I can't believe we are already well into the Fall season. In my last newsletter, I mentioned the home decorating forum from the GardenWeb that's been discussing our paints. Well, it's still keeping us busy and is now on "Full Spectrum Paints - Part 3".
Recently, the forum topic shifted from paint
colors to lighting, which made me realize I haven't written a
newsletter about lighting. After all, color and light go hand
in hand, since without light there is no color. One lighting
scheme can create a warm, inviting room, while another can make
the same space appear uninviting and cold. Recreating effects
and sensations like a sunny day, candlelight or a fire's warm
glow is what good lighting is all about.
There are three basic methods of lighting: Direct which is produced by most table and floor lamps. The light shines directly down on an object or limited area, giving off sharp shadows and strong contrasts of light and dark. Therefore, it's best to combine direct with other lighting for best results. Indirect lighting is produced by a light source that is hidden and is reflected back into the room, directed toward the ceiling, a cove, wall or other surface. It creates almost no shadows and is ideal for general illumination. However, when used alone, it can be flat and uninteresting. Semi-direct is a combination of the above two methods. This means a portion of the light shines directly on an object or surface, and a portion is reflected light. The best lighting is a combination of all three. Together they provide general illumination by reflection, but there's sufficient direct light to produce shadows for interest. There are no sharp contrasts that are fatiguing and there is enough direct light for specific activities such as reading.
When choosing lighting to obtain both the mood desired and comfort of vision, it's important to control the intensity, distribution and direction of light. Intensity depends on brightness of objects to be looked at and the color scheme. Darker objects and color schemes need more light. Light, pastel objects and color schemes need the least light. Distribution depends on the size of the room. When there is little contrast in colors, surfaces and objects, more light is needed. Direction is vital to avoid all shadows or all glare. This can create illusions of space or intimacy, affecting the mood or atmosphere of a room.
I can't tell you how often when I'm asked to consult on lighting plans, I find that the architect has specified scads of recessed ceiling lights, many times in ceilings that are as high as 25 feet. Not only do they make people look goulish and the ceiling look like Swiss cheese, there's the problem of changing the bulbs--not to mention the question of which bulbs to use?
I telephoned New Orleans' top lighting consultant Dean Coe. I said "Why are so many people nowadays using recessed lighting? Do you specify it on your lighting plans?" Dean emphatically replied "Never! Light the people! Not the ceiling!!! Why would you want to light the ceiling?? We have recessed fixtures in our showroom because they were already there, but I don't turn them on. Good functional lighting consists of indirect lighting plus lamps. This is so the whole room will be softly lit, with brighter areas of light from lamps."
Kitchens need more lighting than most rooms, which is probably why you see so many kitchen ceilings with recessed lighting. However, this lighting casts shadows which isn't really helpful when you are slicing vegetables, so for task lighting, consider fluorescent under counter fixtures. This is the only instance when I recommend using fluorescent lighting, since it produces no shadows.
For overall lighting in a kitchen, I use anywhere from 2 to 4 surface mounted ceiling lights. My own kitchen lighting consists of ceiling fans with schoolhouse light kits (soft diffused overall light), wall sconces on each side of the window above the sink area, a table lamp near the phone and fluorescent under counter cabinet lights.
In other rooms, I also use ceiling fans with light kits, as they not only create a breeze, but also conjure a soothing, tropical ambience. In the evenings, depending on how the room is used, I rarely have the light kits on, unless they've been dimmed. I put dimmer switches on all overhead lights.. Wall sconces, table and floor lamps are much better for creating a more atmospheric setting.
Full Spectrum Lighting
Sunlight nourishes every living organism on Earth. Today, however, more people are spending time indoors and not getting enough sunlight. At this time of year, many people develop SAD (seasonal affective disorder) which is a specific type of major depression, recurring each Fall. The frequency of SAD seems to vary with geographic location. The human eye uses light to regulate melatonin production, and in turn, the body's biological clock. To achieve natural balanced sunlight indoors, light bulbs have been developed with a full spectrum of color as well as infrared and ultra violet wavelengths.
Since I create full spectrum paints, I have been trying out some of the new full spectrum bulbs which use a rare earth element called neodymium. Neodymium absorbs the yellow spectrum from the visible light and enhances the blues and reds, causing colors to appear more vibrant, therefore more similar to true daylight.
I telephoned Sun-a-lux (sunalux.com),
a company that sells a variety of full spectrum bulbs. The salesman
touted the full spectrum compact fluorescent bulbs as the closest
to natural daylight. I found it hard to believe a fluorescent
bulb could simulate daylight, but I ordered some anyway, in addition
to the Chromalux incandescent full spectrum bulbs, which were
originally developed for Finland's long, dark winters. Both bulbs
come in several different wattages and fit most fixtures. I found
the fluorescent bulbs to have a blue cast to them and ended up
returning all but one, which I keep in one of my office lamps
to use when color matching. However, this is just one of several
light sources I use.
We were meant to live in nature and should take our cues from nature. Natural lighting is always best if you can get it, but when you can't, turn to the wealth of products on the market that help recreate it.
Until next time, I wish you all the best!
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