Lighting is not a one-size-fits-all solution for every space of your new home. Before you get any bright ideas, it’s important to consider what lighting works best in each room.
“First, you want to ask yourself, ‘What is the purpose of this room?’” says Jackie Graniczny, designer for Chicago-area homebuilder Sublime Homes. “You’ll also want to determine how big the room will be and if the lighting will be for utility or for more decorative purposes.”
The wrong kind of lighting can create an unpleasant environment, or worse, says interior designer Mary Cook, of Chicago-based Mary Cook Associates and author of The Art of Space. “Lighting is so critical,” she says. “It really is a big deal.”
So, what lighting works best in each room? Below are suggestions from Graniczny and Cook, but first let’s talk about cool, warm and bright lighting and how that will figure into your lighting design plan. (Quick note: cool and warm are terms to describe color temperature and are measured in Kelvins; color temperature does mean the actual temperature of a light.)
Color Temperature and What That Means
- Cool Light: This light has blue tones to it and is stimulating. Best for kitchens, bathrooms, work spaces and the outdoors.
- Warm Light: This light has red tones to it and gives off a soothing, relaxing feel. Best for bedrooms, bathrooms and gathering spaces, such as a family or living room.
- Bright Light: This light gives off white light, like daylight at noon. Also comes in soft white (soft yellowish light), cool white (soft white light) and daylight (bluish white light). Best for bathrooms, kitchens, basements or for task or accent lighting.
The higher the Kelvin temperature, the cooler (blue) the light will be. The lower the Kelvin temperature, the warmer (yellow) the light will be. Bright (or white) light is in the middle range of the Kelvin scale, around 4,000 Kelvin to 6,000 Kelvin.
What Lighting Works Best in Each Room
They call the kitchen the workhorse of the home, so you’ll need a variety of lighting in this space, says Cook. Ideally, you’ll want to use cool lighting in the kitchen, since you’ll be doing a variety of tasks.
Because kitchens in most new homes are a part of an open floor plan, lighting can be tricky. “You’ll want task lighting for chopping and cooking, and you’ll probably have warm lighting from the pendants, but you want to make sure the color of the lighting in the kitchen is complimentary,” says Cook. “To handle lighting in the kitchen, we do layered lighting. Make sure you match the lighting colors.” For pendants lights over a kitchen island, for example, use cool white light to match task lighting.
Owner’s Suite & Other Bedrooms
Because the bedroom is utilized at different times of the day, Cook suggests layering the lighting in this space. That is, you’ll want different lighting in the morning than the lighting you use when it’s time to call it a night.
“Exposure to natural sunlight is a great way to start your day,” Cook says, so simply open those curtains or shades when you wake. For the evening, use warm lights to help you unwind and prepare for sleep.
“In rooms like the bathroom, where someone is applying makeup, we make sure they have amazing lighting,” Graniczny says. So, that means using cool or bright lighting in this space. First, this type of lighting will help wake you in the morning. Second, this type of light mimics outdoor light, so you’ll have a more accurate view on what you’ll look like in sunlight.
However, Cook suggests a layered lighting approach in this space too. For those times when a soak in the bath will help you unwind, warm lighting would be ideal, so use layered lighting in this space too.
Want your home theater experience to mirror that of a regular theater? Aside from the screen (if you really want to take it to the next level, you’ll choose a screen with a light rejection surface), seating and room color (keep it simple and make sure the paint is matte or flat) you should ace the lighting, too.
You’ll want warm lighting in this space. Maybe you want it pitch black, except for the screen lighting, when viewing movies, but like theaters, warm accent lighting will lead the way should you need to get up for a popcorn refill or a restroom break. Accent lighting or wall sconces with warm lighting will provide just the right glow to prevent glare on the screen.
Study & Outdoor Spaces
You’ll want to accomplish a lot in a study or office, so cool light will serve you best. Again, cool light is stimulating, so it will help keep you on track as you finish up important work, pay bills or even read a book. Using lamps with warm lighting will help you relax when you just need a quite space before bedtime.
Your outdoor space should be lit by a bright light. A bright white light mimics daytime lighting, perfect for dark nights or for security purposes.
No matter the lighting you use around your home, both Cook and Graniczny suggest using LED bulbs, as they are energy efficient and save money in the long run. LED bulbs also come in a variety of forms, ensuring use in different lighting fixtures around your home.
Patricia L. Garcia is an award-winning freelance journalist who has written for NewHomeSource, the Associated Press, New Mexico magazine and the Texas Bar Journal. When not writing, she can be found in the garden, battling weeds and high-desert heat.