Lighting is essential for the ambiance of a home

By: Charity Meier | Metro | Published November 8, 2023

 A chandelier brings artistic charm, as well as lighting, into a home.

A chandelier brings artistic charm, as well as lighting, into a home.

Photo provided by Regina Andrew Design


METRO DETROIT — Lighting not only affects the ambiance of a home; it also affects the people inside.

“It is incredible how that can affect your mood, you can create a mood, and really, really good lighting can actually make people feel more attractive,” said Caroline Kerfoot, art director and creative team manager at Regina Andrew Design in Wyandotte.

According to Kerfoot, lighting with warmer tones, which appear more yellow, can make people feel much happier than early morning light, which can appear more blue, and overhead tube lighting in an office, which can appear more green and blue.

“It’s pretty cool. I’ve learned so much from working at Regina Andrew about lighting and it’s just like sort of subconscious effects, and I think that it’s really important going into winter where we’re inside so much and you don’t get as much daylight. So you want to make your space as comfortable as possible as well as your guests coming over on the holidays,” said Kerfoot. “I can even tell you firsthand that incorporating cool lighting that you love, that gives off the right amount of light and creates that ambiance that makes your (day-to-day) living comfortable — it just makes such a big difference.”

Michelle Pergeau-Dudgeon, program coordinator for the associate in applied science in interior design at Oakland Community College, has over a decade of experience in the field of lighting, including working in multiple lighting showrooms, and is certified with the American Lighting Association as a lighting specialist.

“I began in (lighting) because I have a bachelor’s in interior design and I found that lighting was so powerful of an impact that I started pursuing the showrooms to work in residential lighting,” said Pergeau-Dudgeon. “If a room isn’t properly lit, all the other (design) decisions that you made won’t come into fruition.”

She said that if you spend a lot of time selecting the colors for your rooms and then don’t have good bright lighting at night, the color is going to appear darker than what you had anticipated. She said this can cause a room to feel dark and gloomy, especially if the color is originally part of a darker palette. Lighting can also help to make a space feel larger. To make a space feel larger, you can illuminate a surface, such as a wall or ceiling.

According to Pergeau-Dudgeon, homeowners should have a series of plans for their home lighting, including room measurements and ceiling heights. She said to also notate architectural features such as windows and cabinetry, which can impact not only what you want to light, but also how you have to light the space.

Kerfoot said the best way to provide effective lighting in a home is with layered lighting.

“Layered lighting uses multiple light sources to create the look and light quality you want in a room,” said Kerfoot.

This includes general or ambient, task, and accent lighting, as well as natural light. Ambient lighting is the primary lighting source, which is spread evenly throughout each room and often creates the mood. Task lighting provides focused light for specific activities in each room, such as a study lamp, vanity light or a light over the kitchen stove. Accent lighting draws attention to a particular object, such as a painting, sculpture, plant or bookcase. 

“I’m sure you’ve walked into a room and the light just, like, blasts and it’s really bright and it’s kind of uncomfortable-feeling. That’s not what you want in your home. So, by layering soft lighting and by being very strategic, that’s how you can create, like, a whole mood when people come over or just for yourself throughout the winter and spring (when there is less daylight),” Kerfoot said.

Pergeau-Dudgeon said it is important to know what temperature on the Kelvin scale you want your lightbulbs. The Kelvin scale measures how warm or cold the bulb appears. An orange color is generally around 2,500-2,700 on the Kelvin scale. A light source that is whiter is around a 3,000 to 3,500 Kelvin temperature.

Sometimes people want to simulate true daylight, which a bulb that is 5,000 Kelvin is supposed to do, but the color temperature when you look at it is really blueish and not usually favored in the residential setting, she said.

“You want to pay attention to creating a well-balanced lighting plan and noticing the color temperature of the lights that you would prefer and keeping it consistent throughout the house,” said Pergeau-Dudgeon. “You don’t want one lamp on one side of the room to be this 2,700 Kelvin and then you go over to the other side and it’s 5,000 Kelvin, so one looks blue and one looks orange.”

Well-designed lighting blends in naturally with the room design.

“In my opinion, the best lighting plans are the ones where you never even think about the lighting. It’s just there,” said Pergeau-Dudgeon.

Pergeau-Dudgeon said research shows that having a well-lit home is beneficial in preventing or coping with seasonal affective disorder. She said that many light fixtures now have settings to change the color of the LED bulbs according to the time of day. This is called tunable lighting, and Pergeau-Dudgeon said it was a big deal at the ALA conference this year.

She said that warm lighting helps to stimulate happier moods and conversations. She said another thing to consider is circadian rhythm. She said that, after 10 p.m., she has it on her phone that the light goes down to around 1,800 Kelvin, because you don’t want to be exposed to blue light sources, which are 3,000 and upward on the Kelvin scale, after around that time. People working at night would want to make sure they stay on an internal human clock and are only exposed to red light at night.

“I think that having a softer light source in your home and creating a more comfortable space is immediately going to put you at ease, and so when you’re comfortable, you’re going to be a lot less stressed out,” said Kerfoot. “I think that stress is a pretty big factor in mental health. I’m not a psychologist or a psychiatrist, but your general comfort level in your living space is super important to your overall stress level and general happiness.”

“If you have really bright light sources, pretty much anything can be put on a dimmer, and that can help you with the various occupants, because some people might like it really bright in the room, others may not,” said Pergeau-Dudgeon.

She said one of the biggest mistakes people make when lighting a room is to not use under-cabinet lighting. She said that it might save money to avoid the under-cabinet lighting, but by failing to use it, an expensive backsplash will look dark and unattractive.

Pergeau-Dudgeon said good task lighting in the bathroom is “critical.”

“You want to make sure that when you have a full bath where you’re doing shaving, makeup, those kinds of hygienic activities, you want to make sure that you light your face or the occupant’s face from the side. You don’t want to do just a recessed light from above,” said Pergeau-Dudgeon.

Pergeau-Dudgeon stressed the importance of picking out a fixture that is large enough for the space. She said it is common for people to pick something that is too small. Some lighting showrooms will allow you to bring a fixture home to make sure it fits the space properly, she said.

Many fixtures are the focal points of rooms with dramatic and beautiful designs that almost feel “sculptural,” which is what Regina Andrew is known for, Kerfoot said.

“It’s like you get two things for one purchase. It’s something beautiful that you can enjoy when the lights are off during the daytime and you can enjoy the daylight, but then once you turn it on in the evening, it just completely changes your space,” Kerfoot said.

Pergeau-Dudgeon urges people to go to ALA-certified lighting showrooms. She said that by purchasing products from a lighting showroom, you will get better-quality lighting and have someone to help guide you through the process.