Lighting can have a tremendous impact and is so often disregarded when designing a space.  It is the secret to highlighting a well designed room and can also give any existing room a quick face lift.  But proper lighting involves more than just tossing in a few fixtures and calling it a day. Layering light involves the combination of 3 main types of lighting to create a balanced and visually inviting space.

Here are some things to think about when it comes to your home’s lighting plan.

Every room should have a mix of three types of lighting: general, task and accent. This creates a balanced and visually inviting space.

    Also referred to as ambient lighting, general light provides a room with overall illumination. Ambient lighting is typically provided by ceiling-mounted fixtures, cans or pot lights, but it can also be provided by table lamps, floor lamps and sconces.
    Task is lighting that is focused on a particular area to help you perform a specific a task. In a kitchen, this could be the sink, over the counters, or over the stove. Task lighting may be part of the general lighting, or additional localized or portable fixtures. Their style and finish should match the décor of the space since they are typically visible.
    Light that is focused on a specific area to highlight it, such as items in a glass cabinet or artwork on the wall. The right accent light can draw attention to an area and set a mood.

When making a lighting plan you need to think about accessibility and convenience. When you walk into a dark room you want to make sure you can easily access the lights.

  • 3-way switches allow you to control light from two different areas. This is particularly helpful in rooms that have two entry points, or stairwells where you can have one switch at the top and one at the bottom.
  • Sensors are a great option for the outdoors, and in small rooms like cupboards and pantries. They’re inexpensive and can be installed without having any additional electrical work done.
  • Having lights as part of an automated system allows you to control them remotely, meaning you’ll never have to come home to a dark house, or get out of bed to turn the lights on or off.  There are great new systems that are affordable and don’t require an electrician – most of these are based on a hub and a series of programmable light bulbs.

When determining where to place your lights keep the following guidelines in mind.

If a room has an 8 foot ceiling, space your recessed lights approximately 4 feet apart. If the ceiling is 10 feet, you’ll want to put about 5 feet of space in between each fixture. (Consult local electrical codes before installing).

As a general rule you should install one pendant for every two feet of counter space. Typically pendants should be placed 30″ to 36″ above the countertop, or 72″ above the floor.  If you are installing over a bar, use the 72″ above the finished floor rule.


This type of lighting is highly recommended as it provides great task lighting in work areas. Strip lighting is the most common type.  This type of lighting is extremely effective.  If in the kitchen, be aware it will reflect like a mirror, off the countertops.  You may want to consider honed or a matte finish on your work surface if that reflection may bother you.  We suggest placing your lights toward the front of the cabinets, to reduce shadow when cooking and working.

Always hang them over the centre of the table with the bottom of the fixture hanging between 30″ and 32″ from the tabletop. If it’s hanging in an area with no table underneath you’ll want to go higher. Make sure it’s at least 7’ off the ground so people can walk freely underneath it.  As your ceilings get higher, so should the fixture…to a point.  The piece needs to remain part of the space and not so far up, it is no longer visual!

Entryway fixtures should always be hung in the centre of the room. The bottom of the fixture should never be lower than 7’ (this goes for any hanging fixture anywhere in the house). In a two story entry it should not hang below the second floor.  Be sure it clears the door!

WALL SCONCES (Living Room, Dining Room, Hallway, etc.)
The center of the back plate should be no less than 60” above the floor. And preferably no more than 64”.

Sconces should be mounted on either side of a mirror, ideally 36” to 40” apart in order to eliminate shadows being cast on the face. The bottom of the each one should be mounted at approximately eye level. If this is not possible due to size restrictions hang a fixture over the mirror. Ideal placement is 75” to 80” above the floor.

When planning a home’s lighting you can’t ignore the subject of natural light. Natural light is always the best type of light so maximize it in any way you can. Look for window treatments that can either open wide or allow light to pass through, consider panels and sidelights for entry doors, and think about placing mirrors across from windows in order to maximize and reflect natural light.

Installing dimmers is one of the best things you can do to maximize your lighting plan. We highly recommend it!  They allow for complete control over the amount of light distributed in a room, meaning you can change the atmosphere in an instant. Softly dimmed lights are great for the evening when you’re winding down, and it can save energy, so install dimmers on as many lights as you can.

For more information about calculating the right amount of light for each room check out this quick guide calculating the light for each room.

Good luck!  Adding lighting not only brightens your spaces, it will literally brighten your life.  Especially during the shorter days of the year.

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Approaching 40 years in the business of Interior Design
Originally founded in 1982, family-owned Tran + Thomas Design Studio has emerged as a top leader in Interior Architecture, Interior Design, and Product Selection. Our team brings extraordinary beauty and luxury to homes, offices and other commercial properties in the Kansas City area and beyond. There are no tired formulas or leftover recipes used in our work, but rather an approach that starts with heightened imagination and a practiced design philosophy and ends with happy clients residing in a beautiful space. For over a quarter century we have turned dreams into reality by first imagining the ultimate interior and then determining how to achieve that interior.

Building new homes and commercial properties, remodeling, finding the perfect furnishings…
We are well versed working with architects and builders: constructing new homes, remodeling tired (outdated) spaces, and redesigning/refreshing one room or an entire house. Our breathtaking Interior Design is famous for being a reflection of the uniquely different styles of our clients personalities.  Jill and Carmen have extensive experience designing traditional, transitional, and modern homes to dental offices, sports arenas, restaurants, retail and other commercial spaces!

A wonderful and better source for furnishings
Jill Tran and Carmen Thomas have, and continue to, research, gather and curate wonderful resources for the homes and businesses of their clients.  When working with us, clients gain access to 250+ fabulous designer lines which include upholstered furnishings (sofas, chairs, beds), casegoods (tables, cabinets and furniture without upholstery), lighting (table lamps, sconces and chandeliers), fabrics (for upholstery, pillows and drapery), custom drapes, rugs, antiques of all kinds, bedding, artwork, and more.  Our clients also have access to specialized craftsmen, artists, and suppliers to create that one of kind space that is unique to them

Why Tran + Thomas?
The choice of whom you work with on your home or office is absolutely everything.  Knowledge of what is available, creativity, organization, dependability, trust, sources, contacts, education, respect, personality and the ability to interpret and bring to life your needs only comes from one place…experience.  Tran + Thomas has that in spades!

We hope you will consider Tran + Thomas for your next design project!

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