Let There Be Light

When I am decorating a client's home, I try to use a combination of antiques and new pieces.  Combining the two helps balance the budget while creating a diversity of lighting.  Reproduction lighting in bathrooms, kitchens, hallways or less important rooms is best due to quantity, durability, wattage and cost.  I try to incorporate antique lighting in dining rooms, master bedrooms and more formal rooms for added uniqueness.  Mixing both old and new creates a nice balance throughout. Each room varies so these rules are not written in stone.

What matters most is the function of the light- which breaks down to the number of bulbs and wattage.  Far too often you have a bathroom with no natural light and a single 60 watt bulb isn't going to do the trick. However, the opposite is true in a restaurant or bar, where the intention is to emit 25 watts for that smokey look. In all cases, it is important to be mindful of the space, function and how the light you are interested in will perform.

Scale is also a huge factor. Too small looks dinky, and too large can overpower a room, so the right dimension is key.  If you need, make a foam board template and hold it up, or if it's an antique, try it on in the home before purchasing.  If you purchase a fixture that does not give off a lot of light or has a metal shade, be mindful- maybe you need to add some recessed lights in the area or balance it with lighter colored walls.

My former boss, Ellie Cullman, used to always say you want to have layered lighting in each room- meaning lighting from different sources at varying heights- table lamps, wall sconces and ceiling lights.  Layering your lighting creates an equal distribution and balance of light throughout the room.  It is key to be mindful of this when you are designing your home.

Helpful pointers

  • Sconces generally are at 66" above finished floor (aff), unless you have 10' ceilings or greater, then you may want to raise the electrical box higher. And 66" aff also depends on where the backplate or wires are located on the sconces, so you may need to go up or down depending.
  • Sconces above mantles are set higher than 66' aff, centered on the legs of the mantle.
  • Chandeliers and ceiling lights centered on the ceiling plain, unless over a table.                                      
  • Hanging lights to hang no less than 6'10" aff, be mindful of door swings.  
  • Dining room chandeliers to hang 66" aff to the bottom or higher
  • Rewire table lamps for a 3-way switch and harp which will give you more flexibility with shade selection.                                           

Here are a number of my favorite lights, both new and old to decorate your ceilings, walls, tables and floors.