Lighting 201 – Lighting Quality

Lighting is such an important and broad topic, I had to split it into two posts! Last time I talked about choosing fixtures, and now we will cover choosing the type of bulb – or lamp in design lingo -  for a project.

Beyond the fixture, you have to consider the type of light it is casting in the space. Mood can be created through not only through the mixture of ambient and task lighting you have designed, but also by the attributes of the lightbulb itself.

I once did a design consultation for a friend who was selling his home. The living room was painted in a very flat, institutional shade of green, which I encouraged him to repaint in a sage color. When I returned, I complimented him on the new paint color – and he told me all he had done was change the lightbulbs! That transformation taught me a lot about what can be done with the quality of light, and how important it is to choose the right type of bulb.

Lightbulbs are hot topics these days!  ? Seriously, technology is changing our typical bulb. From the intensity to the color or temperature of the light, there are many attributes to take into consideration when choosing bulbs. What’s more, the light bulbs you buy now can last up to 20 years, and use almost no energy. A lot has changed!

Image source: Birddog Distributing

The space you are lighting can also affect the way lighting behaves. What works in one home won't work in another. I always purchase the light bulbs for my projects myself, and I try out several options in the space. From the newer and warmer LED bulbs to older school incandescent bulbs, each home and homeowner have different preferences and lighting needs.

Incandescent bulbs: The original light bulb

  • Warmer glow
  • Decorative shapes available for candelabras
  • Increasingly hard to find, as they are highly inefficient: regulations restrict manufacturing them unless they are at least 27% more efficient than the traditional incandescent bulb
  • Lifespan: Approximately one year

Image source: Philips Lighting

 

Compact Fluorescent Bulbs

  • More efficient than incandescent, this was the first alternative available for the standard lightbulb fixture
  • More energy efficient, but produce a narrower spectrum of light and tend to look bluer or cooler
  • Difficult to fit into 3 way bulb size under a standard harp
  • Not typically dimmable
  • Candelabra bulbs are less attractive than other alternatives
  • Contain mercury, and need to be disposed of through specific recycling programs

Image source: Philips Lighting

LED bulbs (Light Emitting Diode)

  • Incredibly versatile, and come in multiple shades of light
  • Available in many sizes and shapes, including candelabra bulbs
  • Emit zero UV rays, and are safe for use around works of art without risk of damage
  • Charts on the packaging translate the current energy usage to the comparable traditional incandescent lighting
  • Ideal output is between 2,700 and 3,000 lumens
  • Dimmable
  • Very low energy use
  • Lifespan: 10-20 years

Image source: Philips Lighting

 

 

We all see light differently. Always experiment to find the best combination of elements for your client, the mood of the room, and the function of the space.

Cover photo: Álvaro Serrano

 

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