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LIGHTING : The Right Fixtures Can Enhance a Room

September 22, 1990|From Reader's Digest

Lighting can do more than keep darkness away. Judiciously chosen and placed, it can enhance your home's appearance by altering shape and color, dramatizing its advantages and minimizing its disadvantages. Lighting can also increase working efficiency and create a healthier environment for you and your family. Here are some tips:


An average-size room usually needs four or five light sources. In a room where dark-colored walls and upholstery absorb light, you may need more lamps or higher-wattage bulbs.

Choose lampshades according to the effect you want to create. An opaque shade, which produces a strong pattern of light above and below, is more decorative than practical. If you want cheerful, soft, even light that you can read by, select a shade made of light-diffusing fabric, plastic or paper.

Avoid narrow-topped shades as the heat from the confined bulbs deteriorates the shades.

To achieve harmony in a room, keep the tops of both table and floor lamps at the same level and use shades that are similar in style and fabric.

Ceiling Fixtures

Worried about choosing the right size chandelier for your dining room? A good rule of thumb is that its diameter in inches should equal the diagonal of the room in feet. However, some decorators feel that when it comes to chandeliers, it's better to over-scale than to under-scale. A large chandelier may give a small dining room or a narrow hall just the extra glamour it needs.

Healthy Lighting

To reduce eye strain:

If you use a floor lamp for reading, place it slightly behind you either to the left or the right of your shoulder. With a table lamp, line up the base with your shoulder about 20 inches to the left or right of the center of your reading matter. Make sure the bottom of the lampshade is above eye level; a lower one restricts the light that falls on your book or newspaper.

To make television viewing easier on the eyes, use a dimmed-down light, a recessed or a canister-type ceiling fixture that casts a pool of light. Or use a table lamp with a three-way bulb on its lowest setting. Place the lamps so that they aren't reflected in the TV screen.

Mood Lighting

Install dimmers for flexible mood lighting. Bright lights stimulate activity while dim lights are more conducive to relaxation. A dimmer is no more difficult to install than an ordinary light switch or lamp socket. Just follow the package instructions.

To create a warm, intimate atmosphere, substitute small pools of light for general lighting.

Pink bulbs warm up a room, making its light much more flattering than white light. Blue and green bulbs are cool, making a room seem more serene.

Other Options

In addition to lamps and ceiling fixtures, consider:

Accent lighting to emphasize specific details in a room such as paintings or decorative objects.

Cornice lighting that casts light downward over a wall.

Track lighting that provides flexibility in directing beams of light. The track can be mounted on a ceiling or a wall.

"Uplights" that accent objects above them. The soft, diffused light comes from canister-type lighting fixtures placed on the floor.

Valance lighting to provide a wash of light downward over draperies and upward over a ceiling from a special window valance.

Wall sconces to bounce light off the ceiling or walls or to light an object.

Wall washers to direct beams of light at the wall, expanding the feeling of space in a room. They can be recessed, surface-mounted, or on a track.

Distributed by AP Newsfeatures.

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