Basic Rules of LED Lighting Design: TADA

Most people realize that education doesn’t end when one lands a job. Often times, we find that that is when the real studies begin. For many of us who have embarked on second careers, a new degree or certificate is only the beginning. Those of us with more life experience are wise enough to know the most valuable knowledge is that which is sought due to passion and drive. Recently, my reputation of being knowledgeable in LED lighting has brought me the opportunity to design a few wonderful interior projects. It’s important to understand that I, like most lighting professionals, view LED as another tool in the toolbox – halogen, metal halide, fluorescent or any other. This new technology allows us many advantages as well as its own unique set of challenges. One thing it absolutely demands is that we continue to educate ourselves if we hope to stay current.

What LED does not do is change the basic rules of lighting design. Much of the interior lighting for residential spaces follow the basic principle of layering. Here are the 4 Basic Rules of LED Lighting Design: TADA:

  • T is for task lighting. Properly illuminating the areas and surfaces where we do things, like cook, study, work or read. Task lighting could also be low level illumination along our path or hallway.
  • A is for ambient or general lighting. When you want the entire room lit softly or even brightly, ambient lighting fills the space and eliminates the darkness.
  • D is for decorative fixtures. These are table and floor lamps, wall sconces, surface mount ceiling fixtures, pendants or a chandelier.
  • A is for accent. Choose the items and areas that we want to draw forward for all to see such as artwork on the walls, freestanding sculpture, a stone wall or fireplace.

As I continue to study and practice the application of these layers, the connection to outdoor lighting becomes more and more apparent. My favorite outdoor projects are those where all four of them were implemented. I think problems arise when an uninformed client asks an uninformed installer for “accent lighting out there”. And, that is exactly what gets installed. There is no attention paid to decorative fixtures, task lighting, or ambiance. Want us to contact us, would love to hear from you.

In the world of outdoor lighting design it is easiest to accent every tree or specimen piece with an uplight or two. The trick is tying it all together with fill or ambient illumination so that the scene is cohesive, flowing smoothly from one focal point to the next. This also evens out the look so our eyes don’t need to adjust from bright to dark and back again. Incidentally, it is ambient light that provides us a more secure property, allowing us to see our surroundings from inside and reducing its attractiveness to potential intruders.

Decorative lighting is often existing house-mounted lanterns or sconces. Ignore them, and they’ll create objective glare drowning out carefully placed accent luminaires. Proper lamping, dimming and timing allows us to incorporate them into our overall design properly. Pathlights that we add in the landscape should be chosen first for their illuminating characteristics and secondly for their aesthetic value.

Task lighting inside the home normally refers to areas where we do stuff – like read, cook, write or work. In the outside world think of built-in kitchens, they have counter tops, too. Tables for dining need illumination, even if the solution is portable, it must be planned for. Pathways and steps might seem obvious, but the task here is walking and any complete lighting design will provide adequate illumination in these key areas.

When well-planned, a fixture or a group of luminaires will contribute to more than one layer. For example, uplighting a magnificent patio-side oak provides both accent and ambient light. Path light choices that complement the architecture give us a decorative value while lighting our walkway. Linear lighting along an outdoor kitchen back splash accents the meticulous stonework while increasing the usability of the serving area when the party runs late. Local switching or dimming adds to the value.

The opportunity to design both the interior and exterior lighting of the same property allows for a degree of continuity we aren’t often afforded. It also demands that this designer keeps his nose in the books with the hope of discovering the next “a ha” moment.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *