Planning home illumination
Venturing along the complex path leading to creative, yet functional home illumination requires a sound method. A good rule is to obtain a plan of the space, at least on a 1/50 scale. However, such plan should not just indicate the size and arrangement of the floors, but should also include such information as the location of electricity outlets, the types of walls - whether structural or partitions, the position of pillars, chimneys, openings, and pipes, the position and size of furniture and accessories, as well as a description of the types of surfaces, their colour and brilliance, and information on any other items, such as plants, curtains, or carpets. The plan should specify the height of the rooms and the furniture, unless sections and perspectives of the most important areas are available.
Location of lamps
Once the architectural scheme of the home is complete:
- indicate, with a coloured pencil, the horizontal (e.g. floors) or vertical (e.g. bookcases, paintings, furniture) areas that need to be illuminated or emphasized;
- define the directions from which the light should best come.
These first steps serve to make a general estimate of the required number and type of lighting appliances. It will soon be clear that the best illumination is achieved with appliances designed specifically for each visual function.
For example, the living room needs general lighting, an appliance for the dining table, and one for reading. Other lighting options can be introduced to obtain different ambiances for specific purposes: music listening, talking with friends, dining, watching TV or videos, and so on. The conditions one may create in a domestic environment are almost unlimited, not just to illuminate something or someone, but also to create effects.
As on a theatre stage, light can also be used to decorate entire walls, from the floor to the ceiling. Light rays can be arranged and aimed, for instance, at an otherwise bare wall, decorating it with triangular, circular, or elliptical spots of light. Special appliances equipped with different types of filters and templates allow to create strange, coloured patterns.
Lamps with LEDs and electronic control units are now available to create special light effects by means of automated colour-changing systems and dynamic light movements in tuning with music.
Specific light planning
A plan, with sections, is now available, with a number of circles or ellipses marked in pencil. The next step is to understand how these effects can actually be achieved, and choose the most appropriate appliances. By comparing plans and sections we can calculate the width of the light cones that should be created. For example, if the diameter of the dining table is 2 metres and the appliance is fitted above it, at a height of about 1.8 metres, its emission should measure about 2x30°.
If projectors are used, the illuminated area gradually expands as the distance between the lit object and the appliance increases.
Different appliances can be used to create a circle of light with a 2-metre diameter covering the area, and the use of multiple appliances allows to illuminate square or irregular surfaces.
The entire room and its surfaces can even be used as parts of a giant lighting appliance, creating indirect illumination, i.e. making light rays reflect off walls and ceilings, thus giving the entire room a more luminous atmosphere. In fact, if only direct light is used, a "cave effect" can be created, i.e. light is where it is needed but the rest of the room, and the ceiling in particular, is dark. The effect is almost the same as in a cave lit by sun rays, with very bright areas and other profoundly dark ones, with sharp contrasts between light and shade (dramatic optical effects).
This can be prevented by using highly diffusing appliances that, by making light reflect against all the surfaces, make the room and the elements in it very luminous.