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Light fixtures serve two real purposes in your home: they are functional and often an expression of your individual style and preference. Choosing the right fixture is a combination of what is necessary and what is beautiful.

Chandeliers and pendants

Chandeliers and pendant lights are considered decorative lighting rather than functional. They are statement pieces used to portray an individual’s style and create aesthetic appeal. This type of lighting should not be relied on to light entire rooms, rather just specific areas. Chandeliers and contemporary pendant lights are popular in entryways, stairways and above dining room tables. When used in a dining room, a chandelier should be 6-12 inches smaller than the narrowest part of your table as well as at least 30 inches above your table. A chandelier housing a well-positioned downlight will work to add additional light to the table. When using chandeliers for lighting, size matters. The chandelier should not be too large or too small for the space.

Chandeliers and pendant lights are also a common choice for stairways and entryways. For safety on the stairs, a stairway should always be lit from overhead in addition to close to the stair itself. Keep in mind, if you can see these lights from above, such as a second floor, make sure they look attractive from above as well as below.

Mini-pendants are often effective in adding additional light in spaces such as over a breakfast bar, a work surface in the kitchen or in bookcase niche. To create the effect of a larger light, mini-pendants can be used in a line or clustered together in a group.

Recessed and track lights

Track lighting often brings to mind those big old bulky track heads. These days there are many different and trendy track heads. Pendant lights can even be hung from specialty track light systems. The track itself has also evolved. The traditional track is mounted flush to the ceiling, however the monorail or single steel rail is more modern and decorative, extending down away from the ceiling. Track lighting is a great choice for high ceilings or those ceilings composed of wood or post beams. Track lighting is adjustable so they allow for greater flexibility in directing the light.

Recessed lighting creates a nice clean look on your ceiling. Lower ceilings are perfect for recessed lighting as nothing extends down from your ceiling. Although you cannot direct light as well as with track lighting, there are adjustable trims for recessed lights that allow you to pivot or rotate the trim and therefore the light. When using a recessed light over the shower, angling the light will work to highlight tile work or shower fixtures. In the bathroom, recessed lights placed directly over the mirror should be avoided as it creates shadowy areas on the face. Recessed lighting is considered to be the standard for kitchen lighting. Other fixtures such as pendants stand out when accompanied by recessed versus track lighting.

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Wall sconces

Wall sconces are a very versatile light fixture, enhancing ambient, task or accent light in a room. Wall sconces are effective when placed beside a bathroom mirror to produce adequate light for grooming without creating shadows. Miniature wall sconces can be used to save space in smaller rooms, taking the place of floor or table lamps. When used beside the bed as light for reading, they should be placed 30-36 inches above the bed. When used to light hallways, sconces should be placed 6 feet apart on the wall. Sconces should hang right around 60 inches off the floor. This distance places them above eye level so the light bulb is not visible. Be careful to avoid placing wall sconces in areas that they may be bumped into, or if this is unavoidable choose those that do not have sharp edges and don’t extend far from the wall.

Cove lighting

Cove lighting is an indirect source of lighting that is built into walls and ceilings. Cove lighting can be accomplished through a variety of means. Using rope lighting is inexpensive and easy to install, however is not bright so should be used to accent versus as the primary lighting in a room. LED, linear, or florescent cove lighting are more expensive and difficult to install than rope lighting, but they can provide a greater source of light.

Close-to-ceiling fixtures

Flush and semi-flush fixtures are the most common fixture in homes. In rooms where the ceilings are 8’ or less, these fixtures are a natural choice. Close to ceiling fixtures are often the perfect choice for hallways, closets, bedrooms and bathrooms. In hallways, close to ceiling fixtures should be placed 8 to 10 feet apart. These fixtures often match other fixtures in the home, namely the entryway lighting.

Often the same room houses several different types of fixtures. For example, track or recessed lighting can be angled towards a dining room chandelier to add additional light as well as to highlight the beauty of the fixture. Light fixture styles and functions are plentiful in today’s marketplace, take your time in choosing the one that best meets your needs and taste.

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