How do you create the right lighting atmosphere in your room?

Lighting creates atmosphere in a room. It is important to take care of it, and especially to adapt it to the room. It is not just a matter of compensating for a lack of natural light with any bulb or luminaire. Adjusting the lighting in your home or business premises can be more difficult than you think.
Here are some tips.

Lighting in History

According to Wikipedia, lighting is “the set of means that allow man to provide his environment with the conditions of luminosity that he considers necessary for his activity or pleasure.” I find this definition very relevant in the context of lighting ambience because that is exactly what we are trying to do. You don’t just want to turn on the light, you want to do it in such a way that your needs are met.

In the early days, we used fire and then torches as soon as the sun went down and natural light was no longer sufficient. Then came the invention of combustion lamps: first oil (oil lamps), then tallow (candles), then beeswax (candles).

Then came gas lighting (1813) and the paraffin lamp (1853). It was not until 1878 that the first incandescent bulb was developed industrially (Thomas Edison). The Frenchman Georges Claude created the first neon tube in 1910. This was followed by the fluorescent tube in 1936 and the halogen lamp 23 years later.

In 1980, Philips marketed the first compact fluorescent lamp, better known as the “low-energy bulb”. Finally, the 2014 Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded to the inventors of the LED (light-emitting diode), which reduces electricity consumption by 90% compared to incandescent bulbs!

Adapting the lighting atmosphere to the room

Each room in the house has been defined for a more or less specific use. The lighting atmosphere that you choose to adopt in a particular room will not be insignificant.

In the bedroom, a subdued and relaxing lighting atmosphere is preferred.

The kitchen and the dining room can afford a little more light.
In the living room, the lighting should also be strong, but as this is a room whose use may vary during the day, it will be appropriate to vary the light sources so that the amount of light can be varied.

The bathroom is one of the rooms in which light should be arranged to avoid shadows. Especially in winter, this is a room that is often used before sunrise or after sunset.

Finally, the lighting atmosphere chosen for the entrance should be warm to welcome visitors and beautiful energies.

Combining general lighting, direct lighting and indirect lighting

Before designers became enthusiastic about lighting, a room could be lit only by a bare bulb hanging from the ceiling! Then light took over objects and light sources, whether table lamps, floor lamps, wall lamps or hanging lamps, sometimes became real works of art.

The main lighting in the room is called general lighting. It is controlled by switches located near the entrance to the room. This is often the case with ceiling lights or wall lights.

In order to create a better lighting atmosphere, it is possible to add additional lighting. This is the one that is added here and there either to create a certain atmosphere or to fill a need. It can be direct or indirect.

Direct lighting allows you to light a specific area with precision: for example, in a bedroom, you can add a lamp on the desk; in the kitchen, spotlights under the wall units can illuminate the work surface… This is functional lighting. It can also be accent lighting, designed simply to highlight an object (painting, work of art).

Indirect lighting illuminates larger areas. It is typically used to create an atmosphere. As it creates less contrast than direct lighting, it helps to balance the atmosphere. The light is softer and more welcoming.

Combining all of these lights to create the desired lighting atmosphere without forgetting the practical and functional side is sometimes referred to as “mixed lighting”: there is nothing more stressful than a badly lit bathroom under the pretext of a cocooning atmosphere…

Photo by Robert Haverly on Unsplash

The right questions to ask: angle, kelvin and lumens

So, as we have seen, there are some good questions to ask yourself before buying any light fixture or bulb. Once you have decided on a mood, that it meets your needs, it is quite easy to choose the light fixture: wall lights, suspended lights, recessed spots, table lamps, ceiling lights…

What about the bulb?

What do you want to light, and therefore what angle of light do you want?

It is indicated on the bulb boxes: for direct lighting on a beautiful object for example, choose a tight angle (up to 25°); an angle of 30 to 40° will be average, neither too closed nor too open. If you want general illumination, then a wide angle of 80° to 120° is best.

What temperature of light do you want, warm or cool?

The unit of measurement is the Kelvin. This is also indicated on the boxes. Do-it-yourself stores often emphasise the colour temperature and the bulbs are generally well classified: for a warm white, and therefore a warm, relaxing atmosphere, choose between 2700 and 3000K; from 4000 to 5000K, the lighting will be more stimulating; cool white, which is fairly close to daylight, is between 5000 and 6000K. It is used more in professional premises or for shop windows.

What is the required power of the bulb according to the volume of the room?

Before, we used to talk about watts. With LED bulbs, we talk about Lumens. Lumens (Lm) measure the total amount of visible light from the bulb. The higher the number, the brighter the lamp. A 6.5W LED bulb produces the same amount of light as a 50W halogen bulb. This is why we can no longer think in terms of watts. A Lux number (lx) indicates the luminous flux received per unit area. It measures the illuminance. A professional uses a luxmeter to make his calculation: lux = lm/m2.

For general lighting, we say that you need about 100 lux for the entrance, the corridor, the living room, a couple’s bedroom; 200 lux for a staircase, and 300 lux or more for the kitchen, the bathroom and the children’s bedroom.

Example: Your kitchen has a surface area of 20m2. This room requires about 300 lux. So as 20 x 300 = 6000, you need 6000 Lm for the general lighting of this room. This can be achieved with several light points, for example 6 LED bulbs of 1000 lm.

To conclude

Creating a bright atmosphere is not that easy. It is sometimes tempting to focus on decorative objects without really paying attention to the functional side. But living well in your home also means making sure that everything is “fluid”, obvious and appropriate.

My advice? First of all, think about the general lighting according to the room (living room, bedroom, kitchen…). Then, little by little, add accent lighting according to two elements: use (the reading corner is always in the blue armchair, it needs direct lighting) and decoration (this superb vase found at a flea market deserves to be highlighted).

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