Where To Start?
Options are endless and can be a bit overwhelming, especially if you're building a new house. But if you stick to the basics, good lighting can be easy and affordable. To show us how best to light a room, we turned to Gaye Mitchum Interiors in Charlotte. Gaye, along with her design team of Heather Quinn and Sarah Fritz, pride themselves on creating warm, rich rooms not just with furniture, fabric, and accessories, but also with good lighting. As Heather puts it, "The number one problem with lighting today is that many people throw in a switch and a 60-watt bulb and expect a room to be beautiful. They just aren't educated about what lighting can do."
Any good professional will tell you that creating atmosphere is a key to well-designed rooms. Lighting, more than anything else, can enhance that.
If you layer your artificial lights correctly, you can define different parts of your room. In one room, recessed cans in the ceiling are the upper layer of light. Two recessed fixtures at the fireplace are adjustable; they illuminate the painting above the fireplace, creating a second layer. Two small recessed fixtures in the top of the bookcases add a third layer, while the chandelier and wall sconces are a fourth. Lamps make the fifth layer. Candles along the mantel and around the room provide a sixth and final layer of light.
Balancing a Room
The trick is getting all these layers to work together. The best tools for balancing light are dimmers, bulbs, and shades. "Dim everything," says Heather. "Dimmers allow you to create different scenes and moods in a room." They work best on ceiling and wall fixtures; use three-way bulbs or switches for lamps. An electrician can retrofit any standard wall switch with a dimmer fairly affordably.
Why go to all the trouble? Because having more control over the brightness of light goes a long way toward balancing a room. The only complicated part is deciding when you have enough of one type or not enough of the other. Sounds tricky, but it really isn't if you follow these simple rules.
First, unattractive fixtures, such as recessed cans, should never be noticeable. They should only be bright enough to complement prettier light. Turn up your accent lights, such as picture or bookcase lights, to highlight art. Finally, play with the level of lamplight to create the best feel.
Interior and lighting design by Gaye Mitchum Interiors/Illuminares On South, Charlotte, (704) 334-9488; furniture and some accessories available from Gaye Mitchum Interiors/Illuminares On South; some accessories by TOZAI, www.twoscompany.com; leather and white armchairs from Oly Studio, www.olystudio.com.
This article is from the February 2005 issue of Southern Living.