With spring on the horizon, you might be anticipating the kaleidoscopic colors of flowering bulbs. While crocuses may already be popping up in your neighborhood, we’re actually going to stay inside and talk about LIGHT bulbs—and ways to enhance the lighting in your home.
LUMENS AND KELVINS AND WATTS… OH MY!
With the potential to affect the mood of both a room and its occupants, lighting is one of the most important elements to consider when decorating your home. Whether you’ve hired a designer or are doing it yourself, it’s good to be familiar with some key lighting terms.
Incandescent VS LED: Many have made the switch from traditional incandescent bulbs to Light-Emitting Diode bulbs for their higher energy-efficiency and longer life. But cheaper incandescent bulbs can still be a good choice for low-use areas such as a pantry or storage closet.
Watts VS Lumens: Those who are accustomed to shopping for incandescent bulbs may think of wattage as an indication of brightness: The higher the watts, the brighter the bulb. Although that’s partially true, watts actually measure the amount of power used. Brightness is measured by lumens. So an 800-lumen LED bulb that uses only 9 watts is as bright as an old 60-watt incandescent bulb that typically produces 800 lumens.
What Are Kelvins? While cool white and soft white may be more familiar terms, the color temperature of a bulb is more accurately expressed in degrees Kelvin (K), usually on a scale from 2000K to 6,500K for residential lighting. Lower temperatures below 3000K indicate a warmer light: think of a candle’s orange or yellow glow. Bulbs closer to the midrange of the spectrum provide a brighter white light and get even cooler and more bluish as you go above 4500K.
Color Rendering Index: If you’ve invested time and money in carefully choosing a room’s palette, from wall colors to furnishings and artwork, then you’ll also want to pay attention to a light bulb’s CRI. On a scale from 0 to 100, the Color Rendering Index is a measure of how well the light conveys an object’s natural color. Sunlight has a perfect CRI of 100. Lightbulbs with a CRI of 90+ are considered “Excellent” for accurate color rendering while anything below 80 is considered midrange to low. When color is particularly important, like in a crafting room or when illuminating artwork, then you’ll definitely want to look for lighting sources with a CRI of at least 90.
LIGHTING DESIGN 101
When designing a space, many professionals talk about the three layers of lighting: ambient, task, and accent lights.
Ambient Lighting provides overall illumination and is intended to spread light throughout a space. In many homes, walking into a room and flipping the switch turns on the chandelier, recessed lighting or sconces that provide ambient light for the entire space.
Task Lighting is there for a specific function. Think about a pendant over the kitchen island, the vanity light above your bathroom mirror or a reading lamp for your favorite chair. Task lighting should remove distracting shadows and provide more illumination over your workspace than ambient lighting would alone.
Accent Lighting brings attention to specific elements of interest—perhaps a painting, plant, or a special architectural feature such as a mantel or built-in bookcase. It can also create drama or add a greater sense of depth to the room.
Though functional, ambient lighting alone can be monotonous, so incorporating all three layers is important for creating a harmonious, comfortable and appealing space. Quoted in the New York Times, lighting designer Nathan Orsman observes: “Without the darker, quieter moments, everything is flat and boring. It’s the subtle interplay between light and dark that creates appeal.”
LOCAL LIGHTING SOURCES
From city to suburbs, there are a variety of locally owned galleries and showrooms to meet your every lighting need. Here are a few we think are worth checking out.
A LAMP AND FIXTURE | 3181 N Elston Ave, Chicago: For 50 years, this well-stocked emporium has offered lighting solutions for every room in your home. Plus, they carry a wide variety of shades and offer repair and custom lighting services.
LIGHTOLOGY | 215 W Chicago Ave, Chicago: In the design-centric River North district, this 20,000 square foot showroom is a premier destination for modern indoor and outdoor lighting. Certified lighting consultants are available to assist with your project.
IDLEWOOD ELECTRIC SUPPLY | 114 Skokie Valley Rd, Highland Park: With two other locations in Barrington and Portage Park, this 3rd-generation family business has been assisting homeowners and contractors since 1958.
THE GOLDEN TRIANGLE | 2035 W Grand Ave, Chicago: From mid-century European lighting fixtures to eye-catching table lamps created from Asian artifacts, this luxury furniture and home décor gallery is a terrific source for one-of-a-kind lighting.
LITTMAN BROTHERS | 845 S Roselle Rd, Schaumburg: This family-owned lighting and furniture company has an in-house team of designers and a large showroom with everything you need to complete your design project.