We have all heard the phrase “home is where the heart is” at some point in our lives. This phrase conjures up thoughts of whatever and wherever home is to us. We desire for our homes to be comfortable and functional for us and our families. Often times our primary concern in our interior living space is our furniture whether it’s the large relaxing recliner or the big screen television we cannot live without. Sometimes we will take it a step further and add color since we have known for years that color can evoke a particular mood or energy. Many dining rooms have been painted red to enhance the energy of dinner conversations and increase the appetite. Green and blue bedrooms have been painted all across the country to relax and calm adults as well as children. We will even go the distance and add accessories such as pillows, window treatments, vases, and baskets to add texture and warmth to our homes. However, we often give little thought to the impact a flip of a switch or the opening of a shade can have on our mood and our lives.
The proper lighting in your home can take you from work to romance, and from play to relaxation. It can uplift your spirits and calm your anxieties. Lighting, just like color, can evoke and change your mood. Scientists have begun using Light Therapy as treatment for a form of depression known as seasonal affective disorder. This disorder is believed to be caused by the changes in the availability of sunlight. Some residents of Alaska experience depression during the dark winter months, nearly 10% according to The American Journal of Psychology. Suzanne Womack Strisik, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Alaska at Anchorage, explains that sable skies can cause lethargy, cravings for carbohydrates, feelings of melancholy, fuzzy thinking, and loss of libido or sociability.  Also, if we simply look closely at some of our everyday activities, we will find that lighting is used in retail stores, movies, theatre, and restaurants/bars to establish ambiance and mood. This is all done to enhance our enjoyment of the experience. The same can and should be done in our homes.
How do we establish a particular mood using lighting? First, we must begin by identifying the key elements of lighting a home. Those elements are functionality, flexibility, and fun.
First, your lighting must be functional. Determining the purpose of a space will determine the lighting. Making sure the lighting selected is functional in that space is important for comfort and getting things done. The lighting must be adequate for a particular task or many tasks. This may be accomplished using natural lighting, ambient lighting, or more specifically task lighting. Let’s take cooking as an example. Trying to cook in a kitchen with insufficient lighting, can lead to frustration and discomfort resulting in a not so charming mood or disposition. In addition trying to read in a dimly lit room can lead to anxiety and tired eyes. If designing a home office, you would want to create a mood that enhances productivity. This of course will be different from person to person and depending on the work being performed. However, the office should have lighting that does not lead to eye strain. In addition, natural light will allow for a non-claustrophobic environment and an element of nature. According to Charles Cook, a Pomona, N.Y.-based nature guide and author of Awakening to Nature (McGraw Hill, 2001), SPENDING EVEN JUST A few minutes of quality time in nature each day can have a profound effect on both your psyche and your health. Bringing just a little bit of nature into your home can enhance your spirit. The lighting design in your home office can make for you having a more positive mood and attitude throughout your home. The functionality of your lighting can make life easier and day to day task more manageable.
Lighting, secondly, should be flexible. Flexibility of your lighting plan will allow you to move from one mood to another in a single space. This can be done by having layers of light such as window treatments, an overhead light, dimmers, sconces, and candles. The mood that you desire to create when having brunch at your home with friends will differ from the mood you desire to have when dinner is for two. In addition, deciding to go with 2 ½ inch blinds versus 1 inch will increase the amount of natural light entering the bedroom. This will be very important to a morning person. Being able to change your lighting through out the day will allow you to have more light when it is necessary and less when it is not. This can help save energy as well as money.
Lastly, lighting should be fun. Walking into your space and seeing a light fixture that makes you smile, instantly enhances your mood. The light fixtures in your home should reflect your style and taste. They should also flow and accentuate the interior of your home. Having a well designed home in itself can make you fell good, but adding an element such as accent lights that highlight your eccentric art or prized collectibles makes it even more pleasurable.
It is important to note that the functionality, flexibility, and fun of your lighting, is not limited to the interior of your home. It is essential that the lighting on the exterior of your home meet the same characteristics. Your outdoor lighting should provide for a safe environment. This may be done through the use of flood and motion sensing fixtures. Pathway lighting can also provide a safe, comfortable environment for you as well as guests. In addition, lighting gardens and patios can establish a relaxing or entertaining atmosphere to be enjoyed by you and your family and friends. Outdoor lighting such as spotlights and torches can also be fun, adding shadows and dimension to the outside of your home.
Be it indoors or outdoors, lighting within your home can enhance your life. It can make you feel good to see a whimsical light fixture bought during an international trip or a trip to the local flea market. Also, having functional and flexible lighting can make getting things done easier and less frustrating around your home. Lighting those candles or dimming those sconces can provide you with a serene, spa like space when needing to wash away the cares of the day. Simply, a good lighting plan in your home can improve everyday life.