Posted by Kerrie Kelly in Home Design

​How a room is lit affects the overall impression of the space. Lighting adds drama and function to a room, and the best lighting scheme uses natural light supplemented with ambient, task, and accent lighting, without overusing any of them.

​The combination of indoor lighting and natural sunlight can completely change the feeling of a space when the bulb’s temperature is taken into consideration. Finding the right mix can be tricky, but it is worth the time and effort. A balanced mix of bulb temperature can sustain the warmth of a room while allowing homeowners to create different moods within a space.

Getting Control

​One of the best, and least expensive, ways to control lighting is with dimmers, also called rheostats. Dimmers can not only set a mood, but also will conserve energy. They also help you custom-tailor light in a room for multiple uses and decorative effects. Another option is a control panel.

​Lighting controls give you the flexibility to design a lighting plan with many uses and a variety of decorative touches. With the push of a button, you can use today’s sophisticated dimming systems to lower light levels to conserve energy and increase bulb life, alter the intensity of light to suit your activity, and create and save a number of different lighting scenes in each room.

Beware of Glare

​When placing light fixtures, consider the glare they produce. Direct glare from a bare bulb is the worst kind. Remedies include deeply recessed fixtures, fixtures with baffles or small apertures, and diffusing shades or covers. You can avoid reflected glare, which is light that bounces off an object into your eyes, by placing fixtures at a 30- to 45-degree angle.

Choosing Lighting Sources

​One might think that choosing light fixtures comes first, but professional designers pick bulbs — which they call “lamps” — and then the appropriate fixtures. Bulbs can be grouped according to the way they produce light. Though most of us have a sense of what to expect from a 40-watt incandescent bulb, watts are no longer a good way to describe a bulb’s light output — now, different technologies use different amounts of power to produce the same light.

​Compare lumens to see how bright a bulb is. If you want to know how warm or cool the light produced will be, look for the Kelvin rating. For the warm light traditionally produced by incandescent bulbs, look for those close to 2,700 Kelvin. Most of the old fluorescent tubes you’re familiar with are around 4,000 Kelvin. Fluorescents come in many varieties these days, from warm to cool, from traditional tubes to compact fluorescents (CFLs), all in many interesting shapes. Each will have its own effect on the colors in your space.

​Incandescent light is still available, but in a more efficient package. Look for halogen bulbs that look the same as traditional bulbs, but with the filament encased in gas. They are able to produce light like a 100-watt incandescent bulb, with only 72 watts.

  • ​To warm up a room’s color: Look for a bulb with a temperature close to 2,700 Kelvin. Halogens are a good choice, but all types of bulbs are available in warmer ratings.
  • ​​To cool down a room’s color: Look for a bulb with a temperature close to 4,000 Kelvin. Standard fluorescents will generally cool down a room, but check the numbers.
  • ​To most accurately replicate natural daylight: Midday sunlight is around 5,000 to 6,000 Kelvin, but keep in mind that this is very cool light — contrary to what you might expect.

Halogen Bulbs

​These give off the whitest light and do not change interior color perception. They are ideal for task and accent lighting. They must be used in halogen fixtures only.

Light-Emitting Diodes

​Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) are the longest-lasting bulbs out there and they cost the least to operate. If your fixture is on a dimmer, keep in mind that while the color produced by the LED at full strength will match that of its equivalent incandescent, when dimmed, the incandescent will get much warmer in tone, while the LED will just dim and the color will stay pretty consistent.

Fluorescent Bulbs

​These create a steady, shadow-less light to simulate daylight. They are highly energy efficient, and come in both tubes and bulbs. The newest generation of fluorescent bulbs has minimal noise and flicker and comes in a wide spectrum of colors.

Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs

​Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFLs) use 70% less energy than the incandescent light bulbs they replace. They’re available in various sizes and shapes to match different fixtures and come in different shades of white light. You can even find CFLs for use with a dimmer switch or a three-way fixture.

Other Light Sources

​Some specialty lights don’t provide a great deal of useful light but can be fun as decorative elements. These include neon, fiber optics, and rope lights.

​With a rainbow of choices, what bulbs will you use in your space?


Kerrie Kelly


Kerrie Kelly from Kerrie Kelly Design Labs is an interior designer who writes for The Home Depot about kitchen design. She loves to provide advice on a myriad of topics such as “how to make your kitchen feel more open.” To get some more inspiration and kitchen design ideas, visit

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