Lighting Quick

By Vicky Katz Whitaker

May 1, 2009 5 min read


The right fixture brightens up any room

Vicky Katz Whitaker

Creators News Service

If you're looking for a home decorating quick-fix to turn drab into fab, think lighting. It's one of the easiest and least expensive ways to change the "feel" of any room.

For celebrity designer Frank Fontana, host of HGTV's "Design on a Dime," the solution can be as simple as adding dimmer switches. "I think no lighting situation should be without dimmers," he said -- especially if you want to be "the master of your ambiance."

No matter what room it is, the size or the style, what you choose and where you place that lamp or chandelier can make a big difference in the room's feel, Fontana said. For example, in large room with high ceilings, Fontana said "wall mounted lighting sconces do a great job of bringing attention to the height of the room." But, he cautioned, "just be sure your scone lighting is bounced upward."

Recessed lighting can also do wonders for expanding a space because there is no fixture. "They can also come in the directional variety allowing for pin-spotting various artwork or key points in the space," he added.

In small rooms, thin standing lamps with small or square shades will work best, he said, while in larger rooms, a large chandelier will do wonders. "I love grandiose chandeliers, black crystals and fixtures that really make a statement in your design style," Fontana said.

Today, they are so stylish and versatile that Fontana said they can go anywhere. "You are seeing fixtures once geared for a kitchen now featured in a bedroom, or a bathroom fixture in a hallway."

To veteran interior designer Rick Dent, senior designer for Atlanta's Mathew's Furniture Galleries, the ones you choose should relate to everything in the room. "In a small room, you should be aware of the scale of the furniture as well as the scale of the room," he said. "Lamps and their shade proportions should never overwhelm seating or tables. Ceiling fixtures are often best if they serve as accent lighting either toward or down on areas of interest."

Wall and/or ceiling color can also influence your choice, since light colors will reflect more light. "Darker colors may create a cozier, more intimate space in which accent lighting and lamps can be used for more dramatic emphasis," he added.

Lighting manufacturers have kept an eye on housing trends, said Jeff Dross, senior product manager for Kichler, the Ohio-based maker of fixtures and lamps distributed by retailers worldwide. "In homes built during the last five to eight years, small rooms often have tall ceilings," he said.

Dross recommended choosing a design that has more vertical light "to fully illuminate the space between the tabletop and the ceiling."

Large rooms should have large fixtures. "A big room with a puny light in the center makes the whole look out of proportion and can even make a room look cheap, regardless of the price of the lamp or the lighting fixture," he said.

Indirect lighting is probably the best, most comfortable glow that can be added to any room, Dross added, since "shadows are minimized and the soft, ambient light is very conducive to relaxed living." But indirect lighting in large rooms can be problematic.

"Typically, indirect light is used as one of the many varieties of light," he said. Floor fixtures are a good choice, since they can "punch light in areas needed for tasks such as reading and detail work."

Light can also be re-imagined. Replacing plain cover panels on florescents with screened images of clouds, trees, the night sky or even a favorite photo can also dramatically change the appearance of any room, adding a "virtual skylight" without the need to cut a hole in the roof.

California-based USA Skypanels, for example, provides a choice several cloud patterns -- cumulus, stratus, and cirrus -- as well as a variety of trees and blossoms flanking blue sky and a view of upward-bound hot air balloons, each on easy-to-install two by four foot acrylic panels that can be trimmed to fit smaller spaces. Other panel manufacturers offer views such as aspen tree-tops, beveled glass under the clouds, pets that stare downward and even designs that mimic stained glass.

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