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Residential light fixtures can illuminate a room or area, brighten your patio and walkway, and highlight decorative features throughout your home. They can even serve as eye-catching focal points themselves. Whatever the purpose, choose the right light for your space both functionally and aesthetically.
Not every light is designed to brighten up an entire room. Ambient, task, and accent lighting each serve a purpose, and some rooms may even call for all three.
Ambient lighting is the main source of lighting in a room. These are typically overhead fixtures that are centered on the ceiling. Depending on the size of your room, it could take multiple fixtures for proper ambient illumination.
Task lighting is meant to provide focused illumination for a specific reason. Think a lamp on your desk for late-night work, or a vanity light to assist with shaving or applying makeup. It provides light where you need it but isn’t meant to cast light through your entire space.
Accent lighting is essentially decorative. It’s meant to draw attention to a particular area of a room such as a piece of artwork, a sculpture on a shelf, or an architectural feature of your home. Accent lighting can also be an ornate chandelier or another fixture that’s designed to catch the eye.
Depending on where they’re being used, sconces can serve as ambient, task, or accent lights. Sconces mount to the wall by a decorative backplate and are often mounted in pairs. In a hallway or small bathroom, two or three of them can provide plenty of ambient lighting. For task and accent lighting, place them over your bed to serve as reading lights or point them toward a piece of artwork to accentuate its beauty.
Usually the largest type of indoor light fixture, chandeliers suspend from the ceiling and serve a dual purpose. They provide ambient lighting while also serving as the centerpiece of a room. Chandeliers come in a wide range of eye-catching shapes and styles from classic, tiered candelabra designs to modern, linear ones.
Pendants suspend from the ceiling by chain, cord, or rod and usually only have a single bulb or two (however, multi-light pendants have seen a surge in popularity). Not intended to brighten an entire room, these task lights project light downward which is why you often see them hung in a row above a bar or over a kitchen sink.
This is another type of ambient light fixture, sitting flush with the ceiling once it’s installed. Flush-mount lights do not suspend from the ceiling, making them perfect for rooms limited on height. Though they’re not designed to draw a lot of attention, plenty of decorative options are available for achieving your desired look.
Semi-flush lights serve the same purpose and share many similarities to flush-mount lights, but they suspend from the ceiling just a few inches for that extra bit of decorative flair. They often feature drum shades and come in a variety of shapes and styles.
Vanity lights, or extended row lights, are centered above a bathroom mirror or medicine cabinet to illuminate your space. The size you choose will depend on the size of your vanity—for design purposes, it shouldn’t be any wider than the width of the cabinet. Vanity lights can feature anywhere from 2-6 bulbs depending on length and may need be used in conjunction with a ceiling-mount fixture to provide your bathroom with adequate ambient light.
The purpose of a light shade is to protect your eyes from the glare of its bulbs while controlling the direction of illumination one way or another. They’re on just about every type of light in some form, but come in a variety of materials, shapes, and colors. Here are some common shade types for residential light fixtures, including some glass shade designs.
Many are making the switch from standard incandescent bulbs to LED ones for a couple of reasons: they last longer and they’re more energy efficient. Incandescent bulbs are still effective and have their benefits, however, so it really comes down to your preference. This chart provides a quick comparison.
You can find indoor and outdoor light fixtures in a wide range of materials and finishes, and they are often multicolored. These finishes are popular in homes today, but the options go far beyond.
With so many options out there, it may not be entirely clear where you can and should use certain types of lights throughout your home. This chart serves as a quick reference to indicate where each type of light is commonly used, although you should never hesitate to get creative!
The main differences between a pendant and a chandelier are the size of the fixture and how it’s designed. Pendants are typically smaller than chandeliers, and its bulbs are confined within some type of frame or shade that has a simple shape. Chandeliers, however, are larger and more extravagant. They’re meant to stand out, and typically feature multiple arms on varying tiers to create a grandeur display.
A handy homeowner will probably feel confident replacing their own light fixtures, but it is never recommended to attempt to perform electrical work unless you already have experience doing so. It might seem like a simple task that can be accomplished with a few standard tools, but electricians go through extensive training for good reason. With exposed wiring and other potential hazards, hiring a professional to perform the job will ensure the safety of your home and your family.
Installing a chandelier over your bathtub looks stunning, and you should do it—but safely. The National Electric Code (NEC) states that when hanging a light fixture over a tub, every part of the fixture, including non-electrical parts, must be at least 8 feet above the rim of the bathtub. Essentially this means that unless your bathroom ceilings are higher than normal, you won’t be able to install a chandelier while meeting building code. Additionally, the chandelier you choose to hang must be rated for wet or damp locations to ensure safety and the longevity of the fixture. There could be additional restrictions in your town, so check your local building codes as well before adding this feature to your bathroom.
The short answer is yes, you can replace your standard halogen or incandescent bulbs with LED bulbs to get a brighter, more energy-efficient, longer-lasting glow. In fact, it’s highly recommended and an economically sensible thing to do. Just make sure that the LED bulb you’re installing properly fits into the socket, and that it uses less wattage that your fixture.
In addition to general silhouette and style, there are a few factors to consider when choosing outdoor lighting fixtures for your home. First, you will want to determine where the fixture will be installed and what purpose it will serve. For example, a ceiling light or pendant for the porch will yield different benefits than entrance sconces and outdoor post lanterns. Then, after you figure out what type of lighting will enhance your space the best, you will want to determine its durability. Consider things like material and finish when it comes to adorning the exterior of your home. Check the fixture's specifications to decide if it is suitable for the weather in your region.
The best color temperature for home lighting depends largely on your preference. However, warm lighting, or light that clocks in at 3,000 Kelvins or lower, is the most common type of home lighting. Perfect for capturing a cozy, lived-in feel, warm lighting emits a yellow glow, casting a more welcoming ambiance than that of LEDs or fluorescent lights. For areas that require higher visibility levels, such as the kitchen or the bathroom, you can opt for bulbs that lean more neutral (3,500K) or cool (4,000K and above).