Maximum Impact…Minimum $$$

By William Hoffman
There have been numerous articles referencing lighting which you have probably read. Many are complicated and tend to make your eyes glaze over. Although this article is not intended to make you a lighting expert, there are a few simple rules I apply to maximize the impact on your space with a relatively minimum impact on your pocketbook.
There are three types of lighting techniques
   general or area lighting
  task or local lighting
  accent or decorative lighting
The type of lighting you should be considering depends on the function of the room. Rooms with utilitarian functions probably require only general lighting. More important living areas might require all three types of lighting.
Hands down, the best thing you can do to improve the current lighting in you home has nothing to do with actual lighting fixtures, but with control of your existing lighting. This can be accomplished by exchanging all your existing wall toggle switches to dimmers. This allows you to adjust the lighting output of your incandescent lamps (light bulbs) which will dramatically improve the light quality in any space you have. There are a number of different types of dimmers to choose from, starting in price of less than $5.00. I might suggest going to your local home improvement store and checking out what is available. For more sophisticated lighting control, lighting systems can be purchased which allow you to access a number of predetermined lighting schemes to suit a specific mood or function you would like your lighting to create.
Now you have the maximum control over your existing lighting. The next thing to think about is how to light a space and then choose the light fixture and the appropriate lamp to do the job. The one thing I often see in homes is a non-specific arrangement of recessed down lights in the ceiling of a room. Sure it meets the general lighting requirement of the room but doesn’t do much for the quality of the lighting in that room. When I consider lighting a space I don’t necessarily think in terms of creating a general lighting scheme. I prefer to think first about what objects require highlight or accent lighting in that room. I also think in terms of choosing an indirect vs. a direct lighting source.
A good example in existing homes would be a hallway with a surface mount ceiling fixture. In that situation I might consider turning the hallway wall into an art/photo wall, using the existing electrical connection, and change out the ceiling fixture to accommodate that need. I would then choose a lighting track with the smallest possible fixture (i.e. MR-16) because of a lower ceiling height in that space. Next is a choice of lamp types for that fixture, (flood or spot). The flood lamp spreads the light out, the spot lamps focuses the light. The idea is to avoid “hot spots.” So if the track is closer to the wall than is preferable, as in our hallway example, I would choose a flood lamp to go with the fixture. The track lighting fixtures would then be adjusted to point to each individual piece of art or photograph. The number of fixtures would be determined by the number of objects and to avoid “hot spots.” This results in specific points of interest being highlighted. At the same time general lighting is accomplished by the indirect light being reflected off the wall.
This approach addresses your lighting needs rationally to meet specific lighting requirements with a dramatic result, minimal cost and immediate gratification.
The subject of lighting will be continued in next month’s article.
About the Author:
William Hoffman, “The Tropical Architect,” specializing in new homes and home renovations for a Florida lifestyle welcomes your comments or questions and can be reached at 954-561-1642 and or visit (high speed internet connection suggested)
Photo description:
Poinciana House
Beverly Lighting Fixture
Las Olas Isle
Fort Lauderdale FL