> FOCUS THE LIGHT WITHIN
nets. Linear task lighting may work for some sideboards and
cabinets. Recessed luminaires should be aimable. The ALA
recommends placing recessed downlights in the ceiling 9–12
inches from the wall and 24–36 inches apart for illuminating
buffets and sideboards.
Lighting is typically installed around the mirror. If the mirror
is small, consider placing a vertical luminaire on each side. The
luminaire should be outside the cone of vision ( 60 degrees) to
avoid glare and be mounted at face height, with the luminaire’s
center at eye level and its bottom about 60 inches above the
floor. The ALA recommends placing the luminaires at least 28
For larger mirrors, consider mounting above the mirror
using a strip of vanity lights. The ALA recommends mounting
78 inches above the floor.
When it comes to good design, hallways are an important but
often overlooked element of the home. Uniformity of general
illumination, with no dark corners, is important for safety;
direct lighting can work, though indirect lighting with reflective walls can work well too. Daylight is optimal. Accent lighting
can draw attention to focal points. Task lighting can be added
for mirrors and closets.
A rule of thumb for hallway general lighting is to space the
luminaires 8–10 feet apart. Divide hall length by 8 and subtract
one for a rough luminaire calculation. A 20-foot hall would
require two luminaires.
Closet lighting can contribute to lifestyle and convenience
while creating an upscale feel. If the closet is deep enough
to enter one step, consider lighting it from the inside. One
approach is linear, low-profile LED lights with a warm color
temperature. The light could turn on and off using a motion
sensor or doorjamb switch. Wireless switches and motion sensors, luminous clothes hangers and battery-powered luminaires
The location, framing and illumination of wall art determine
how noticeable it is. A painting should appear three times
brighter than its surround, requiring accent lighting. To avoid
glare, aim the luminaire at a suitable angle, adjusting as needed
with 30–45 degrees as a starting point. If the frame is large, a
higher angle may be needed to avoid shadows. If the painting
has texture that should be emphasized through shadowing,
reduce the angle.
Oil paintings tend to reflect light, while acrylic isn’t glossy.
If the artwork is mounted under glass, avoid glare with careful
lighting placement (such as by using an internally illuminated
frame) or, potentially, nonreflective glass.
Heat and ultraviolet energy can damage artwork. Place your
hand between the light source and the art; if you can feel heat,
it’s enough to damage an oil painting. Avoid light sources with
ultraviolet output (e.g., fluorescent) to preserve the painting.
Xenon, halogen and LED sources can work well, although halogen lamps do produce significant heat. Incandescent is rarely
preferred, because it can visually mute cooler colors, such as
blues and greens.
Art and science
The science of residential lighting involves providing suitable
light levels with optimal visual comfort and no unwanted shadows. The lion’s share of effort is art—focusing attention where
it is needed, conveying an image, making rooms feel intimate
or public. As electrical contractors are often called on for information and ideas, it pays to understand the basics of lighting
and the many types of luminaires, controls and other options
that are available.
For more information, visit the ALA at www.american light-ingassoc.com or the IES home lighting blog at www.ieslightlogic.
org, where this article’s author is a frequent contributor.
DILOUIE, L.C., a lighting industry journalist, analyst and
marketing consultant, is principal of ZING Communications. He can
be reached at www.zinginc.com.
Bathroom vanity lighting is typically installed around the
mirror. In this case, as the mirror is small, a vertical luminaire
is placed on each side.