Education & Inspiration

Lighting FAQs

Basic types of lighting

There are three basic types of lighting that work together in your home:

A good lighting plan combines all three types to light an area according to function and style.

Ambient lighting provides an area with overall illumination. Also known as general lighting, it radiates a comfortable level of brightness without glare and allows you to see and walk about safely. In some spaces such as laundry rooms, the ambient lighting also serves as the primary source of task lighting.

It can be accomplished with chandeliers, ceiling or wall-mounted fixtures, recessed or track lights and with lanterns mounted on the outside of the home. Having a central source of ambient light in all rooms is fundamental to a good lighting plan.

Task lighting helps you perform specific tasks, such as reading, grooming, preparing and cooking food, doing homework, working on hobbies, playing games and balancing your checkbook. It can be provided by recessed and track lighting, pendant lighting and under cabinet lighting, as well as by portable floor and desk lamps.

Task lighting should be free of distracting glare and shadows and should be bright enough to prevent eye strain.

Accent lighting adds drama to a room by creating visual interest. As part of an interior design scheme, it is used to draw the eye to houseplants, paintings, sculptures and other prized possessions. It can also be used to highlight the texture of a brick or stone wall, window treatments or outdoor landscaping.

To be effective, accent lighting requires at least three times as much light on the focal point as the general lighting surrounding it.

Accent lighting is usually provided by recessed and track lighting or wall-mounted picture lights.

How do you describe traditional design?
Traditional design lamps

Traditional design is influenced by the cultural exchange that grew out of Europe, England and America during the colonization period from around 1600 to the late 1800s. The most widely recognized designs are the formal and country furnishings from the estates of Europe, the Manor homes of England and the plantations of America.

Based on historic design models, this style is characteristically ornate, orderly, and bold. Straight lines are often contrasted with curved details, and brass, iron, and hand-painted wood often appears. More grand than casual, these furnishings have ornate or showy details and have often old world flair. The classic details of traditional furniture are reflections of the periods and influences of years gone by. The classic details of traditional fixtures are reflections of the periods and influences of years gone by; Colonial, French Country and Neo-Classical design ideals are blended in this style. You will recognize it when you see it - the traditional furniture style has been the popular choice for home furnishings for over a century.

What defines contemporary design?
Contemporary design lamps

Contemporary design looks ahead from its beginnings in the 1920s to the sophisticated form and function influences by today's culture and society. Contemporary and modern pieces feature neutral elements and bold color. Clean lines, sculptural furnishings, art, industrial elements and bold color characterize these furnishings.

This style is known for its underlying simplicity of line, shape, form, and attention to practical functions as compared to the dramatic and lavish appearances of traditional furniture styles. Contemporary fixtures often incorporate classic and traditional features in subtle, understated ways. Its simplicity and clean lines combine with strong geometric shapes and symmetry, incorporating classic and traditional features in sleek and understated ways. The inspiration for these fixtures is drawn from manufacturing/architecture and organic forms.

What does "transitional" mean?
Transitional lights

Transitional lighting styles generally will coordinate with existing traditional or contemporary designs. Transitional bridges the gap between too ornate and too sleek. While the materials used are more similar to traditional furniture (lots of metals and heavy woods), the lines are more open and clean without being too sleek and sterile. Transitional fixtures are versatile, blending seamlessly into almost any setting. Transitional fixtures combine both contemporary and traditional styles by joining austere lines with fancy curves with sleek, brushed metals. It easily adapts and blends in with a wide range of styles.

The versatility of transitional fixtures make it a good choice if you're not sure which of the less flexible styles suits your taste or your home - transitional fixtures work in pretty much any setting.

How many recessed downlights should I use in a given room?
Recessed downlights kitchen

Although this is a very common question it is not easy to give a simple answer because the answer depends on many important variables. Some of these variables include the height of the ceiling, the brightness or darkness of the ceiling, walls, and floor, the type of recessed downlight used, the type and wattage of the lamp being used, and the purpose of the recessed downlights (general lighting, task lighting, accent lighting).

In a residential kitchen situation with an 8' to 9' whitish-colored ceiling, "light-colored" walls, cabinets, counter tops, and floor, 5" line voltage recessed downlights with white trims and white baffles, and 75W PAR30 lamps being used for general lighting, the distance between the recessed fixtures could vary from four to five feet on center. Their exact location in your kitchen could also be affected by the location of the HVAC duct work, the water pipes, and joists, and if you are a person who wants only a little light or a person who needs a great deal of light. This latter issue is affected by age; in general, 50-year-olds need twice as much light as 20-year-olds.

