Friday, October 31, 2008

The Wonders of Lighting

Lighting plays a vital role in interior spaces. It can make a room gloomy, vibrant, depressing, energizing, boring, or exciting. A poorly lit room that is well designed with materials and furnishings is a waste of your money, you are not showcasing what you have spent your time on. The key to great lighting design is layering. I think most of you know a space that is lit by just one type of lighting, like the average office. We all know how 'inviting' that can be. The average hospital room is also a great example of poor lighting design.

Layering refers to using a combination of general or ambient lighting, task lighting, accent lighting, and decorative lighting. Ambient lighting generally lights the entire space with a light wash and eliminates too much contrast between spaces that are lit and those that are not. Task lighting is of course specific to an area where a task is performed and is a higher light level. Accent lighting highlights specific architectural or artistic features (a painting for example) and is about 3 times brighter than ambient lighting. Decorative lighting is when the fixture itself becomes a prominent element in the space.

You also want to use day lighting to your advantage and for great cost savings before the sun goes down. For further savings, only use efficient lighting fixtures with long-life lamps.

The photo is an example of using layers to create a positive lighting mood.
photo: SoBe design group

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Greening your interiors

Some might say that the green design movement is just another passing fad. Though we can see clearly it affects nearly all categories, not just design. It is a green living movement. When people realize that there is something terribly wrong with babies being born pre-polluted, the indoor air they breathe being hazardous, and a growing amount of the food they eat laden with chemicals - they inevitably change their lifestyle. Of course I am not speaking for the millions of ignorant people who could care less about what is in their food and their bodies.

This lifestyle movement gave birth to a movement towards creating more healthy indoor environments. After all, we spend a lot more time indoors than out. One could argue exactly when this movement emerged, but I would say and most will agree it grew over a period of time and did not happen overnight. The air inside your home is approximately 50 times more toxic than outdoor air. The figure will not change much even if you live in downtown Manhattan. So the next time you whip out your brush to repaint your house, consider the consequences this will have on the quality of your indoor air. I am not talking about the 2 weeks that you'll smell the paint - I am talking about what you will not smell and what will off gas for years to come. If you really care about the health of your family, your children, and yes, even your dog Rover - don't skimp on some zero VOC paint. It will not break your bank, and might actually save some money in the long run (those co-pays at doctor's visits really add up).

Life for your walls

Do you have a large empty wall persistently looming over your living room, bedroom, or formal entry? While a big block of solid paint might be minimalist and modernly attractive, chances are that it could portray much more life and character than it currently does. I know, you've just never found the time or money to spend looking for that artwork that you feel is 'just right'. The hand me down or yard sale find that is stored in your garage just does not cut it. A few tips for finding that perfect one:

1. Decide on a style and genre: is it modern, impressionist, are you an Art Deco lover; do you have a weakness for landscapes, seascapes, animals, abstract objects, flowers?
2. Decide on a medium: a photograph will give a very different impression from an original oil painting for example
3. Your budget: while an original oil might be out of your wallet's reach, and a print looks too cheap, look into affordable yet valued techniques such as giclee; also you would be surprised what some local art students are capable of - you might even discover a future Michelangelo.
4. Size: Don't ever let your budget dictate the size, it should only be based on the amount of wall space you have. You would not want to place an 8 x 10 framed photograph on an empty wall that is 20 feet wide in a room with 9 foot ceilings. But, you can tastefully collage several smaller pieces framed with matting to take up more space on a large wall.
5. Work with the color present in the room: Stick to colors that compliment whatever is already in the room (if you room is a complete mish mash of color we have a different problem here). If your room is rather neutral, select artwork that brings in color to bring the room to life and create a focal point. If you room is rather colorful as is, you might want a more neutral painting/print, perhaps even a black and white photograph would do the trick.

The painting above by Afremov may serve as some inspiration for creating your own art display in your home.