Just like a great Christmas tree, lighting is everything. It may be covered in bling, sparkle and memories, but the lights bring it to life. It puts the Oohs and Aahs in Oooo-la-la.
There are 3 basic types of lighting to consider in your home: task, ambient, and accent.
Task lighting is exactly what it sounds like. It's the workhorse of your everyday life. It's light you use to perform work and requires placement and brightness for a specific job.
We need task lighting in the kitchen to prepare and cook food, in the office to do work, read documents, pay bills, over the bathroom sink, to brush teeth, put on makeup, maintain heath, in the garage or shed to use tools and make repairs. Porch lights, and even the light inside the fridge and dryer are there for work actions. These lights are often placed in specific areas for specific results and are, or can be made to be directly spot intensive and bright enough for safety and function.
Ambient lighting is usually thought of as the overhead lights that light up an entire room with "daytime" results.
In older homes and more basic construction, lamps often fill the void of more custom and expensive options. The term ambient is often thought of as "mood" lighting as it is less intrusive as task light and often is controlled with dimmers, accompanied by fans and in general can be raised or lowered due to the feel, mood and results you are trying to create in a space.
Accent lighting for our purposes is what we think of in lamp lighting. Hanging lamps, floor lamps, table lamps, chandeliers, pendants and even candles. Lamps can be used as well for ambient and task lighting, and the beauty is their relative. changeability. You don't have to rewire your entire house to add a lamp, and you can change them, or move locations with ease. The term accent also lends to the idea that they become part of your style and furnishings as well as being an integral part of your decor. Lamps can be inexpensive form and function..........my favorite. Just changing lamps within the same room can make a dramatic difference. Changing them from room to room can actually pull a home together.
One of my major goals in creating a web/blog is to bridge the gap that is often missing in a traditional How To with a more thoughtful Why To. We can google almost anything today, but we are lacking in the common sense bottom line reasons of why we are doing it, what we are truly trying to accomplish, and at what price? You may need better lighting in a location in your home, but tearing up the ceiling, hiring an electrician, spending thousands on fixtures and living through a minor renovation may not be in your budget or time line. Just because the creek is there, doesn't mean you have to cross it. It may be deeper than you think.
If you are in the market for a different home, be aware of the lighting. How does it work for you?. Pay attention to the bones of the home and not just the paint color that you can easily be changed. It may have a stunning set of pendants in the kitchen, but are they in the right place? Do they put off enough light? Do they provide sufficient task light under the cabinets where you will be preparing breakfast for the kids? How much will it cost to correct this issue? The house may be a great price in the right neighborhood, but it you find a number of these issues that will effect your day to day routine, you may be in over your head. Think WHY?
I've renovated and been involved in the upgrade of a number of houses, but it comes at a price. If the bottom line cost of changing a couple of lights in the kitchen comes at $ 10X that of a less attractive but still workable option, you'd better stop and think. How long am I going to stay here? How important is this to me? Will I ever recoup the cost of this project when selling this property? If it checks all of the boxes, by all means move forward. If not, take a step back and reconsider what your goals are and what options are also available to you. If you are already considering other upgrades, grouping them together as a total project can help to bring the end bill of all individual items more in line. It's just like getting your fries for free when bundling together the burger and drink, but if you already have a bottle of water and really don't need the fries, maybe just stick with the burger. Don't throw the baby out with the bath water just because you are already over budget and it seems like a good idea in your head. Look at it on paper again. Remember that the check you are writing is made of relatively the same paper. Use the cheap one first.
If while in the middle of a project you find yourself having to pick and choose to stay within a reasonable budget, don't be afraid to study, think ahead and perhaps ask your contractor what can be done now to help prepare for future projects. It may be wise to go ahead and rough-in and get ready for the next phase now while the current costs are less to do so, as well as eating away at the future problems and tasks to be performed later.. A few bucks now, for a budget friendly addition later. Money in the bank! This is also an unseen selling feature for a future owner, if that time and option come first. Keep records and don't forget to pass along that information. The honesty and forethought may be just the straw that tips the camel in your favor. While renovating the main bathroom in the south side of the house, I had the plumber go ahead and update the connective plumbing for the other bathroom to be tackled later. In the big picture, it was minimal expense, and as I am getting ready to now update that area, it has already saved me a a few happy bucks and unwanted headaches and time. Your future self will thank you.
