Good lighting is everything – it affects the ambiance and mood of a space. Poor lighting can set a tone of isolation and listlessness. Conversely, good lighting promotes warmth and peace of mind. To foster a harmonious and dynamic home environment, consider the following lighting guidelines.

Keep the purpose of the room in mind. With a heavy focus on food preparation and cleanup, lighting in the kitchen should be placed above the counters and over the sink where most of the work takes place. In rooms where the most time is spent, such as living and family rooms, consider adding elements of ambient light.

“Bouncing light off the ceiling creates a sense of brightness in the room, and avoids the shadows or downward direction of recessed lights,” says lighting designer Markus Earley, of Earleylight, in Providence, R.I.

Finally, too many bathrooms feature a central ceiling-mounted fixture. With an emphasis on personal grooming, its crucial that lighting in the bathroom not cast shadows. “One of the best improvements you can make in a bathroom is to light both sides of the mirror,” says Patricia Rizzo of the Lighting Research Center.

Closely consider the types of light bulbs in the home. Halogen, compact fluorescent and LED bulbs come in a range of warm or cool hues. The desired glow is primarily a personal decision. If the walls are a cooler tone, one idea would be to warm them up with a light bulb that casts a warm glow and vice versa.

Accent lighting may be used to focus on an architectural element, such as a fireplace or bookcase, or on a painting, sculpture or plant. When lighting an art collection, the brightness and heat generated by the type of lighting must be considered.

In addition to being used to highlight focal points, light fixtures may serve as decorative pieces themselves. Using lights instead of wall art can be a decorative way to provide ambient lighting.

Don’t forget the stairwell. Add lights to stair risers as a design element in addition to bolstering safety precautions.
Consider the length of the light fixture. As a rule of thumb, the bottom of a light should hang about 12 to 20 inches below a standard 8-foot ceiling.

For each additional foot of ceiling height, add 3 inches. While a light over a table or a kitchen island, 28 to 34 inches is the recommended distance from the bottom of the light to the surface of the table or island. However, the size of the light makes a difference. In general, a smaller light can be moved lower and a larger light can be moved higher.

While often overlooked, outdoor lighting is as important as indoor lighting. Though primarily utilized for safety and security purposes to light doorways and pathways, landscape lighting can also be used for aesthetic purposes.

When done well, landscape lighting highlights a home’s architectural features and draws attention to plants and trees of distinction. Trees lit from below create an inviting post-sunset atmosphere all-night long. Tea lights hung in the summertime can transform a backyard into a personal oasis to entertain and relax.

If you are considering adjusting the light fixtures in your home, be sure to have a plan. Haphazardly adding light fixtures here and there can be more detrimental than helpful. Remember lighting sets a mood for the inside and outside of the home.

When it comes time to sell the house that mood or tone can have a significant impact on how buyer’s perceive the home and its value. So be sure seek the advice of a local lighting architect and your trusted, expert Realtor when formulating your plan.

This column is produced by Rick Bisson and his family, who own Bisson Real Estate with Keller Williams Realty of Midcoast and Sugarloaf.

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