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Decorating School Crash Course: Consumer Seminar On Lighting

Furniture World Magazine


Lesson #9: And There was Light: Consumer seminar script  to teach lighting basics for a beautiful and functional home.

Basic Skills by Margarett DeGange, M.Ed.

Editor’s note: This is the ninth article in our Decorating Crash Course series. The text is written so that you can easily use it to put on a customer seminar on lighting in home decor. It can be presented “as is” but you should add additional elements to give your seminars a personal touch as outlined in the December/January 2007 issue of FURNITURE WORLD Magazine, “Simple but Sensational Seminars: Keys to a Memorable Presentation,” posted to the article archives on www.furninfo.com. Decorating seminars are a fantastic way to get quality leads and referrals. They help customers to solve decorating problems, and they position you as a home furnishings expert.

“In the right light, at the right time, everything is extraordinary.” -Aaron Rose


Who wants just an ordinary home? Most of us want extraordinary homes, and the truth is we can certainly have them. The first step to an exceptional, bright and happy home is to have peace and harmony with ourselves and the people we live with. The next way is to use interior lighting in a strategic, aesthetic, and functional way to support harmony and to create the lives we love and want in our homes.

Lighting is a Key Component of the Decorating Plan:

Lighting is a very important component of the overall decorating plan. It provides illumination for a variety of tasks, and adds warmth or coolness, definition, depth, and an array of moods to a space. Learning basic lighting principles will help you to build a lighting plan to complete your home interior.

When deciding on a room’s lighting, you must take into account all of the elements that will go into the design, and all of the factors that will affect your lighting. Having a plan in place up front will guide you to select the right lighting sources for your home.

Lighting Basics

Lighting in an interior is either functional, decorative, or both. Before you begin shopping for or selecting any lighting products, you can follow a few simple guidelines, which we will share with you today, to ensure that each of your choices will serve a deliberate and specific design or functional purpose within the space.
There are five important factors to consider when planning for and choosing your interior lighting.

Five Things to Consider When Creating a Lighting Plan for Your Spaces:

1. Natural light coming in.
2. Color or temperature of light.
3. Type of interior lighting.
4. Fixtures.
5. Placement.

1. Natural Light:

To begin assessing the illumination needs of your space, first consider the light that comes into the room naturally, with a concentration on areas that light is focused towards. How does natural light affect seating and task areas? Is it strong? Is it too strong, and could it potentially harm furnishings? You may need to adjust the placement of seating, other furnishings, art and accessories to protect them. Sun-sensitive materials, woods, and fabrics such as silk are prone to sun damage, particularly over long periods of time, and this damage will likely be permanent or un-repairable. To protect your interior, you may have to factor in window coverings, sun resistant fabrics, and special placement of furnishings, accessories, and wall art.

Notice how the light appears in your space during different times of the day. Discover how you feel about the colors in your room in different natural lighting situations. If you will be painting in the near future, paint a portion of the wall to view how the sunlight affects the color in the morning, afternoon and evening. You will be amazed at how various colors look when bathed in different levels of sunlight.

TIP: If a room seems visually “closed in”, let the sun shine in. Open or pull back the window treatments to allow light to enter. This will add warmth to the space and make it appear larger.

2. Light Color or Temperature:

Just like walls, floors, furnishings, and accessories within the home, light is an element that also has color. The color— also known as the temperature of light— can be warm, cool, or white.

Warm Lighting: Warm light is usually soft light. It tends to have a yellow, red, or orange glow (or any combination thereof). Think about the warmth of a fire. This is warm light. Warm light tends to embrace and encompass the room, and provides for a friendly or even sensual mood. Warm light works well in rooms painted in a warm color. Most all skin complexions look good in warm lighting, and so it tends to be an optimal choice for living and entertaining areas. Many interiors including French, country, and a variety of casual rooms use warm light well. One way to achieve warm lighting is by using incandescent bulbs.

Cool Lighting: Cool light tends to have a blue, green, or grey radiance (or any combination thereof). Think about a cloudy or overcast sky. Cool light works well to open up a space, adding to the feeling of space around objects. Cool light infuses a feeling of distance into a room, and provides for a chic, sophisticated, or sometimes mysterious mood. Modern and contemporary rooms can work well with cool light. Cool lighting is a good choice for visual tasks because of the high contrast it produces. One way to achieve cool lighting is by using good quality fluorescent bulbs.

