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Lighting design 101: learn the basics

Sep 19, 2023, 9:30 AM | Updated: Jun 10, 2024, 1:02 pm

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This article about lighting design basics is sponsored by Lighting Design.


These lighting design basics will help you when designing your home. Lighting is crucial in home design as it is both practical and artistic, making it a delicate art to balance. Consider the amount of visibility, type of mood, and structural shapes to create the ambiance you’re after. 

We see the world with light, and the lighting in a room influences how we perceive and even act in that space when we are there. Lighting impacts your mood and morale and provides safety and security. 

We outline the lighting design principles below to give you a basic idea of what to look for as you design your home, office, or other interior space. 

Lighting design criteria

Lighting designers use the basic qualities of light to determine how they light up a space. Those qualities are the light’s intensity, form, color, direction, and movement. From this foundation, you can determine how to light up an area to set the mood you’re after. 

The lighting intensity is how powerful the light is displayed. You can control the intensity through fixtures like a dimmer or by choosing lamps with adjustable levels. Light colors range from warm to cool, with warm lights being the preference for homes and bedrooms. Cool lights are better reserved in an office or warehouse space to boost productivity. 

A light’s direction and movement depend on how you position the light. The angle of light can change depending on a lampshade or spotlight, and lighting areas can be focused or dispersed. 

Steps in the lighting design process

The designers at Lighting Design have compiled a resource for tips when shopping for new lighting. As you begin your design work, you must know a few things before shopping. 

The first step is to determine your budget. When you know how much you can spend, you can choose lighting structures that fit within that. It also helps when you call on people for assistance so they know what budget to stay within. 

You also need to know the measurements of the space where you are adding or changing the lights. You should measure the ceiling height, the room’s square footage, and the amount of free wall space. If you add lamps or hanging pendants over a table, you should know the table’s measurements, including length, width, and height. Your island kitchen, bathroom vanity, or cabinet measurements are good to know if you are adding lights to illuminate a specific room area. 

Other considerations are the color of the surfaces in the room, activities done in the room, and the age of occupants. 

Finally, determine your control system. Will you need to rewire your home to add ceiling lights or purchase extension cords to reach an outlet? Do you want to reinstall a light dimmer so you can control the power of the lighting? Check all your fittings and try to gather as many specs as possible to make everyone’s jobs easier. 

Lighting design terms

sconce lamp night light in the bedroom illustration Generative AI.

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It also helps to know the different lighting terms before you begin your lighting design journey. Here are some basic terms to understand. 

LED: LED stands for light-emitting diode. It is an electronic device that emits light when a voltage is applied. 

Lumens: This refers to how much light a fixture will give off. 

Kelvins: Also known as color temperature, kelvins describe the color a light gives off. 

Pendants: A pendant light is typically a sole light that hangs from either wire, chain, or rod. Pendants can be one, two, three, and even four-light fixtures.

Chandeliers: Chandeliers are branched ornamental fixtures that hang from the ceiling.

Sconces: A sconce is a one or two light fixture mounted to the wall.

Flush mount: A flush mount light fixture is a light that sits directly on the ceiling.

Semi-flush mount: A semi-flush mount light is a fixture with a small space between the ceiling and the light.

Fandeliers: Fandeliers combine chandeliers and fans, hence-“fandelier.”

Can lights: Can lights are also known as recessed lighting. These are small lights, usually 4 “-7” in diameter, typically installed in grid-like form. Their electrical component, the can, is installed in the ceiling, so the lights are almost invisible.

Vanity lights: Vanity lights or bathroom lights are usually two, three, four, or five light bars installed on the wall above the bathroom mirror. 

Track lighting: These are light fixtures attached to a continuous track containing electrical conductors. Track lighting makes it so you can have multiple light fixtures potentially pointing in different directions that attach at one point to the ceiling. 

Lighting design styles

Just like in interior design, lighting structures fit in with different styles. There are mid-century modern, Scandinavian, modern farmhouse, and traditional lighting elements that you can incorporate into your home. The type of lighting you choose should complement your home’s furniture style and colors. 

More information

If you want to get even deeper into this understanding, the experts at Lighting Design in Utah can help you in your journey to find the perfect lighting. They have combined over 100 years of experience in the field and can answer any questions you may have. 

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This is a sponsored article brought to you by KSL TV in conjunction with the advertiser. The advertiser paid a fee to promote this article and may have influenced or authored the content. The views expressed in this article are those of the advertiser and do not necessarily reflect those of KSL TV, its parent company, or its staff.

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