The Spring Cure: Light Therapy

The Spring Cure: Light Therapy

Leah Moss
Apr 22, 2009
Hitting 2 birds with one stone, annalyssa adds fresh flowers for sweet fragrance and an uplighting display

Cure Clock: 2.5 weeks remaining
Assignment: Chapter 9, pp. 185- 204
   • overhaul the bathroom
   • evaluate light flow

Curees: 896 and counting.....

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Let there be light! For me the first five weeks of the home cure are like a detox diet where I cleanse my house, banish my cravings for impulse purchases, and burn off more than I take in by carefully editing possessions and deliberating on what items to buy. After the detox phase there are surely still problem areas that need my attention— this week, unruly bathroom cabinets and closets— but by week six, I'm ready to strut my stuff. And what better way to appreciate the fruits of your labor than under the flattering glow of the perfect light arrangement? Light is what brings a room to life...

General Considerations for Light Arrangements

Often without even realizing it, we are drawn to the rooms in our home that have a balanced light flow. When thinking about how to achieve a good balance, start by following Maxwell's advice of having at least three diverse sources of light of varying degrees spread around the room. In most cases, this will mean a general illuminator (such as a floor lamp with a shade that allows a lot of light output or an overhead light), task and accent lighting (like track lighting, work lamps, pharmacy style lamps with a concentrated focus), and ambiance lighting (such as candles, wall sconces, or small lamps). Depending on what you use a room for, your lighting needs will likely change from room to room, but every space should have some sort of lighting variety.

Think about the type of shade. Dark and opaque shades cast a more limited and concentrated light range. These are great options for reading lamps since they focus light on a small area. Semi-translucent shades like silk and linen covered versions are good for table lamps where you want to create a soft, intimate glow. Translucent shades used with soft bulbs are best for general illumination points where you want to provide ample light without washing out a space.

Consider a dimmer. I know designers who put every light in a house on a dimmer. In our own home, just about all the overhead lights in the rooms we use most are on a dimmer which allows us to adjust the light to our needs and moods. I was under the impression that this was a very expensive option, but it is actually a relatively easy DIY project. For simple instructions, check out Home Depot's guide for installing a dimmer yourself. Most switches are in the $15-$50 price range.

Use varying types of lighting to delineate separately functioning spaces. This works especially well in a studio apartment where space is limited and there are few walls separating spaces. It also works if you have a large room, like a "great room," that you want to keep as an open space while still having it serve multiple functions. In the picture below, the chandelier hung above the dining table clearly marks the dining space as distinct from the seating area behind it, which is illuminated by typical living room lighting options— floor lights, side table lamps, etc.

Light for Every Room

Living. Since most living takes place in—you guessed it— the living room, I think this is best place to start when thinking about light flow. Built in ceiling lights are not always a staple in most living rooms these days, and this is not necessarily a disadvantage. In a typical living room with a sofa and one to two additional seating options like a loveseat or armchair, a standard bowl cover ceiling light does little to flatter the space by itself. You're much better off placing a light on either side of the sofa —usually on side tables— one floor lamp next to or behind the additional seating, and adding a range of ambiance lighting like candles on the coffee table and sconces or small lamps on the mantel. This set up will satisfy the good light flow requirement for a standard living room.

To create a focal point above our fireplace, and add to the room's cozy, rustic ambiance, we hung candle-lit lanterns on bird feeder hooks above our mantel in lieu of the more expensive and labor intensive wired sconces, which would have required the services of an electrician .

Kitchen. We made quite a few changes during our small kitchen renovation, but the one that made the biggest difference was the decision to replace the garish fluorescent overhead light with three pendant lights on dimmers. Unlike restaurant kitchens, the kitchens in our homes are often used for more than intense food prep, which means we need ambiance lighting too. One of the worst ways to ruin your morning is to have to face a blast of glaring fluorescent light when you stumble into the kitchen for your morning cup of coffee. Having a softer light alternative like a lamp or an overhead light on a dimmer, allows you to ease into the morning.

