Let the Light In – An Interior Design Approach


February 25, 2021


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John McClain is an accomplished interior designer, speaker, writer, and on-air contributor who has turned his lifetime passion for interior design into an opportunity to do the same for others.

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Winter blues, freezing temperatures, less daylight and even the groundhog got our team at John McClain Design thinking: What do our clients need most right now? And then it hit us — light! Both metaphorically and physically. The impact the physical can have on the mental is powerful, so we’re going to focus our interior design lesson this month on all things light and bright.

The 3 Types of Light 

Choosing the correct type of lighting for a room is all about function — the activities that take place in that room. Kitchens and offices generally need brighter light to accomplish the business of daily living, whereas bedrooms and living areas are all about the comfort that dim lighting inspires. In fact, you can even make a large room cozy by adding warm-lit sconces throughout the space! This brings us back to our main topic. The three basic types of lighting are general, task and accent lighting.

General Lighting. 

General lighting is also referred to as ambient lighting and used to light up an entire room. This category includes natural and artificial light but our go-to is to maximize sunlight wherever you can. Not only does it produce great selfies, but it’s also good for your health and the environment. Daylighting can be achieved with proper-facing windows, skylights and appropriate shades and louvers. Find new ways to take advantage of natural light, especially if you’re in the early stages of designing your home. Decor Hack: Hang a mirror across from a window to reflect light back into the room. 

Sometimes we’re limited with what nature gives us — enter nightfall. Popular options for artificial lighting include recessed light on the ceiling or light stemming from the bottom up (like wall-mounted sconces). For instance, recessed lighting can be used in the kitchen to frame focal points, such as surrounding the stove or over open shelving. Pro Tip: Install dimmers in rooms that are multifunctional (i.e., living areas) to correlate with the amount of light needed for alternating times and tasks. 

Task Lighting. 

The main purpose of task lighting is to provide intense light to a specific area. Think desk lamps placed on writing tables or statement chandeliers used to host swanky dinner parties! This category can get tricky because too bright of a task light can cause eye strain, so be sure the entire room is well lit by either increasing bulb wattage or adding additional light fixtures. 

While strategically positioned recessed light can also fall under this category, pendants, floor lamps and the above-mentioned table lamps are more commonly used to achieve this type of lighting. Taking us back to our kitchen example, pendant lights can be hung to provide light above kitchen countertops — perfect for eating and homework alike.

Accent Lighting. 

No mystery here! Accent lighting is used to highlight your most beloved accent pieces bringing direct attention to the decorative features of a room. Think overhead light fixtures above paintings or ambient light underneath your bartop, where you can unwind and enjoy a good old fashioned. Remember, accent lighting is all about highlighting your personal sense of style in a room. 

Overall, staying true to the function of a room while layering the three different types of light is a simple approach to conceptualizing its use in your home. Our team at John McClain Design is happy to walk our clients through finding new and creative ways of letting the light in.

Till Next Time…
Shine Brightly & Happy Designs!


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John McClain is an accomplished interior designer, speaker, writer, and on-air contributor who has turned his lifetime passion for interior design into an opportunity to do the same for others.

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