Lighting styles change from decade to decade and lamp shades and shapes from year to year. About the time you think that you've got it all figured out and make a few changes around the house, OOPS......you're already on the pages of last years magazine. The more intrusive and expensive the change, the more conservative the style should be. We should be looking for types of lighting that "disappear" when not in use. I don't mean that we need to be living in a 007 hidden compartment universe, just choosing fixtures that are not too specific and simple enough to stand the test of time for many years to come.
I chose for the majority of lighting in the main living areas of my home to be recessed "can lights". Many of them were upgrades from existing versions to be a more contemporary and cost efficient version to stand the test for atleast 20 years or so. The addition of bright, point intensive halogen bulbs and dimmer switches allow them to multi-function as task and less obtrusive ambient versions. The look on the ceiling is clean and sleek and can blend well with all styles.
Using flush/recessed lighting alone can look sterile and uninteresting, so a little bling never hurt anyone. This more decorative lighting, usually in the form of chandeliers, pendants, fan/combos and hugger mounts is generally more specific to taste and style and becomes the calling card to the personality of your home. The more specific the choices in your decor, the more likely they will need to be changed if and when you want to sell your home. You can either pass the expense of a more pleasing version on to the new buyer or make choices that will appeal to many tastes. If you can make choices that please you and please others, you've got a win-win situation.
Simply moving one piece of furniture from room to room can transform a space, and lamps are no exception. Taking contemporary pieces from a more updated area and switching then with more formal and traditional objects can help bridge a visual gap to help the flow from room to room. Cohesion in color can assist in a less than consistent theme in style. Don't be afraid to let your eclectic side shine through. Neutrals in style and color can be mixed and matched in multiple ways and then adding one splash of color or unusual style can truly make a statement and the ultimate ease of changeability won't break the bank and can allow for a lack of boredom in your seasonal or "mood" changes.
In addition to swapping out shades, an old dated model can be tweaked with ease. Add trim, tassels, even recover the entire surface with a new piece of fabric. Just think how custom a couple of matching pillows and coordinating shade can make to a bedroom. A glue gun, two way tape and a little patience can save hundreds of dollars and give you a wonderful feeling of satisfaction that you can enjoy for years. If you want your life and home to be more than just normal, then give a better than average effort. To do great things, one must do! Don't be afraid to google the How To's and remember the WHY's are what change your life.
Always look at stock, or big box fixtures first. Frequently custom orders are no different than what you can find at Lowe's or Home Depot and you could save thousands. The same fixture from home to home can look totally unique due to the other surrounding factors of style and decor. These larger fixtures can be personalized in the same way that an accent lamp can. Swapping out the shades, adding details, changing the bulbs can ultimately personalize your home into something that is made just for you, while still allowing for "change back" to a more neutral style when redecorating or selling. Options are always a great selling point and in our lives in general. A too specific chandelier can hamper a sale in the same way that a paint color can. They can both be changed or altered relatively simply, but the less someone has to do to assimilate into a space, the better they like it.
Living big and living large are two very different things. We can surround ourselves with beautiful things on a budget. We can have a wonderful life with a willingness to share and give of ourselves to others. We can create lasting memories with nothing more than taking the time to realize the moments at hand. And, in the process we can create an environment that we are proud of and enjoy without selling our souls and sacrificing our kid's educational funds and our own retirements. Lovely things don't have to be expensive, and paying attention to our decisions also feathers our nest in the long run. Your home is you largest investment and one can either keep it updated and inviting along the way, or take the bite when you are selling it. No one escapes unscathed, so why not enjoy it during the process and still retrieve the profits at the end. One way or the other, it's the journey and why not be the master of your destiny?