Interior Lighting

Creating a clean, well-lighted places in your home.


Lighting has come a long way since the time of candles and Thomas Edison. Today we use light not only for functional purposes but for setting the mood of our living spaces, notes Carla Borgen, ALA, a lighting specialist with Northern Lights & Furnishings. Yet, lighting is often neglected during a remodel, either forgotten about entirely or not budgeted for appropriately, she says. “Many homeowners are waiting until the end of their remodel project to think about lighting,” she says, “and by then they may have reached their budget limit.”

This strategic error may leave you with lighting that’s outdated – reflecting poorly on the rest of the updates you’ve made – or that’s simply no longer functional and efficient. To avoid this trap, plan to spend about 1.5 percent to 2 percent of your remodel budget on interior lighting, Borgen says. Then start thinking about how you want to incorporate current trends and your lifestyle needs into your lighting plans. “Lighting should be thought of as part of the design, not an afterthought,” Borgen says.

A good place to start is in the heart of your home – the kitchen. Here, it’s form meets function. You need bright, well-lit work areas but don’t want to sacrifice aesthetics. A monorail system allows you to customize lighting by bending decorative pendants to focus on areas where you want task or accent lighting. If you’re handy, you may even be able to install a monorail system yourself.

“Low-voltage monorail lighting is a big hit now, not only for its versatility but also for the wide array of colors and designs that are available,” Borgen says. “The monorail is a new take on the old-style track lighting, but much more sophisticated. It’s frequently used in modern or contemporary design but is transitional enough to fit with traditional decor.”

Over kitchen islands and sinks, Borgen suggests pendant lights. “These pendants are replacing boxy fluorescent fixtures and quickly becoming a focal point in the kitchen,” she says. “They can fit any style or design, and like monorails, can be dimmed to add ambiance.”

Don’t forget under-cabinet lighting in your kitchen. Halogen remains a good choice for some, but the newer Xenon bulbs are also popular, operating at a lower temperature than halogen and lasting thousands of hours. “Another type of under-cabinet lighting that is still relatively new to the industry is LED,” Borgen says. “These lights don’t use filaments, making them very reliable, with an outstanding lifespan of 50,000 hours-plus. And one under-cabinet light containing 28 LEDs uses only 7 watts of electricity and generates very little heat.”

Your kitchen may not be the only area in your home that needs lighting attention. The home office and living rooms also have task lighting needs. There, Borgen says, recessed lights are good options. Also consider adding wall sconces, which can provide mood lighting. “We like to use two or three different light sources per room,” she says. “In general, use recessed lights for tasks, wall sconces for supplemental or ambient lighting, and cover lighting for night-time or setting the mood.”

And what about those lighted ceiling fans, which are sometimes the first to go on television remodeling shows? Don’t ditch them, Borgen says. “They’re great for family rooms, four-season porches and bedrooms,” she says. “They’re still in, they’re still OK to use, and we sell a lot.”

Regular dusting of ceiling fans and lighting fixtures will help keep them looking nice and functioning well. “Never use any harsh cleaners or products like Windex on finished metal parts as the chemicals can cause oxidization, which will lead to pitting,” Borgen says. “And never exceed the maximum wattage recommended by the manufacturer.”

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If you have questions about building or remodeling, call Rochester Area Builders at (507) 282-7698.

Copyright 2007 Rochester Area Builders, Inc. No part of the Remodel It Right Handbook articles may be reproduced or printed without written permission from Rochester Area Builders, 108 Elton Hills Lane NW, Rochester, MN 55901. Phone (507) 282-7698.