From gloom to glow: seven secrets to shopping for lighting

The secret is out -- lighting is the single most important element in decorating, dramatically improving the look and feel of any room. But with so many options out there, finding that right light may be a little easier said than done. Chances are, you've probably wondered, do I have the right sized fixture? How do I install it? How low do I hang it? Will it be too bright or just right?

No question about it, shopping for lighting can be an overwhelming and frustrating experience, and if you start the process before doing your homework, you'll quickly find yourself in the dark. The good news is, whether you're giving an old space a makeover or putting the finishing touches on a new one, there are a few simple tricks that can take interior gloom to glow without giving you a major headache.

"Before homeowners even step foot in a showroom, they should first know their budget and come prepared with information about their home and their style, says Bob Doernberg, senior product manager for Kichler Lighting. "Look for pictures in magazines that reflect your taste. Bring in fabric swatches or color chips for areas you're redecorating, and take a few quick measurements before leaving your home."

To get you started, follow these helpful tips:

1. How can I achieve the proper illumination in a room?

There's actually a proven formula for calculating the proper amount of light you'll need, and it's not difficult -- just some basic arithmetic.

Formula: Room Length x Room Width x 1.5 = Proper Amount of Watts to Light a Room

For example, let's say, you have a 12x16-foot living room: 12x16x1.5 = 288 watts of lighting. Therefore, a five-light chandelier using 60-watt bulbs will provide sufficient light for the room. For more concentrated lighting over a task or work area such as a kitchen island, simply multiply the dimensions of the island by 2.5.

2. What size chandelier would best suit a foyer?

Always keep in mind that the bottom of the chandelier should be at least 7-feet from the floor. If there is a window above the front door, center the chandelier so it can be seen from outside. If the foyer is extra large, you may also want to include wall sconces for additional light.

To determine the chandelier's width, simply add the dimensions together. For example, let's say you have a 12x16-foot foyer: 12+16=28. Therefore, the foyer chandelier's diameter should be approximately 28-inches in width.

3. WhatÕs the best way to light a hallway?

There should be a light every 8 to 10-feet. Either flush-mounts or semi-flush fixtures can be used depending on ceiling height.

4. What size chandelier should hang over my dining room table?

It's best to choose one with a diameter equal to one half the width of the table. Here, as in the foyer, room dimensions dictate the width of the chandelier. Also, keep in mind that the bottom of the chandelier should be at least 2 1/2 feet above the table.

5. How do I light a dinette area?

Normally, a decorative pendant or a fixture with a down light will do the job. Use a dimmer to soften the light when entertaining and brighten the area for homework or hobby-related tasks. Again, the bottom of the pendant should be at least 2 1/2 feet above the table. Normally 100 watts of light is sufficient for these areas.

6. What's the best way to light a bathroom?

Most bathrooms only have a light fixture above the mirror because that is where the single outlet box is usually placed. The problem: top-mounted lighting casts shadows down on the face, harshly accentuating flaws and making lines look deeper. If you want to see your true self, then you also need lighting on each side of your face. Use a fixture such as a top-mounted lighting fixture that comes with lights on each side and only needs a single outlet box to work.

7. When do I need portable lighting?

Besides adding a focal point, portable lights can provide extra light for tasks such as reading, homework and crafts and should be used when additional task light is needed. If you're using a floor or desk lamp, the bottom of the lampshade should be approximately 42-inches from the floor's surface. Desk lamps should be 16-inches above the work surface, and torchieres, used to light dark corners, should be 66 to 72-inches from the floor.

Feel a little more prepared? By using these tips as a guide, purchasing lighting should be a little easier. So go ahead, take out that home improvement list and get ready to cross a few things off.

Courtesy of ARA Content

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