The Class – Chapter 7 Lighting

by Heather J. Paper

by Heather J. Paper

You did not miss a week. I did in fact skip Chapter 6. Chapter 6 is about storage. We covered this in class in relation to the other chapters. Of all the chapters in the book I don’t think the chapter on storage is that helpful. So, moving on to some lighting!

I had no idea that there were three different types of lighting. Did you? There is general, task and ambient or accent lighting. If you are curious, general is overhead and likely connected to the switch you flip when you walk in a room.

Task lighting is for, I will state the obvious, tasks, and an example of this lighting is is under the kitchen cupboards and it illuminates your counter tops while you prepare delicious meals.  Ambient lighting is there, you guessed it, to add ambience. It’s like a wall sconce or similar device. Finally, if you are entertaining you can use all your lighting so that you will have no dark spot in the room. You know, no dark corners for your wall flowers to hide.

Apart from that gem of advice the most interesting pieces of information I got from this chapter had to do with placement of lighting. I think a lot of other decorating advice can be taken with a huge grain of salt. However, when it comes to lighting, I think there are some pretty good “rules” to try and follow.

buckingham ID19

This might be a bit higher than 30 inches but you get the picture.

  1. Chandeliers or pendants hanging over a dining table should be 30 inches from the top of the table to the bottom of the fixture if you have an eight foot ceiling. For every extra foot, add three inches.
  2. Wall sconces should be five to six feet off the floor.
  3. For table lamps, the shade should hit you about cheek level when you are seated. I will be honest here, I have discovered that this is somewhat challenging to achieve.
  4. As for the shade of the table lamp, it should be smaller than the table upon which it sits.

Maybe this is the exception to the too tall rule?

  • A floor lamp? When you walk by it, you don’t want to see the bulb. So, no tree height floor lamps. If all you ever see is the underside of it anyway how can you really appreciate it?
  • Recessed or can lights should, for general lighting, be six to eight feet apart. You don’t want your ceiling to look like an inverted whack-a-mole game. For task lighting they should be one and a half to two feet apart.
  • What about wattage you ask? For accent lights try 50 or 60 watts. Seventy-five watts for task and for general lighting anything from 50 to 150. I found that replacing bulbs with higher wattage in my living room helped significantly with the darkness factor.


  • In the bathroom, try lights on either side of the mirror instead of the hollywood lights above the mirror like my the master bath in my house, that was built in the eighties, currently sports. It’s a show stopper all right; that and the red paint a prior tenant painted the walls.


  • Concerning bulbs, I know those curly-q things that you need a hazmat team to dispose of lest they break in your house are all the rage right now, but an incandescent bulb still does the trick when it comes to flattering skin tones. And for those of us with fluorescent lights in the kitchen (me included), the lights may be cheap but they sure make your food look cheap too.


  • Finally, ceiling fans with light kits – avoid them. I have them and I hate them. The fan is not really meant to be a statement piece and nothing screams look at me like three or five bulbs shining down upon your guest’s head from the center of the room. Here in South Carolina ceiling fans are a must but you know what, they do make fans with out light kits and I intend to invest in them one day!

Have a great weekend everyone!


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