White Lighting: White light tends to be crisp and bright. White light is best for showing off the TRUE colors in a room. Many interiors including formal, modern, and contemporary rooms do well with true white light. One way to achieve white lighting is by using halogen bulbs.

TIP: Assess the “visual temperature” of the space-weather it feels cold and dreary or bright and happy, for example. If a room seems visually cold, warm it up with yellow or golden light.

3. Type of Interior Lighting

Your decision on the type of lighting you select should depend on how you plan to use the space. You might use lighting to help with work or tasks, accent art or architecture, establish a certain ambiance or “mood”, or create a special effect.

There are essentially 4 Types of Lighting you will use in your home:

a. Task Lighting.
b. Accenting Lighting.
c. Ambient Lighting.
d. Kinetic Lighting.

a. Task Lighting:

  • Illuminates work or task areas.
  • For areas that require more light than for general ambiance or
  • Provides light for reading, sewing, hobbies, cooking, games, and focused activities.

TIP: Each service table in a living or family area should have a lamp or light source on it for tasks such as reading or sewing. Task lighting will be needed in many different situations and should be readily available in high-use rooms.

b. Accent Lighting:

  • Directs focused light to selected
  • Draws attention to specific objects.
  • Enhances the aesthetics of an interior space.

TIP: Illuminate your artwork and prized accessories directly with focused, lighting. Use up-lights behind plants and other furnishings for an interesting effect that can throw shadows for added dimension during certain times of the day or night.

c. Ambient Lighting:

  • Helps define the space.
  • Provides general room illumination.
  • Helps people feel comfortable in the environment.
  • Provides overall illumination.
  • Allows for safe and easy movement.
  • Makes a visual statement about the mood.
  • Can be warm for a cozy, friendly, or sensual mood.
  • Can be cool for a chic, sophisticated or mysterious mood.
  • Can be soft or bright.

TIP: Overhead lighting offers good general illumination, but it does not necessarily create a desirable mood. Use dimmer switches to help control the amount of overhead light so that the mood can be easily adjusted. Lamps and other fixtures throughout the space can also help to establish the mood you seek for your space.

d. Kinetic Lighting:

  • Moves.
  • It is never still.
  • Used for effect.
  • Adds excitement, fun, mystery, drama.
  • Hypnotic.
  • Strobe lights can be dangerous for some people such as those with epilepsy.

TIP: Kinetic light can work well with certain ambient lighting by providing visual effect. For example, a glowing fire in a cozy, warm space can help entertain guests and add to the romance of a dinner party scene.

4. Fixtures

The lighting fixtures you select can make or break the look of your interior. It is important to choose fixtures that add to the overall beauty and harmony of the space, and that are in keeping with the general style and proportions of your furnishings.

You should also think about the way a lamp or lighting source will function and the non-cosmetic aspects of the fixture as well.
When choosing fixtures, consider specifically:

  • The light output desired: The light output from your various fixtures should be a match for both the mood you desire, and required light needed for specific tasks or functions.
  • Operation and controls of the fixture: Be certain that the fixtures are in good working order and that they are easy for the people who will use them to operate.
  • Energy efficiency: Does a fixture accept energy efficient bulbs? There are many products on the market designed to save energy and money, such as compact fluorescent bulbs. When comparing price, always consider the projected life of a bulb. Also, remember that bulbs can be manufactured to different quality standards. The differences can get quite technical. Bulbs not only have a color temperature, but also a color rendering score. The bottom line is that sometimes the cheapest bulbs will not allow the reds, greens, yellows and other colors in your home furnishings to appear as you would like.
  • Color: Determine the color of light you want in a room based on the mood you are going for, and choose the appropriate bulbs. Look at the color of the light that comes from each fixture that is already in the room. It may seem white, blue, or yellow, for example, and different fixtures in the same room may project different colors of light. As we shared earlier, a lamp can emit cool color such as blue light, warm color such as yellow light, or white light.
  • Light distribution: Notice how far the light reaches and in which direction. Does the light “spray out” or is it focused? Does it get to where you want it to go? You can purchase bulbs called spots that focus light or floods that scatter light to achieve desired effects
  • Light source: This involves the physical attributes and maintenance requirements of the lamp or fixture:
  • Appearance: Is it attractive? It should harmonize well with the other elements in the decorating plan.
  • Style: Lamps and fixtures should support the style of furnishings within the space it occupies, and these fixtures should be in line with the other elements and principles at work in the area.
  • Maintenance requirements: Fixtures should be reasonably easy to clean, polish, and maintain.
  • Installation expense: Consider the portion of the budget that must go toward installation, and reconsider the choice if installation costs are prohibitive.

