Planning a renovation or building a new home can be a daunting task. There are many details to consider, from flooring to exterior finishes to storage space. Each can have an enormous impact on your day-to-day satisfaction when the project is completed. One element in the home that some homeowners undervalue is proper lighting. While lighting might seem like a finishing touch or an afterthought, it’s actually one of the fundamental elements of your happiness with your home. If you choose proper lighting for your home, and make sure your general contractors know how to design your space to accommodate it, then you’ll be able to live comfortable for years to come.
We asked Heather Stedman from our Robinson Lighting & Bath Centre showroom in Calgary about how to choose proper lighting for your home, and what factors to consider right from the start of a home build or renovation. Here’s what she had to say:
There are four basic elements that go into proper lighting for your home — size, planning layout, placement and creating a consistent style.
Proper Lighting Size
We see people coming in because one of their main fixtures isn’t the right size, either in their entranceway, kitchen or dining room. They imagine their fixture one way, but when the fixture is installed, they are finding it doesn’t look right based on the size of the room and the fixture’s proportion to the rest of the room.
The most common sizing problems occur in the dining room. We recommend that you should choose a chandelier that has a diameter 12 inches shorter than the width of the table. If you haven’t chosen a dining room table, if you add the length and width of the room in feet, that should be your estimated fixture size in inches. For example, if you have a room or section of an open concept home that’s 12 feet by 12 feet, your chandelier should be approximately 24 inches in diameter.
If you’re still not sure of what size fixture to get for your dining room, a good rule of thumb is that a bigger fixture tends to be more acceptable than one that’s too small, provided you have taller than eight or nine-foot-tall ceilings. If you have the ceiling space, a large chandelier helps to illuminate more of the area, fill out the added space and adds a wow-factor to your dining area. The Schonbek Eclyptix chandelier is a perfect example.
Also, if you like dining room fixtures that have a heavy look with little open space, then you may want to favour a smaller size. On the other hand, if your fixture has a lot of open space or negative space, you can make a larger fixture work (For more tips on negative space and lighting, see our Expert Advice post here).
Even more important than the size of your light fixtures is planning the layout of your lighting. This takes careful planning to ensure that you’re getting enough light and that your electrical framework can accommodate your choices. We recommend making some lighting choices before starting a renovation or home build, because if you wait too long, your choices can become limited.
For example, right now there’s a trend towards larger fixtures or multiple pendants over kitchen islands, but because this is not the standard, many builders may not know to install the wiring to accommodate them. It is important to let your builder, electrician or contractor know your vision and have an idea of the type of lighting you want ahead of time.
It’s also important to plan your lighting elsewhere in the house. Because sconce lighting on either side of a bathroom vanity mirror can provide more even and consistent lighting, many people are choosing that style over a more traditional vanity fixture above the mirror. However, sconce lighting in the bathroom should be at eye level and at least 28 inches apart, so if your electrician only provides the wiring for a fixture above the mirror, it may be difficult to adjust for sconce lighting later.
The same principle applies if you really like certain sconces for your hallway, but you only have the wiring for ceiling-mount fixtures. It always helps to plan ahead to make sure you get the perfect fixtures that you connect with.
Any changes you want to make later will either be costly and invasive, or not possible once your construction is finished.
Proper Lighting Placement
Once you have your fixtures chosen, it’s important to hang them properly to provide adequate light but not obstruct your daily life.
The bottom of your dining room chandelier should be 30-34 inches above the table, which is lower than you might think. This is important to keeping the chandelier as the focal point of the room, but also provide enough light for more formal dining. Kitchen pendants have similar guidelines.
One caveat to these guidelines is if you want to accommodate a gorgeous view. If you have a stunning view of mountains, a glorious beach or brilliant cityscape, you won’t want to block the view with light fixtures. Consider hanging pendants and chandeliers a little higher to preserve the view from your home. If you’re not sure where to hang your pendants, one of our lighting experts will be happy to help you find the ideal height and placement.
Besides the functionality of size and placement, your sense of style should be reflected in your lighting as well. With so many options available, it can be hard to narrow down your choices to just a few fixtures.
One tip for creating a consistent style throughout the home is to start with a main fixture like in the entranceway, dining room fixture or kitchen island, and build out your lighting style from that. By choosing one fixture that you really love, you can carry that sense of style throughout your home and have a clearer focus with your design.
You can expand your lighting plan by repeating different elements from that one main fixture. For example, you can repeat shapes. If you’re partial to spheres, and your entranceway chandelier has a spherical shape to it, like the Orbit from Maxim Lighting you can find round pendants to place elsewhere in the home to repeat the pattern.
You can take a similar approach with finishes and styles as well. If you fall in love with a rustic iron chandelier, then you have a chance to create a rustic theme throughout the home. By choosing a main fixture and repeating elements from it elsewhere, you’re able to create a unified look and feel to your home and narrow down the nearly endless amount of choice when it comes to lighting.
To get some of the looks featured in this expert advice post, you can make an appointment to visit a showroom and get your own personalized advice by clicking here.
This post was written in collaboration with Heather Stedman from our Calgary showroom. She’s always ready for a challenge and loves to help clients choose proper lighting that they’ll be satisfied with. She has this tip for anyone thinking of building a home or renovating: plan ahead and choose your lighting and plumbing fixtures first. Any changes you want to make later may be difficult.