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A good lighting scheme is critical to a successful home design, but because lighting is a background element we are often unaware that is what makes the home décor work so well.

The pattern of light in a room is uneven and varies throughout the day. All surfaces and materials in a room will reflect the light in a different way.

The play of light in a room needs to be carefully considered when designing a lighting plan for your home. Too much light and you will end up with a cold room, devoid of atmosphere.

Too little and you have an overly dark space without accent or sufficient lighting for tasks.

A good lighting plan is a balance of style, personal taste and practical needs. It takes advantage of the natural light.

Each room in your house will require a different lighting scheme. Designing a lighting plan depends first and foremost on what you need the light for.

Is there a specific activity or household task that happens in that space?

Is there an architectural detail or particular piece of furnishing that you wish to highlight?

Are you aiming to create a warm cozy feeling or certain mood in the space?

Do you want the room to seem larger?

Do you wish to create a feeling of a separate space, or small room, within a larger room?

Lighting can be arranged to address any particular effect or specific function you desire. It is the hidden element that pulls the home décor together.

All good lighting schemes depend on three basic principles:

Ambient lighting should be fairly even as it provides the overall illumination for the space. Ambient lighting may come from one central source, such as a ceiling fixture, or from other individual sources, such as a standing lamp or several pot lights. Generally, except for the dining room, using multiple sources of illumination is preferred to one central fixture.

Task lighting does exactly what the term says it will do: it illuminates a specific area for a focused task, such as cooking, reading, or paperwork. Pendant lights over the kitchen island is a good example of stylish task lighting. Special consideration must be taken to ensure the right type of lighting for the task to reduce eyestrain.

Accent lighting highlights a specific area or object. This type of lighting — such as a spot light on a favorite piece of artwork — is dramatic, and reflects individual tastes and flair.

One of the most common errors people make when selecting lighting products for their home is choosing fixtures based solely on style and appearance. Different fixtures create different effects so you need to take the time to look at what the light output will be before you make your purchase.

Another major consideration is the bulb you choose. Incandescent bulbs are the most inexpensive and widely used, however they are not always the best choice — or the most energy efficient. Halogen bulbs, although more expensive at the outset, burn brighter, last longer and conserve energy as they burn. For task lighting fluorescents are brighter still and consume less energy than either incandescent or halogen bulbs.

One of the most important facets of a good lighting plan is the position of switches and use of dimmers. Look at traffic patterns for the optimum placement of the switch and put in dimmer switches wherever possible.