Seeing The Light

Do you ever wonder why some people’s homes seem cozy and inviting no matter what? Sometimes you can walk into a home, and even though the decor is nothing special and the furniture is standard bargain basement fare, the rooms give off an aura of warmth and cordiality that makes you want to stay and relax.

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Then you go home, back to your stark, cold-feeling apartment, and wonder how you can infuse some of that welcoming glow into your own living quarters.

As it turns out, it’s not difficult or expensive to manipulate the feel of your home — the key to controlling the vibe of your surroundings is mostly down to the lighting you choose. There are two main aspects you need to consider when lighting a room: the light source itself, and the objects it will reflect off of and interact with, namely walls, window dressings, and lamp shades.

Choosing the right kind of bulbs is the single most important decision when designing the lighting of a room. A 100-watt bulb might be a great choice for a game room or family dining area, but it might not be so wonderful in your bedroom, where you want a softer, less intense light.

Likewise, a fluorescent tube might be okay for your garage or utility room, but you probably don’t want that kind of severe illumination in the foyer of your home or the areas where you’d like people to lounge and relax. There are hundreds of different bulbs out there, and most of them are very inexpensive, which makes it easy to experiment.

Before you go bulb shopping, make sure you look at your light fixtures or lamps and understand what sort of bulb fittings they have, taking care to learn exactly what the maximum recommended wattage is. When selecting bulbs, read the boxes and think about what sort of atmosphere you want to create.

Is this for a reading or study area that needs a bright, cheerful feel? If so, then you’re likely to want a bulb that throws off a cool, bluish light (for example, a bulb that is advertised to simulate natural sunlight, which is slightly blue).

If you want something more dramatic or romantic, then you’re probably better off with something lower wattage and warmer in hue (incandescent bulbs, or bulbs that claim to have warm tones).

There are even bulbs where the glass is tinted or painted a certain color, and these can all have different effects on the room, either on their own or in conjunction with other bulbs.

Don’t be afraid to buy quite a few different types of bulbs and play around with combinations — after all, they won’t go to waste, because even if you buy more bulbs than you have fixtures, they will burn out eventually, and you’ll have replacements ready to go.

Reflection is an important part of lighting. The color of your walls and window dressings can have a significant impact on the mood of a room, both during the day and in the evening. Dark and warm colors (deep reds or browns, for example) draw a space in and make things seem more cozy and enveloping; light and cool colors (like pale blue) can open up a room and make it seem more spacious and airy.

Also, if you are choosing a lamp with a shade, take into account the color and size of the shade. A larger shade or one in a neutral color will allow more diffusion of light, giving a general glow to the room, whereas a small or strongly colored shade will cause a more localized, dramatic luster. If you are looking for a quick, cheap, and flexible way to make your home comforting, candles are the way to go.

The warmth and glow of candles can instantly transform a dull, drab space into a relaxing, inviting one. Also, candles offer the option of scent, which can add to the overall feel of a room. Spicy candles are fantastic to give winter warmth, while floral or citrus scents can give an extra spark of energy in the summer.

So as the holidays approach, spend some time thinking about the get-togethers you’d like to host, and how you’d like your guests to feel as they walk through your living space. Whether you want them to experience your home as something cool and airy, or dark and mysterious, the right lighting choices can help you achieve any and all of those goals without breaking the bank.

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