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Common Lighting Problems

Photo Common Lighting Problems Kitchen Light Michael Graydon

How to use lamps, halogens, wall sconces and more.

The Kitchen

Problem

There's loads of light in my kitchen — just not where I need it!

Quick Fix

If your kitchen has dark patches, the experts at Halifax lighting boutique Norman Flynn Design suggest replacing fluorescent under-cabinet lights with tracks of low-voltage frosted xenon bulbs to create continuous light along the counter. Xenon bulbs have a colour temperature between incandescent and halogen but burn cooler: they'll light up the veggies you're chopping but won't melt your butter.

Best Fix

Recessed halogen lights spaced about 9" from the edge of the upper cabinets and around 48" apart will add some good directional lighting on the countertops and cabinets. If there's no light over the island, you can replace a pot rack with a show-stopping chandelier or pendants..

The Living Room

Problem

I have lots of recessed lights but my space feels cold and lifeless.

White Lola floor lamp

Quick Fix

Angle recessed fixtures toward the walls to bounce light around and keep it from casting harsh shadows or being absorbed by the floor. If the light still feels stark, try lower-watt bulbs. Toronto interior designer Lisa Worth suggests layering light to create warmth, using a mix of fixtures with both halogen and incandescent bulbs. Use floor lamps to light dark corners. Read up on Lampshade Buying Tips to learn about proportion sizes for table and floor lamps.

Best Fix

Make sure that recessed lights are installed 12" to 24" from the wall and spaced about 48" from each other, says Dino Chantziaras of LSD Lighting Solutions and Design in Toronto, who adds that he never places recessed lights over the centre of a living room. Also, to prevent glare, Worth suggests you avoid installing halogen lights directly over a sofa or coffee table.

The Bathroom

Problem

I've got a beautiful sconce above the mirror but a not-so-flattering reflection.

Michael Graydon sconces

Quick Fix

An easy solution for those under-eye hollows! The big problem here is that the light is being cast directly down onto your reflection. Chantziaras suggests replacing the sconce with a fixture that sends light up as well as down. This will bounce light off the ceiling while casting a second beam down into the mirror to properly illuminate your reflection.

Best Fix

During a bathroom reno, work out a lighting plan that incorporates multiple light sources. Sconces flanking a mirror will improve your reflection but also lessen the overall light in a room — since they don't bounce light into the mirror — so you'll need to add a ceiling fixture too.

The Dining Room

Problem

My dining room fixture seems too small.

Capiz shells with stainless steel frame

Quick Fix

A small fixture hung too close to the ceiling only draws attention to its scale. Hang it 30" to 34" above the tabletop, to give it more wow factor and tie it visually to the table. Having the light closer to food lets you use bulbs with lower wattage and creates ambience. And a fixture that casts light up and down makes guests — and the host — look better.

Best Fix

To calculate fixture size, multiply the room's width in feet by two; the resulting number is the ideal diameter, in inches, for your fixture (e.g., a 10'-wide room needs a 20"-wide fixture). Or select a light with a diameter about 1/3 the length of the table. Think "go big or go home" — a stunning chandelier that's slightly oversized is better than a puny light. For a modern dining room, check out this dramatic pendant lamp from 18Karat.

The Bedroom

Problem

Our bedroom lighting doesn't put me in the mood for anything!

Ikea lamps with Mairo shades

Quick Fix

Chantziaras suggests avoiding bright halogens directly over the bed as they don't create that romantic glow; they also make you see spots if you glance at them while reading or lying down. An electrician can easily cover off an unwanted halogen socket or add a dimmer. Place reading lamps next to the bed and use them without the ceiling light for a cosy feel.

Best Fix

Install recessed halogens on a dimmer switch only around the edges of the room, not over the bed. Wall-mounted pivoting swing-arm lights on either side of the bed offer flexibility, letting you put light exactly where you need it for reading. They should cast focused diffused light from shoulder-height when you're sitting in bed, says Ben Helcl of Artemide in Toronto. For some more bedroom design inspiration, view our bedroom gallery.

Photo credits:
1. Michael Graydon.
2. White Lola floor lamp.
Photography by Felix Wedgwood.
3.
Michael Graydon.
4. Capiz shells with stainless steel frame. 32" h. x 22" diam. At
Stacaro. Photography by Felix Wedgwood.
5.
Ikea lamps with Mairo shades. Photography by Mark Olson.

Author: 

Samantha Sacks

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