BEFORE

AFTER

Dining. Personally, I think a pretty chandelier or stylish pendant light is hard to beat in a dining room. The most important things to keep in mind when selecting a ceiling fixture for your dining room are scale, height, and shape. A tiny pendant will look awkward paired with a graciously sized dining table. However, I think it's harder to go wrong with a larger scale light. Today, BIG pendants are a stylish option. The height however, is important regardless of the size. If the light in question has multiple arms and you can see through it, the standard height is 26 to 32 inches above the table. Any higher will detract from the elegant glow that the chandelier provides. If you are using a bowl-style chandelier or opaque pendant, the height can be a little higher — 30-36 inches above the table. Shape is often a personal style preference. Some people might say to stick with a round chandelier for a round dining table, but I personally like a variety of forms. When selecting the shape, think about whether the fixture is able to cast ample amount of light equally to all parts of the table. You don't want to leave one unfortunate dinner guest in the dark

Curee, Nudik, is making incredible progress in the newly painted dining room, but is looking for a new chandelier. Just painted. Creamy Oats by Valspar. It's very nice in person. Performs well in different lights. It makes me so happy I want to use it somewhere else again and again... We need a new chandelier.
Depending on what look you're going, I think any of these could be fine options. Size and height of the chandelier would be my main considerations for making this beautiful dining space shine.
Barnlight Electric's Bermuda pendants

Restoration Hardware's Pillar candle chandelier

Forecast Lighting's Modern Drum Pendant

or Pottery Barn's Veranda Linear Chandelier

Overhauling the Bathroom

curee, annalyssa's bathroom before the cure
Organization is one of the unsung luxuries of a bathroom oasis. Since we generally use the bathroom for more functional activities, keeping it clean, tidy, and efficient are key to its success. To achieve this, I use baskets for everything.

The first step is to go through your bathroom cabinets and throw out anything that is expired, damaged, or that you haven't used in the last three months. We tend to accumulate a lot of spa-type gift items that we hold onto for far too long. Don't feel bad about passing them on to someone whom you know might use them, or just throw them out. Believe me, you'll appreciate the space!

Next, group items with similar purposes. This is where the baskets come into play. For example: q-tips, nail file, nail clippers go in a weekly grooming basket; cleaning supplies go in a cleaning basket; and toothbrush, toothe paste, comb, hair products go on an easily accessible shelf for daily convenience.

Invest in a wire caddy for your shower to hold shampoo, soap, and razors. There's nothing quite like slipping on a renegade bar of soap mid shower. I like this one from the Container Store.

Finish with a deep clean of your shower. Vinegar and Mr. Clean's Magic eraser are my best friends for getting rid of hard water build up and mildew/mold stains respectively. While you're cleaning, also toss any containers that are basically empty.



A Word on Paint
Not all paints were not created equal. I've painted nearly every room in every home we've lived in, and I've only found one semi-reasonably priced paint that I've absolutely loved, my paint crush: Benjamin Moore's Aura line. It's a thick, low VOC, self-priming, wonder paint. My favorite element though, is its durability. In the past you might have been advised to use semi-gloss for your kitchen and bath, but the Aura's tough finish allows you to paint any room in a flat/matte finish if you prefer. I have used a baby wipe to scrub crayon off our wall without removing any paint. It's so good that it probably deserves its own entire post, but to keep from appearing too much like a commercial, I'll reserve my fanaticism for this cure post. Bottom line: it's worth the extra money, especially since you don't have to waste money on primer. Plus, in most cases, one coat will cover a wall quite sufficiently even when painting light to dark or vice versa. Less paint = more coverage.


Homemade Scents

As much as we love the look of freshly painted rooms, we could do without the odor. Even the most eco-friendly of low VOC paints carry the unmistakable paint fume aroma that is best cured by lots of fresh air. If you need extra help masking the unpleasant smell, or just need some aroma therapy, try fellow curee, annalyssa's DIY trick. She boiled lavender in water on the stove. You can also use lemons, spices such as cinnamon, or another favorite herb in place of the lavender. Or you can try mixing a few drops of essential oil with water and spritzing it around the room as an easy alternative to store bought artificial air fresheners.

Thanks to all of our wonderful curees for their photo progress and great ideas. Specifically, thank you annalyssa for being the star of this post :)

Good luck in this home stretch of the spring cure!

(Images: 1, 9, 10: annalyssa via flickr pool, 2: House Beautiful, 3: Skona Hem, 4: This Young House, 5-7: Leah Moss, 8:Nudik via flickr pool)

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