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How to enlighten your lighting!

One of the most fun parts of the planning of your new home or renovation is the lighting. Lighting can enhance your interior space, give old finishes and furniture a face-lift, improve functionality, visually enlarge spaces or create intimate spaces, and so much more. Interior lighting consists of a combination of natural lighting through windows and doors and artificial lighting. In this blog we will discuss artificial lighting. Natural lighting was discussed briefly in Windows and Doors and will be discussed further in Window coverings.

There are an abundance of light fixtures available, from industrial inspired bare bulbs to extravagant pendants, plain and decorative wall sconces, and recessed lighting in different styles and sizes. This blog post is not about the light fixtures themselves as tastes and budgets are very diverse; it is about understanding the general types of lighting needed and understanding the specification of bulbs.

There are four general categories of lighting, general lighting, task lighting, accent lighting, and decorative lighting.

General lighting provides the light necessary to make make a room functional. General lighting should provide sufficient light for occupants to safely travel around the room and access all storage. General lighting can also be decorative, and double as task lighting with the right controls. Low hanging pendants tend to lower the ceiling visually and recessed lighting visually heightens the ceiling.

Task lighting provides lighting for specific tasks. You might want a bright light at your desk, in the kitchen above the island for food preparation, and above every space where detail tasks are performed. As mentioned above task lighting can be combined with general lighting.

Accent lighting highlights focal points in the room, such as architectural detail, artwork, or furniture. For example, a recessed ceiling could be highlighted by up-lighting and artwork could be highlighted with spotlights. The angle of lighting is crucial to avoid unwanted shadows.

Decorative lighting provides a focal point or decorative element to the room. This is often done by using pendant light fixtures and wall sconces.

You do not need separate light fixtures to provide general, task, and decorative lighting. Think of the light fixture above your dining table; it provides general lighting, task lighting for the table, and likely has a decorative element. Consider what activities you would like to perform in each room and where you would need the most lighting.

Choosing the right bulbs

LED bulbs are the most energy efficient and commonly available bulbs for interior use. Therefore, the following refers mostly to LED bulbs, though the information is applicable to all different bulbs.

Colour temperature:

The color temperature of light creates the atmosphere in a space and is measured in K (Kelvins); the lower the number the warmer the light emitted appears. Bulbs with higher Kelvins appear more blue. Daylight is approximately 5000 K and a candle is about 2000 K. For most interior spaces you would want a 2700 K or 3000 K bulb to create a warm and welcoming atmosphere.

Watts, Lumens and Lux:

The level of light emitted by an incandescent bulb was traditionally measured in Watts, which measured the energy consumption of a bulb. This however is a poor way to compare the light emitted from LED bulbs as they are more efficient at converting electrical energy to light. A more accurate measure of light brightness is Lumens or Lux. Lumen measures light by square foot while Lux measure light by square meter.

Below is a chart with some recommendations for Lumen and Lux by room. The specific illumination depends on the height of the room, location of fixtures, colour and reflectivity of finishes, and personal preferences.

In order to calculate what type of bulbs and the number of bulbs you need to know the square footage of the room.

For example if your bedroom is 200 square feet and you would like to achieve 15 Lumens overall.

200 x 15 = 3000

Assuming you have a pendant light with 3 individual bulbs.

3000 divided by 3 equals 1000. Each bulb would have to emit 1000 Lumens to achieve the desired illumination level. LED bulbs are available with 800 Lumens, which would give you a slightly lower light level than desired. You could choose a different light fixtures with 4 bulbs, or add some wall sconces, or side table lamps to increase the lighting level.

CRI, Colour Rendering Index

Most light bulbs will list the CRI, Color Rendering Index, which measures the ability of the light source to show the colours of objects. 100 CRI is a perfect colour rendering index. Incandescent light bulbs have a near perfect CRI. LED bulbs are usually between 80 and 85. There are LED bulbs available with a CRI of 95. Unless you are an artist or are highlighting an art piece, this is generally not something to be too concerned about.


In order for the lighting to be adjustable and accommodate the different tasks likely to take place in a room, appropriate controls are necessary. Having different switches for different lights in a room is one way to adjust the lighting. You might have a switch for recessed lighting, another switch for a pendant or wall sconces, and yet another for some accent lighting. Dimmer switches are another option to adjust the brightness of the lighting in a room. Motion sensors are a good option for spaces that are used for brief periods such as hallways. They help to conserve energy by turning lights on when needed and off after a brief period without movement.

A smart light switch can be operated from a distance with your phone and is a good idea for people who are often absent from their homes for security reasons.

Send me a message if you have any questions regarding lighting or if you need help to ensure you achieve the lighting effect you're hoping for.

Enjoy selecting your light fixtures!

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