Expert Advice: Professional Tips for Lighting Your Home

Apartment Therapy's Home Remedies

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Lighting a room correctly can do wonders for the space, but what if you don't know where to start? We definitely need all the lighting advice we can get in the dreary, dark winter, so I jumped at the chance to ask local Seattle lighting expert Lara Proctor some questions...

Established in 1957, Harold's Fine Home Lighting is a 4th generation, family-run business, specializing in repairs, custom light fixtures, and custom shades. Lara Proctor, an experienced lighting associate for Harold's, passed on these tried-and-true tips for lighting your space perfectly, avoiding common mistakes, and lighting on a budget.

A few tips from Lara on lighting your space:

  • Use layers of ambient, task and accent lighting. Ambient, or general lighting, comes from your flush mount and semi-flush fixtures, chandeliers, and recessed cans. Task lighting is used to complete tasks, like a reading lamp next to your chair, a desk lamp, or under cabinet lighting in the kitchen. Accent lighting adds interest to a space (you can do this by highlighting artwork or up-lighting plants). If you play with these three types, you can add drama and create atmosphere in your space.
  • Re-use and recycle. Whether it's a vintage lamp you picked up at a thrift store or a family heirloom — have it assessed and possibly restored. Most lighting specialty shops (including Harold's) offer re-wires, re-finishing, and custom lampshades. Even selecting a new shade can bring a lamp back to life!
  • Find your statement piece! What area of your home do you want to make the focal point? If it's the dining room, find a fantastic chandelier and then build around that. It is much easier to make choices when you model them after a main selection.
  • Always use dimmers. They allow you to adjust the level of light in the space while saving energy and conserving the lifespan of your bulb.
  • Start experimenting with the new, energy efficient bulbs. Bulbs with LEDs, or light-emitting diodes, may be expensive up front, but they pay off in the long run. The language of lighting is changing. Look for the lumen count to determine the light output, and look for the Kelvin rating to identify the quality of light. If you loved the old incandescent styles, look for warmer color temperatures like 2700-3000 Kelvin.
Some common mistakes you can run into when lighting your space:

  • Forgetting to do your research! It's difficult for a professional to point you in the right direction if you don't have any idea what you're looking for. Try browsing Pinterest, design blogs, and design magazines for ideas or inspiration photos.
  • Shopping unprepared. When you are shopping for your lighting plan, bring measurements of the space and furniture, etc. and pictures of your space. These preparations help a sales person direct you to what you need.
  • Picking the wrong size light fixture. Be sure to base the size of your lighting fixture on the size of the space that is to be lit (i.e. table, island, etc.). Also, think about the scale of your furniture and try to reflect that scale in the light fixture.
  • Shopping online only. If at all possible, always shop in person, not online. Browsing online is fine, but seeing things in person is invaluable. Not to mention, it can be terribly difficult to make returns or get replacements for defective pieces in a timely manner from an online store. Shopping in person guarantees that you have a point person to take care of you, you know their name, and they know yours.
  • Skipping the electrician. Never do DIY with electrical unless you know exactly what you're doing. Find a local, recommended electrician to guide you through the process. Certain systems require attention to detail, and if you don't have the proper experience, it can be a costly mistake.

Advice if you're sticking to a budget:

  • Don't be afraid to shop the local boutique! Often times there are sale sections or annual storewide sales. If you are shopping for multiple fixtures, usually showrooms will be more flexible with pricing
  • Instead of buying new, update with a new shade. A new shade can completely change the look of an old lamp. Always bring your lamp with you when shopping, so you can try them on. It's like buying clothes; you never know how it will look until you see it all together.
  • Put the bulk of your lighting budget into your statement piece. Consider lighting as a piece of art. Most likely you will be living with your choice for years to come. Be more thrifty on the other selections.
  • Examine the various price points. Every lighting store has a number of brands at various price points. You obviously have good taste if you go right to the $1200 lamp, but ask a sales person before you walk out the door with it. You might be surprised at what alternate selections are available. Many lower price point companies mimic the designer ones.

Thanks, Lara and Harold's Fine Lighting!

(Image credits: Andie Powers)

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