About the guest author: Erin Vaughan is a blogger, gardener, and aspiring homeowner. She resides in Austin, TX where she writes full time for Modernize, with the goal of empowering homeowners with the expert guidance and educational tools they need to take on big home projects with confidence.
There’s a lot more to lighting than your standard-issue overhead lights and lamps. When used thoughtfully, lighting can highlight artwork and sculptural pieces, direct attention to an accent wall or interesting feature in your home, or add drama to your landscaping and hallways. And now, with smart lighting, it’s easy to program multiple settings for a single room—so you can switch between low light and back light with a single tap.
A Brief Overview of Home Lighting Techniques
Unless you have a background in interior design, you probably rely on your intuition to guide you in your lighting decisions for your home. If it seems dark in one part of a room, you put a lamp there, and so forth. But well-structured lighting designs actually balance three different elements: ambient light, including natural daylighting and overhead lights; task lighting, which refers to concentrated light sources like table lamps; and accent lights, which function mostly as decoration, directing the eye to certain features.
Accent lights span the gamut from spotlights, picture lights, and wall sconces to strip lights and backlighting meant to illuminate a wider surface area. A couple of general rules for accenting with lights? Use picture lights and overhead spotlights to light artwork or other framed pieces hung on the wall. Backlighting, on the other hand, works better when you want to call attention to a larger area—furniture, accent walls, and so forth. Uplighting adds drama to a pathway and visual interest to outdoor features like trees and bushes.
LED Strip Lights are the Smart Home’s Best Friend
Whether it’s around a bathroom mirror or below the kitchen counter, backlighting outlines the showiest parts of your home. LED strip lighting is one way to get the look—plus, smart LEDs are much more energy efficient than standard incandescents. You can even use automated strip lights, which allow you to program them to a timer or switch between cool and warm light temperatures.
Strip lighting in unexpected tints adds a spacey, futuristic appearance to your decor, while whites and yellows have a more classic appearance. Whatever you do, though, don’t go any lower than 2,700K when selecting your color hue if you’re lighting around works of art.
Automated Dimmers: Lighting Controls on a Dime
Accent lights draw your eye to a specific part of the room, which is great if you’re just showing people around. However, in multifunctional spaces, all that illumination can seriously cramp your style (think: living rooms and dens, where all that lighting can easily put you in TV purgatory).
Meanwhile, color temperature and intensity can also affect your sleep cycle. There’s evidence that exposure to bright blue or white light keeps you alert, while soft yellowish light preps you for sleep in the evening. Smart dimmers on the walls allow you to control the brightness of any light in the room—with keypads, multiple lights at once—and some even have adjustable color temperature dials to keep in tune with natural circadian rhythms. In this way, you can program lighting controls for different “scenes” throughout your day: one for when you give guests a tour, one for dinner conversation, and one for movies on the couch. Automated controls open up a wide range of decorative lighting options to explore—since there’s no need for manual switches, lighting a portrait or a kitchen backsplash just became that much easier to manage. So let there be light—just make sure to make them smart!
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