Showing Off the Job

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The most beautiful cabinets, the most elegant accents and the loveliest hardwood will go unappreciated without enough light to see them. Conversely, even stock cabinetry, off-the-shelf accessories and faux-finished floors can look great with dramatic, ...

March 01, 2002

The most beautiful cabinets, the most elegant accents and the loveliest hardwood will go unappreciated without enough light to see them. Conversely, even stock cabinetry, off-the-shelf accessories and faux-finished floors can look great with dramatic, well-planned lighting.

Drama might be the fun part of lighting, but basic necessities have to be considered first. Local codes dictate the specifics of wiring and installations, but here are general lighting guidelines for your projects:

  • The Lighting Research Center of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s School of Architecture recommends at least one small window or skylight in every room. The LRC also suggests the use of energy-saving fluorescent bulbs in rooms where the lights are used much of the time.

  • The use of architectural luminaries, or built-in lighting systems such as coves (which direct light upward) and soffits (which send light downward), provides ambient lighting in living rooms, bedrooms and kitchens. Valance lights can provide task lighting on countertops.

  • Osram Sylvania suggests switching general and task lighting in the kitchen separately. Using a dimmer on halogen lights lets the homeowner create different moods for cooking and entertaining.

  • Use small downlights such as MR16 halogen spotlights over the dining table as the primary source of functional lighting, either as part of a chandelier or in addition to it. A dimmer lets the homeowner adjust the lighting to fit the occasion.

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