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  • Writer's pictureAnn Calvert

My Favorite Resources (and rules!) for Decor Part II: Lighting

When choosing decorative lighting there are some rules of thumb to guarantee that your selections are going to work. So, before you check out my sources and make a purchase, let's discuss a few basics for choosing new lighting. When considering lighting for its aesthetics, it is easy to overlook how the lighting will function for you. Don’t get me wrong, I love some good statement lighting, but if you hit your head because it’s too big for your space then we have a problem!

Rule #1 Size Mistakes to Avoid

A common mistake I see, even for us designers, is choosing pendants and chandeliers that are too big. Statement lighting is good for specific purposes when you're being intentional, but usually large-scale statement lighting fits in spaces with lots of volume of space to fill. When choosing the size of the light I consider the width, height and scale of the piece. I like to use the rule of 2/3rds. Your chandelier should be about 2/3rds the width of your dining table and sit between 30-36" above the table. You can use this rule for adding pendants over kitchen islands and countertops or other task-oriented table surfaces, but if you plan to walk underneath the lighting, it should never hang below the tops of your doors. Even if you don't hit your head, you may find that guests subconsciously duck if your pendant is too low. Consider a semi-flush mount or an interesting flush-mount ceiling light for low-ceiling, high-traffic areas. The taller your ceilings are, the taller the lighting can be.

Rule #2 Lighting Direction & Type

Consider the purpose of each light and the type of lighting it provides. There's general ambient lighting, task lighting and decorative accent lighting. For example, if you are replacing a wall sconce pay attention to the direction of light and match your new light to the purpose. That means don’t put an articulating reading light in your bathroom! Sure, it’s cute and trendy, but you don’t need to light up your countertop, you need to light up your face. Add general lighting and task lighting in your bathroom for the perfect lighting plan. If you’re replacing a sconce, make sure the direction of the light fits the space and directs light where it is useful. Another sconce example is if a sconce in a stairwell is directed up its purpose is for general ambient lighting, so lighting that hangs down is not applicable in this situation. The same rules apply when lighting the kitchen, some lights are for tasks and need to be directed onto surfaces but you also need good general lighting and the combination of different lighting creates a beautiful and functional design.

Rule #3 Choosing Lighting Glow & Ambiance

The light diffuser or shade is also important for functionality. For example, clear-glass or no-glass fixtures require decorative or filament bulbs that will not be good for illuminating a whole room. These lights are decorative and used to create a mood or feeling in a space, but if you want to switch on all the lights for spring cleaning these lights may be shadowy and dim. If you need bright task lighting consider white glass, fabric or other materials that create a soft glow in the room. Lights with dark or opaque shades are designed to be directional or dim work well for moody dining rooms or task lighting near your bed and will only serve those purposes. If you struggle with good vision, I would recommend bright lighting with white diffusers.

Rule #4 Color Temperature

This rule is mostly for choosing light bulbs but some fixtures these days come with LEDs built into the fixture. Many light bulbs have the color temperature listed on the box. Generally, warm light (2700k) is close to incandescent and candle light. I typically choose between (2700-3200k) for homes and never go higher because it will feel too blue-ish and harsh in homes. Oddly enough it's the opposite for commercial spaces because yellowish light feels out of place in those applications.

Rule #5 Don't Forget the Portable Lighting

Add lamps to your home! You'll be amazed how different a room feels when you add the warmth of lamps and decorative lighting. Most people do not have enough lamps in their home. My latest favorite are plug-in sconces that hang on the wall. These lights free up table surfaces (super helpful for creating pet-friendly and kid-proof spaces!) Table lamps should follow similar rules about lighting direction, and type but you also need to consider scale. Match the volume and size to the place where you place your lighting. A good example of common mistakes are mini-lamps, which seem to be quite popular because of their lower price, but I almost never use mini-lamps because they're too low. I’ve used them in tall bookcases and in kid’s rooms, but other than that the light will not go where you need it, so choose wisely! For bedside tables and living rooms I usually pick lamps that are between 24-30" tall, which, depending on the height of the table, should place lighting at eye level while sitting or lying down. So now that you’ve got the basics for choosing lighting, here’s some of the awesome places I love to buy lighting!

Check out the photos for my fabulous vintage finds from Heritage Antiques and the Peddler's Mall while you take advantage of these resources!

Vintage: Etsy, or local antique stores, salvage yards and flea markets like: Heritage Antiques, @scoutlexington, @peddlersmallstores, @Subjectmatterlex, & @_the_domestic are just a few that I’ve really liked lighting selections.

*Hot tip don't be afraid to buy something if it needs to be rewired, it's a simple process that can be done at local hardware stores and lamp shops.

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