Daylight saving time, which ends at 2 a.m. Sunday, heralds the unofficial arrival of serious sweater weather, cozy blankets and steaming mugs of hot chocolate. It also means the days seem shorter and most of us spend more time inside. But just because there's a bit less sun doesn't mean you have to sacrifice warm light. With the right solutions, even the bleakest days can be bright.
"You want to balance the light in a space," says Margreet Cevasco of Cevasco Design Inc. in Sea Cliff. "You want to have as much light on surfaces as you do in the ceiling, and lamp lighting helps you create a mood that ceiling lighting can't create."
Cevasco suggests using strategically placed lamps throughout a room, and at different levels, to create distinct spaces within your home. "Lamplight draws your eye to dark corners, and creates a full environment," she says.
In addition to considering placement, it's important to choose the right kind of fixture for your space. "Find out if a lamp's light is enough to service you," says Anne Lombardi of Anne Lombardi Interiors in Locust Valley. "Is it a good reading light? Is it right for the proportion of your room? Sometimes a lamp can be too tall."
Lombardi says a lamp should fit the scale of your furniture. Sometimes a really short lamp or a really tall lamp can cast unflattering shadows, or be dwarfed by the size of your sofa. Ceiling height also matters. "Ask yourself, 'is this the right size fixture for the height of the ceiling?' For instance, do you want a bright dining room? Do you want to be able to dim it?" Lombardi says that a dining room can often handle a large light because it has a large table.
Also consider how the light you'll be using meshes with what's already in your space. In a comfortably lit home, lighting choices should work with the rest of your decor. "There needs to be a purpose to the illumination," says Keith Baltimore of Baltimore Design Center in Port Washington. "Different times of day need different lighting settings. You need to consider the intensity of light, the balance of light, what is being illuminated, and why are you illuminating it. Is this bright party mode? Candlelight? The mix of light matters."
Baltimore suggests pairing your bulb choices with your wall color to bring out the best tones. "If you have a blue-ish light, make sure your walls have some pink in them," he says. "If you're putting LED lights up, have the walls be a softer, prettier tone."
THE BULBS MATTER
All designers agree that bulb choice can be as important as lamp choice -- maybe even more important. "Flattering light today, more than ever, is all about finding the correct bulb for the right look," says Lombardi. "You have a choice today, not like years ago. You just have to learn."
The key words are lumens, which refer to the brightness of a bulb, and Kelvins, which refer to the color of the light. "The right lighting can enhance the colors in the room, or set mood for the room," says Mark Voykovic, lightbulb merchant at The Home Depot. Light appearance is which light hue you like, while Kelvins is what helps you find the right temperature, he says. A soft white would be 2700 Kelvins; 3000 is considered bright white, like a halogen bulb. And daylight is 5000 Kelvins, comparable to natural outdoor light. If you want to enhance deeper red or brown walls, for example, you'd want soft white light."
All the bulbs in a room should not necessarily be identical. "A room has to have flexibility," says Baltimore. "If you're taking a bath, you might want to simulate candlelight, but if you were cleaning the bathroom, you'd want the brightest light you could get."
All these options can seem overwhelming, but one great thing about reimagining your home's interior lighting is that it doesn't have to cost a lot. Says Voykovic: "A lot of times, customers will do renovations in their homes, and make enhancements, and the last thing they'll think about is lighting, but it's probably one of the most economical ways to make your home look good."
Water Mill home, designed by Anne Lombardi of Anne Lombardi Interiors in Locust Valley
In an almost 20-by-30-foot space with such dramatic architectural details, it can be hard to create a cozy atmosphere. These large ceiling lights help bring warmth to the room's 20-foot cathedral ceiling. "The clients wanted me to visually bring the height of the room down," Lombardi says. So she used these Lucite lanterns. "Because the lighting is so high up, when you look at the room, the lighting becomes part of the drama of the space, but you can see through it, so the room still has a light feeling."
Port Washington powder room, designed by Keith Baltimore of Baltimore Design Center in Port Washington
In a small space, such as this 5-by-7-foot powder room, creating mood can be challenging. That's why lighting choices have to work with the color of the room, as well as with the room's purpose. Bright 3000 Kelvin LEDs were installed around the ceiling's perimeter, says Baltimore. The treatments hide the fixtures and create the appearance that the ceiling is floating inside the room. "Then I dropped in Swarovski crystal LEDs and hung wallpaper that gets illuminated by the lights," he says. Baltimore also used lights underneath the vanity, and kept the color palette warm, with lavender tones. "It's a powder room," he says. "So you want to look good. You want your complexion to look good."
This 1,800-square-foot, two-bedroom apartment required a complete renovation to eliminate clunky, inefficient high hats in the living room and provide much-needed task lighting in the kitchen. "In the living room, we eliminated the numerous 5-inch can high hats in the ceiling," says Cevasco. "We replaced them with square housing LED lights all around the ceiling. Then we dropped the room's perimeter and lit all around the flat part of the ceiling." Cevasco says that the combination of natural daylight and dimmable LED lighting creates multiple ambient lighting opportunities. "What I always try to do with every project is create combinations, so you can use as much or as little light as you like," she says. "You can use all the lights, or you can use just the lamps, or just the perimeter lights. You can have mood lighting, or you just use the task lights in the kitchen. And everything is also dimmable."