Light Layering in a Den – Ask Randall

Our favorite Lighting Designer, Randall Whitehead, tackles your questions!
Q. :

You’ve mentioned that recessed lights aren’t the most flattering, so is there a balance to shoot for between recessed and ambient? In one of your blogs someone asked you about lighting for a long rectangular family room with a 9-foot ceiling and you suggested quite a bit of recessed light, including some soffits with recessed lighting. I don’t think you mentioned other lighting, so I’m a little confused.
A. :

Yes, using just recessed downlights in a room produces harsh shadows on people’s faces and makes the ceiling feel lower. I would recommend dividing the ceiling into thirds and installing a pair of pendant fixtures, which will provide both ambient light and decorative lighting. I would then use recessed adjustable fixtures to direct light toward art and tabletops for accent lighting. I think the room in the blog you are referring to had a pitched ceiling, so the soffit around the perimeter of the room provided a space for both indirect lighting on top and recessed lighting along the bottom to highlight art on the walls.

Randall Whitehead, IALD, is a professional lighting designer and author. His books include “Residential Lighting, A Practical Guide.” Whitehead has worked on projects worldwide, appeared on the Discovery Channel, HGTV and CNN, and he is regular guest on Martha Stewart Living Radio. Visit his website www.randallwhitehead.com for more information on books, upcoming seminars and the latest lighting trends.

 

Safety First

What IS the safest wattage of a bulb to use in my chandelier?

After our last blog, I received this question from several readers. Usually, the answer for this is easy enough as it should be on a sticker right on the socket.

IMG_0825For a candelabra socket (the skinny one) we recommend staying at 40 watts or below, even though the socket itself may be rated to 60 watt. But, make sure to pay attention, because some imports recommend 15 watt or 25 watt bulbs, particularly if it is a very small acrylic chandelier or a light fixture (lamp or chandelier) that has a small shade. Even a 25 watt bulb can burn a fabric shade if it is close to the bulb.

If you don’t have a rating on your candelabra socket (or socket cover), stick with 25 watt or 15 watt bulbs.

IMG_0822Edison base sockets, also called Medium base sockets or Type A bulbs, will also have a maximum wattage. These may range from 15 watt up to 150 watt. Again, if the lamp uses a small fabric shade or is in close proximity to plastic, the wattage should be low: 15 or 25 watt.

Some 3 way sockets are listed as safe to 150 watt, but some are only safe to 100 watt. The maximum may be determined by the size of the shade or the type of socket. We always recommending erring on the side of safety and not exceeding 100 watts in a 3 way socket.

If you are using energy efficient light bulbs, continue to pay attention to the actual wattage of that bulb.  And, the physical size should be considered when the bulb is close to fabric or plastic. Even if a bulb is low wattage, it can still over heat anything that is touching it.

Happy lamping.

-Nancy

Is That a Breeze or a Fan?

Summer is here… well, not officially, but in Eden, North Carolina the temp will reach the mid-80’s today and we call that Summer.  Time to dust off those ceiling fans.

I love my ceiling fans.  Yes, ceiling fans can be ugly and even uglier with a light on them, but I have them in five rooms of my home.  They circulate stale air during parties.  They dispense smoky air in the kitchen.  They create cool air when it is warm.  Wait… that last part isn’t really true.  So how do ceiling fans help cool a room?

Well, they don’t.

What they actually do is move air over us which makes us feel cooler by increasing the evaporation of moisture on our skin.  This breeze can make it feel like it is 5 or 6 degrees cooler than what the room temperature really is.  A neat trick.

And, generally, a ceiling fan is much cheaper to operate than an A/C.   The most cost effective way to put this information to use is to keep your ceiling fan on in the room that you are occupying.  Turn the ceiling fan off (the same way you would the light) when you are finished in the room.

Don’t forget to dust your ceiling fan regularly as the blades collect dust in any home.

-Nancy