A few, low-cost changes can make a big difference to rooms
There’s good news for homeowners wanting to freshen up their décor without splurging. A few budget-friendly changes in any room’s lighting will make a noticeable difference. Sometimes, the correct lighting choice is the most significant single factor in a room’s decorative appeal.
“You can even achieve the look of custom lighting on a limited budget,” says certified lighting designer Joe Rey-Barreau, an education consultant for the American lighting Association, based in Dallas, Texas, and an associate professor at the University of Kentucky’s School of Interior Design. “I find the best way is to use sconces whenever possible. The majority are very reasonably priced. The ideal type of sconces for achieving the best effects are either very small—which brings attention to them—or versions that direct the light upward.”
Libbe Milicia, director/decorative product development for Progress Lighting, based in Greenville, S.C., agrees that extra wall illumination can make a significant impact. “Wall sconces can function as tableside reading lamps in place of a traditional table or floor lamps to suit less-cluttered interiors.” She also suggests adjustable swing-arm lamps, which are available in direct-wire and plug-in models for maximum flexibility. “Not only do they serve as decorative elements, but they also add an extra layer of light,” she says.
If dual functionality is the goal, consider the new energy-efficient ceiling fans. There are some amazingly interesting light kits for ceiling fans, Rey-Barreau says. Those that have indirect light shining above the motor offer a lot of visual appeal and can make a room look larger.
If you’re looking to add some visual oomph, try colorful pendants. These highly affordable fixtures inject aesthetic and functional punch in dining rooms and entertainment areas.
Another cost-conscious option: interior hanging lanterns. “You can hang the lanterns individually over a breakfast nook for extra light, or place them in multiples of two or more over the kitchen island,” Milicia says. “If you want to have less energy consumption and a lower budget, consider a linear chandelier, which will cover more surface area than pendants while achieving maximum performance.”
Installing LED “under cabinet” lighting is another way to increase functional illumination at the countertop work area. “One of the most interesting styles is very tiny ‘tape’ LEDs where single LEDs are actually embedded on a roll of tape that can be attached to the underside of the cabinet,” Rey-Barreau says. “The tape has an adhesive on one side, so it’s as simple as putting Scotch® tape on a surface.”
Here, Rey-Barreau recommends adding multiple layers of light, with the primary layer being at the vanity, “best achieved with lighting above and on the sides of the mirror.” He also says vanity lighting should be approximately 120 watts of incandescent at the top of the mirror and 60 watts on each side. If you’re using compact fluorescent bulbs, that would be approximately 30 watts at the top and 15 watts on the sides. He also recommends overhead lighting.
Milicia suggests placing wall sconces on either side of the mirror to reduce shadows on the face and to supplement the ambient lighting.
Rey-Barreau recommends wall-mounted picture lights for a romantic effect and to highlight your art. “These can be either permanently installed or they can be plugged into an outlet (with the wire concealed by a decorative cover),” he explains. Similarly, wall sconces on either side of the bed add a fresh visual element while performing double-duty as task lighting, according to Milicia.