5. Placement

Placement of your lamps and other lighting fixtures has a lot to do with aesthetics, but it also involves safety and function. You will want to have confidence that your fixtures are positioned in convenient places with cords out of the way. You will also want to know—BEFORE you make your lighting purchases— that the placement will work well for you. For example, a beautiful chandelier hanging over a table in a formal dining room with a low ceiling may not allow for enough space between the table and the bottom of the fixture.

When you are shopping for fixtures, there are certain concepts to be aware of regarding where the fixtures will be placed within the given space.
When placing fixtures, consider:

  • What elements on the space need illumination (art, furnishings, task areas).
  • The light distribution: the distance between a fixture and the area
    needing light or illumination.
  • Doorways, furnishings, and possible obstructions.
  • Available power outlets.
  • Height, width, and depth limitations.
  • Symmetry and balance.
  • Safety-with cords and heat the fixture emits.

Regarding Placement and Glare

When a direct lighting source hits a surface it can cause glare or a spot of light that interferes with view or vision. Glare can enter a room from a variety of sources such as from lamps or through windows.

Glare is often an issue with TV’s and computer monitors or in reading and game areas. It can also be a nuisance when it interferes with the view of prized artwork. It is important to check for glare on objects and furnishings during different times of the day, particularly with glare from sun.

TIP: To avoid glare, find the source of the bright or direct light and adjust the placement of the furnishings or other lighting sources. Consider using window treatments to help control or remove the glare.

Lighting & Home Furnishings Purchases

Here at XYZ furniture, we’ve put a lot of effort into making sure that the furnishings we sell are shown in the best possible light. We use background illumination so that customers can navigate the showroom and also spot lighting to call attention to items of interest. We pay close attention to the kinds of lighting we use so that fabric colors, accessories and wood tones do not grey out, and appear vibrant and beautiful. It is important to give a similar level of attention to lighting in your home, so that your existing items and any new home furnishings purchases will look their best.

Wrapping Up

A thoughtful lighting plan that is put into action will definitely add beauty, function, and harmony to a space, and allow you optimal use and enjoyment of your home. Armed with your new knowledge of the basic lighting principles (and tips) you learned today, you should now be able to easily and confidently create an attractive and useful lighting scheme for your interior.

Call to Action

Here is your homework assignment. You can write it down if you’d like. Enjoy the process!
Select one room in your home. Assess your lighting needs and preferences for that room:

1. Look at the Natural Light Coming In during different times of the day.

2.Consider the Color or Temperature of Light you want in the space.

3.Decide on the Type of Interior Lighting you need for different areas of the space: Task, Accenting, Ambient (mood), or Kinetic lighting.

4.Choose Fixtures based on light output, ease of controls, energy efficiency, bulbs, style, appearance, maintenance, and installation.

5. Think about the Placement of fixtures, in terms of what needs illumination, distances between light and objects, doorways and obstructions, outlets, balance, and safety.


Let’s go ahead and make our homes well lit and extraordinary. Once you have made all of the above lighting assessments, you’ll have essentially created a great lighting plan for any space, and you’ll be in a very good position to know which lighting fixtures will remain in your home, and which new fixtures need to be purchased. Through a systematic approach to good lighting, your home interior will be anything but ordinary. Have fun shopping and selecting just the right lighting fixtures to wonderfully illuminate your home.

Margarett (Margo) DeGange, M.Ed. is a Business and Design Coach in the Home Fashions Industry. She creates and delivers custom training programs for managed businesses and their sales consultants to help them communicate better with customers and increase sales and profits. Margarett is a Writer and Professional Speaker, and the President of The DeGangi Group and The DeGangi School of Interior Decoration, with both on sight and on-line courses in Interior Decorating, Marketing, and Redesign. For almost 20 years she has helped individual and managed business owners in the interior fashions and decorating industries to earn more while fully enjoying the process.
Two of Margo’s popular products for furniture store owners and their sales professionals are The Decorating School Crash Course Power-Ed Pack (9 design lessons on video/audio with 12 hours of content), and the matching Decorating School Crash Course Learner Files to measure learning, provide added interactivity, and motivate sales consultants to own their opportunities for growth.
Visit Margo DeGange’s website at www.DecoratingForProfits.com for more information. Send email and questions to her at Margarett@furninfo.com.
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