If all three types of lights are on when you enter a room, your eye won't really distinguish one from the other. But if you turn them on one by one, the effect is astonishing. Ambient lighting makes a room pleasant and livable, but its comparative uniformity is less than dramatic. Task and accent lighting add brilliance to the room. Together ambient, task, and accent lighting make a home functional and beautiful. Before you begin to renovate, make a list of the criteria that will affect your lighting plan. Knowing your proposed furniture placement, size, and color will help you plan outlets, wiring, and light placement. Check to see that your electrical system has adequate capacity or plan to upgrade it. You should have an electrical service box equipped with at least a 100-amp main circuit breaker. Also, take into account the effect of reflective surfaces. Many people think that a room with a large number of windows won't require much in the way of artificial light. But large amounts of natural light in one area of the room may cause another corner to appear darker. In some cases, natural light may even make the room less than comfortable due to excessive glare. Then, at night, large windows also become like black mirrors. Black has a reflective value of about 3 percent which means that only 3 percent of the light striking the glass in the evening is actually reflected back into the space. Comparing that to the 94 percent reflectivity of a white wall, the window actually makes the space darker in the evening and thus more dependent on artificial light. Finally, define the room's various uses, then light them appropriately. Task lighting, for example, is crucial in the kitchen where the work can be intricate and the tools sharp. Ambient lighting makes living and family rooms attractive places to congregate, while additional floor and table lamps can provide task lighting for reading. Waiting until the last minute to consider the proper lighting for your space is like letting a builder construct your home without plans. One can spend much time and effort in detailing their space, but without proper lighting the details fade into the shadows.

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