Proper lighting makes everything look better

"The adventure of the sun is the great natural drama by which we live, and not to have joy in it and awe of it, not to share in it, is to close a dull door on nature's sustaining and poetic spirit." Henry Beston (1888-1968), American writer and naturalist, "Midwinter," The Outermost House (1928)

I'm continuing my series on basic decorating tips and today I'm going to focus on lighting.

As awesome as it is, the sun can't provide all of the light we need. And consequently, lighting our home well is the key to our happiness in it.

Light affects almost everything we do and how we feel. When lighting a space, we should pay particular attention to our environment. The focus should be on how we intend to use a particular area and the proper lighting required to make it work.

There are three main categories of lighting: task, accent and general.

Task lighting is just that. It allows you to light up an area for a specific task, i.e., reading, sewing, working at a computer or performing a specific task in the kitchen. Each of these activities should be well lit, firstly so you can accomplish the task, and secondly, to provide a healthy environment for your precious eyes.

Under-counter lights are great for the kitchen tasks; lamps on your computer desk or a lamp over your reading area take good care of your eyes and make reading or working easier.

Accent lighting is used to highlight a special piece of art, a sculpture, a niche or interesting wall feature. Lights installed in the top of a china closet, for instance, highlight the crystal and china inside. A recessed light in the ceiling or a track light can be an accent light if it is focused on a specific thing, like a piece of art.

General light provides the main source of light in a room. This is most often the light produced by overhead lights that don't have a particular focus. There was a time that if you had a ceiling light in the center of a room, you were finished with the lighting. We thought that was all we needed.

It's amazing how smart we get as we live a little longer and are exposed to new ideas and products! It takes a combination of all three of these light sources -- task, accent and general -- to provide proper lighting.

Choices in lighting are endless, and even in big box stores the personnel are knowledgeable and able to help you pick out the right thing for the right space.

Before you head out to shop, consider a few basics. General lighting is usually installed during construction or renovation. These would include your can lights, track lighting or ceiling fixtures. After these are established, you get to pick out the fun stuff -- lamps, up-lights, under-counter lights you can install yourself or classic chandeliers for special rooms.

We're all familiar with uses for lamps, but up-lights are a very underused accessory. Placing an up-light at the back of a large floor plant provides an accent to the plant and makes beautiful shadows for mood lighting. Using an up-light behind a screen has the same effect, providing a subtle light, but accenting the screen and the wall behind it.

Chandeliers are not just for dining rooms anymore either. Pick a beautiful little one for over your bathtub, a dressing table and, of course, in the entryway.

Making the right lighting choices is just as important as furniture or other accessory selection. Mood lighting is important in sitting rooms, bedrooms and hallways, where you don't actually need bright light for tasks. But when you have a favorite reading spot, your workspace in the kitchen or in your hobby room, be sure to provide ample task lighting.

With a little planning and thoughtful shopping, you can make your space beautiful and functional with proper lighting. Everything in your home will look better with the right light on it.

Carolyn Muse Grant is the editor of Southern Nevada Home & Garden magazine. Her Inside Spaces column appears weekly in the Home section of the Review-Journal. Check out other decorating tips in Southern Nevada Home & Garden magazine, which is published the first Saturday of each month. Send questions to