In order, to compensate for many of these issues you may want to "overlight" your kitchen and then control the recessed lights with dimmers. With dimmer switches you can easily control the amount of light for almost any person, situation, or activity while saving energy and increasing the lives of the lamps at the same time.

It is always best to consult a lighting expert who can analyze your specific needs for the best possible lighting plan...like the designers at lucía lighting & design!

What are the rules for hanging a chandelier?
Contemporary chandelier lighting

In general, the height of the main source of light should be 30"-36" above the table. There should be a minimum of 150 watts total in the chandelier. Using a dimmer on your chandelier will allow you change the ambient light based upon your dining situation.

You should also consider the room size and table width when choosing your chandelier:

  • 10'x10' rooms should use a chandelier with a 17"-20" diameter
  • 12'x12' rooms should use a chandelier with a 20"-16" diameter
  • 14'x14' rooms should use a chandelier with a 24"-30" diameter
  • A chandelier should be no smaller than half the width of the table beneath it, and no larger than the table width minus 12".
Where should I use a mini-pendant?
Pendant lighting kitchen

Pendant and/or island lighting has become mandatory in well appointed kitchens. They provide an attractive aesthetic focal point and they provide the functional light necessary to complement the room's activities. Mini-pendants should be hung 30"-40" from the island surface depending on the size of the island.

What are the guidelines for bathroom lighting?

Three sources of light are recommended for the bath/dressing area. The dressing area needs eye-level lighting, at least 30" apart with a minimum of 60 watts. Chain hung lighting is a good example. Do not direct the light onto the surface of the mirror. Overhead lighting should be a minimum of 75 watts per partitioned area of the bath, including the shower. A night-light is very helpful in this room for added safety.

Where should I use a buffet lamp?

Since they're so versatile, they can be used in pairs or alone as a beautiful focal point in any room. Buffet lamps look great in the foyer as a warm welcome into your home. Or try placing a pair on your dresser on either side of the mirror; or on the nightstand for bedside reading. Of course, buffet lamps can also be used to add luster to your dining room.

What is the difference between floor lamps and torchieres?
Torchieres floor lamps

Floor lamps are usually needed to provide task lighting for reading, homework, etc. They provide a downward beam of light.

Torchieres, like the one pictured right, reflect light upward off the ceiling and walls for ambient effects, often making ceilings seem higher and rooms feel larger.

What is the best height for a wall sconce?
Wall Sconces

Wall sconces should be installed 60" from the floor. For hallways they should be spaced 8'-10' apart.

What are the standards when it comes to desk lamps?

Above and beyond style, portable lamps should be utilized in rooms where additional task lighting is needed. For example, light sources on desks should be approximately 16" above the work surface and 13" from the desk front.

Do compact fluorescents work in any light?

Unfortunately no, compact fluorescents cannot be used in lights with motion sensor. Some, but not all, compact fluorescents can be used with dimmers. However, use compact fluorescents when possible because they have a longer life and put out four times the light of incandescent bulbs.

What is the function of dimmers?

Dimmers can be extremely functional by providing the flexibility to vary the amount of light depending on the size of the space, the mood and/or age of the individuals in that space, and the task or activity being performed by those individuals.

Where can dimmers be used?

Dimmers may be used almost anywhere: bathrooms, bedrooms, conference rooms, dining rooms, family rooms, game rooms, hallways, kitchens, living rooms, media rooms, restaurants, taverns, teleconference rooms, and theatres.

Can dimmers save electricity and increase lamp life?
Yes. The use of dimmers can reduce the use of electricity and, thereby, save money and help conserve the environment. Dimmer use can also increase the life of the lamps (light bulbs) being controlled.
Can dimmers increase halogen lamp life?

Yes. Dimming increases incandescent lamp life and halogen lamps are a type of incandescent lamp with a tungsten filament just like a traditional incandescent lamp. A pilot test performed by Lutron, a major manufacturer of dimmers, suggests that halogen lamps will have an expected lamp life similar to that of other incandescent lamps when dimmed. As an example, one type of halogen lamp with a rated life of 2000 hours dimmed to 25% has a life extension of about four times that of a non-dimmed lamp. Lutron is continuing testing with various halogen lamps.

How do I clean my brass lamp?

Use only a soft cloth. Many polishes are too abrasive and could affect the finish. If you use polished brass outdoors, know that it will tarnish, but car wax will preserve the finish.