Ask the Expert: Michael Murphy on choosing light fixtures
We asked Michael Murphy, Interior Design and Trends Producer at Lamps Plus, for his expert advice on choosing the right light fixtures for your home.
I live in an older house that wasn’t wired for lighting from the ceiling, only from outlets (3) on the walls. Is it possible to adequately light my 10’ x 15’ living room with just floor and table lamps? —Shayla Garchik, Spokane, WAShayla, you are not alone. There are many older, as well as newer homes, that have this dilemma.
Ideally every room should have three basic types of lighting: 1. ambient, or overall illumination, 2. task, and 3. accent.
For rooms that have not been wired for ceiling lighting, let the floor lamps provide the overall illumination. I recommend having two and place them on either side of the room to help create overall illumination. For task lighting, use table lamps for reading or watching television. If your living room also has a home office, or desk space, consider a desk lamp for working on the computer or other desk activities. Illuminating artwork with picture lamps is a way to include accent lighting. Also, one of my favorite tips in the living room is to use a basic uplight at the base of a tree. Place it on the timer so it turns on at dusk. The shadows on the ceiling will add to the atmosphere of the space.
I’m really into the Edison bulb trend but one of my friends said the light they produce is way too harsh to actually use. Is that true? And if so, how can I get that look with usable light? —Susan L., Truckee, CAI love this look too. I have been calling it the “Celebrating the Bulb” trend, as it brings lighting to an otherwise overlooked element. Or should I say filament? (Yes, I like lighting puns).
I am not sure exactly what your friend is referring to as “too harsh.” If they mean too bright, that is something easily fixed by selecting a lesser lumen (light output) or wattage. For example a 40-watt bulb is around 150 lumens. Another solution is to place a dimmer on the light fixture. A dimmer will allow you to adjust the light to your individual needs. Reading, dial it up for more illumination. Watching a movie, dial it down for less.
Something else to consider is energy efficiency. The average 200 lumen, or 60-watt Edison (incandescent) style bulb lasts about 3,000 hours. Consider an LED version (yes, there are versions that look similar to the Edison bulbs) that is dimmable. Consider a 440 lumen, which is 4 watts and lasts about 20,000 hours. The less energy used, the more light is provided–and it has a longer life span. Sounds good to me.
Thanks for your question, Susan, and for allowing me to use some lighting puns.
I inherited a traditional-style dining set from my parents (lots of scrolls, floral upholstery on the seats). I’m trying to put some modern things in the room to update it a little. What are some really clean, slightly more trendy large chandeliers I can hang in my dining room that won’t look weird mixed with traditional? —Stacey C., Billings, MTThis is great, Stacy! I really like that you are incorporating something so special into your home, and mixing and matching styles is the perfect way to include your personal preferences into any space. There are countless clean contemporary chandelier options. So, instead of providing you with product selections, I would prefer to share some overall guidance.
You are already on the right track, considering a style opposite the dining set versus trying to match. Because most of the time we will never find something that exactly matches and that shows in the final outcome. So, going opposite in style is a good direction.
Make sure to consider scale and color/finish. A good rule of thumb is the chandelier should be one-third the size of the table. A six-foot table should have a two-foot chandelier at the minimum.
Now about the finish or color. This is a personal choice. But please don’t try to match the table finish to the chandelier. It will appear as if you tried and it is very challenging to make this work. Since you are considering a clean style, consider classic finishes like brushed steel or antique brass. These classic finishes will give a nod to tradition while the sleek contemporary shape will make it fresh and on-trend.
Happy chandelier shopping!