Lighting Fixture Types – Basic 101 For Beginners

We will begin our discussion of lighting fixtures with trends and ideas related to the primary types of indoor lighting used today in most contemporary settings. Please keep in mind that these are just the authors’ opinions and there are a wide variety of other considerations when selecting lighting fixtures for your home or for your office.

Ceiling Fixtures

Remember that when we speak of Wattage we are talking about a measure of the amount of energy a bulb actually uses. This should not be confused with the brightness that the fixture generates. If increased brightness were a prime consideration it would be best to choose a bulb with higher lumens. If you do this, you will satisfy your need for adequate brightness for the area being considered.

Among the most popular areas for ceiling fixtures is in the bathroom.

Wall Fixtures

Wall fixtures are frequently used as accent pieces and to illuminate areas that aren’t brightened enough by larger fixtures such as chandeliers, etc. A wall fixture in a foyer or hallway or even on a stairway can add just the right amount of illumination to promote safety as well as a nice decorating touch. One of the things to consider is the wide variety and styles available today in these fixtures. The goal is to not draw attention to the wall fixture but rather to make it fit in to the overall decorating scheme. In other words, you want it to look like it belongs there.

If you have a fairly small area that is used primarily as a living room and if this area has lighter walls, to make the space look more spacious, less ambient light will be needed in contrast to a living area that is fairly large or which has darker wall covering or wood. Wall fixtures strategically placed in various sizes and styles offer the discriminating homeowner the perfect way to create tasteful ambient lighting.

If a bathroom area is large enough, tasteful, understated wall fixtures will go a long way to increase the attractiveness of the area.

Hanging Fixtures

It is important to give considerable thought to the style and type of hanging fixtures, such as chandeliers and pendants, to use and particularly where to use them. Hanging fixtures can easily overpower a room, which may leave the impression that you are trying hard to impress your guest. This should be avoided at all costs. One of the most common areas that a chandelier or pendant lighting is used for general lighting is in the dining room or large foyer. A guideline to consider is to make sure that the fixture is 7″ to 13″ smaller than the narrowest side of the table. The bottom of the fixture should be at least 32″ above the table. Be sure that the lamps used in the ceiling fixture fully illuminate the eating area without making it too bright. Eating should be an intimate activity and the illumination
should accent the both the food and the guests.
Hanging fixtures are sometimes very attractive when hung in transitional areas and can often become a conversation piece if tastefully done. The goal in these areas is to create more decorative appeal than illumination. Therefore, understatement is more desirable. A pendant fixture will often serve this purpose particularly if it is simply designed with a great deal of eye appeal.

If your home has a foyer or entryway, it will clearly present a first impression that will carry through the rest of the home. Of all the locations, a carefully selected hanging fixture is of critical importance. Remember, besides providing basic illumination, you want the fixture to be a welcoming beacon for your guests. It is important that the chandelier or pendant fits the size requirements of the foyer or entryway. I’m suggesting that you take pains not to either under or over size the fixture. In some cases, you may have a stairway to the second level that overlooks the area where the chandelier or pendant is hung. Make sure that the fixture has good eye appeal from the second story perspective.

If your hanging fixture is being hung from an 8-foot ceiling, it should be positioned at least 6 ½’ to 7′ above the floor. When hanging your fixture from cathedral ceilings it should be suspended 3 inches higher for every additional foot over the standard 8-foot ceiling height.

An important decorating tip is to consider accent lighting such as wall sconces to complement the hanging fixtures particularly in large areas. Make sure that the styles match and that the wall sconce is mounted above eye level which will typically be 66″ to 70″. It is important that the lamp is not visible when walking through the area.

Floor and Table Lamps

Strategic positioning of floor and table lamps is essential. While you want every part of your home adequately illuminated, less is better than more when it comes to floor and table lamps. The use of these fixtures should generally be reserved to areas used for visiting, reading and general socializing. Most of these fixtures are relatively inexpensive and good taste should prevail when buying these fixtures.

Floor and table lamps should be placed to create a triangle of light that does away with undesirable, shadowy nooks in sitting areas. Remember to keep lampshades just below eye level to avoid glare.

In future articles I’ll talk about recessed lighting, fluorescents, and novelty lighting

One last word: A fixture’s glass significantly affects the overall feel. For example, hammered glass lends a weathered, old-fashioned feel to a fixture while alabaster evokes modern, high-end fashion.