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If these walls could talk

LIGHTING YOUR HOME part IIGeneral Background Light

04/01/2008 - Last month we began to examine three categories of home lighting. They were general background lighting, local task lighting, and decorative accent lighting. In this article we will discuss general background lighting in more depth.

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General background light is the basic overall light of a room. We need it for moving around safely and easily. It is usually provided by ceiling fixtures, though there are other options.

If one chooses centrally located, ceiling mounted lights for their general lighting needs, those lights will be readily in one's line of sight. To avoid harshness, it's best to shade them with diffusing materials such as opal glass. Also, the larger the enclosure, the softer and more shadow-less light it will cast. A well-shaded fixture that casts light up, down, and to the sides will create a more restful atmosphere than one that casts light only downward. One single, centrally located light never casts light that is truly comfortable for a room's occupants. It should be supplemented with up-lights, down-lights, and floor or table lamps throughout the room. This gives variety, and prevents a room's corners from falling into shadow.

There are other options to consider as well as the classic ceiling light. One could create a completely luminous ceiling with lights set behind panels of diffusing glass, plastic, or Japanese rice paper screening. Likewise, a luminous wall could be made. This would be especially beautiful behind shelves of glassware or art objects.

Lights hidden behind a cove or cornice around the perimeter of a room could be directed to reflect off of either the ceiling or the walls for a completely different effect. Lights set to either wash down over, or up onto a room's walls will reflect back into the room and offer plenty of general light. Wall-washer lights also have the effect of visually expanding the room. They are particularly appropriate if one wishes to draw attention to wall texture or artwork hung on the walls.

Valance lighting is another option. Valance lights are bar lights set behind valances or cornices made to cover the tops of draperies. These lights either illuminate upwards toward the ceiling, or wash downwards over the curtains. They draw attention to beautiful curtain fabric and also help to maintain the same kind of light at night that one has grown accustomed to during daylight hours.

Whatever style or combination of general lighting you choose, make sure the light is adequate for the space. A good rule of thumb is to plan for one watt of incandescent light per square foot of floor space in living-rooms and bedrooms, and two watts per square foot in utility, workroom, and kitchen areas.

If you would like advice and ideas for your home lighting dilemma or home decorating project, email your questions to julieanne777@hotmail.com

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