I must have heard that line in every article about lighting since the first person thought to write about lighting. But I never bought into it. Part of the problem is that pros are always talking about how diiiiifficult it is to light a room, but they never give you advice more than to use task lighting the kitchen, and vary the heights of fixtures. Well thanks, professionals. The four-year-old flower girl from my wedding could have given me that much info, and she would have been cuter about it.
So when I started focusing on how to get the right light for my kitchen, and living space in general, I didn't really know where to start. To keep you from spending the amount of time that I did on The Googles, here's a rundown of what I've learned. And I won't even say "diiiiifficult." (At least not any more. I'm done. I swear.)
First thing first. Look at your fixture, figure out the size of the bulb. Done? Good. Now it's time to actually start thinking. Do you want the room to be brighter? Darker? Should the light be dimmable? Will the bulb be visible from outside the shade? What color do you want the lighting to be?
For me, the most important question is the last one, so we'll start there. A woeful amount of bulbs will give you a yellow color. Some folks call it amber, or warm. I call it yucky. To combat that, I had to look at Kelvins, which measures the temperature of the light. Kelvins, temperature--makes sense, right? The easiest way to break this down is that the lower the number, the warmer the glow. (That's about 2,700-3,000 Kelvins.) The higher the number, the cooler it is. And the ideal break-even point is right in the middle at 3,500-4,100 Kelvins. I obviously trend to numbers on the high scale. For instance, I just bought eight bulbs with 6,500 Kelvins. That's how I roll. You might not be so bold, and that's OK, you rock star. We have room for all kinds here at GKH.
My next focus was on brightness. Try to remember brighter isn't always better. Shadows can be sexy, after all. When you think about the intensity of the light, you want to look at the Lumens. Lumens can vary from 700 for incandescent (those are the traditional bulbs) to 400 for Edison bulbs.
You'll also want to consider dimming. If you want to set the mood with these bulbs of yours, make sure they aren't CFLs. Even the newest dimmable CFLs only give you a small range from brightest to dimmest, and they can't be turned down within the first minute or so of being on. This is one of those times when it's worth it to at least consider a more energy-demanding bulb, unfortunately.
Another major variable is wattage. This won't affect lighting itself, just how much electricity you use. It's worth monitoring while you shop around. There's a big difference in how much energy the bulbs devour when you look from CFLs and LEDs to incandescent to flood lights. Make sure you aren't surprised by your electricity bill later.
I know that's a lot of information, but it's super easy to keep track of if you use a site that has comparison shopping like 1000Bulbs.com or Bulbs.com.
A couple of no-brainers that can be easy to forget:
- Not all bulbs can go outside.
- Your particular fixture is the most important consideration. Think about the size of the bulb's base and how long the bulb can be before it's visible. No mood killer quite like a Peeping Tom. (That's what I'm now calling bulbs that stick out past their shades.)
- Variety, variety, variety. Bright is good in a place where you need to do detailed work, like a kitchen counter, but over a dining room table maybe not so much.
- Different heights cast different shadows. This is very, very good.
It's true, I'm not as cute as anyone's flower girl, but hopefully I was more helpful than the generic lighting article. If you have any of your own advice, share it with everyone in the comments section.