Ceiling fixtures, chandeliers and wall sconces are used to illuminate the way for movement throughout the home. Recessed can lights often are used to light hallways, stairs and circulation areas and do a good job of lighting the floor. However, a softer and more pleasant effect can be had by using indirect lighting such as wall washers that do double the duty of highlighting your artwork and, at the same time, provide attractive general lighting.
Try to anticipate where you will be hanging artwork — blank wall spaces — and place recessed can lights that are designed to wash that wall with light. Another way to soften your illumination is to bounce light off the ceiling through the use of indirect cove light and wall sconces. Wall sconces are easy to do almost anywhere but cove lighting often requires changes to the architecture and may be more applicable to high ceiling areas.
Kitchen counters and other work surfaces such as home offices and workshop areas require a higher level of illumination, usually provided by recessed cans, track lighting, ceiling pendants and, in offices, table, desk, or floor lamps.
The key here is to provide light that is bright enough but free from shadows. Particularly in kitchens, it is better have more fixtures, spaced closer together, using a lower wattage such as 50 watt, par 20 halogen can lights. Remember that it is the counter you want lit, not the floor in front or the top of your head, so consider lining up your can lights on the front edge of the counter.
Mood or Accent Lighting
Lighting which is installed primarily for atmosphere such as lamps, ceiling chandeliers, specialty hi-hats and landscape lights fall into this category, as do most ceiling fans with lights. Art niches are popular and require lighting that is focused on them. Dimmers can also be used on general or task lighting to help create mood lighting.
The tendency to focus most of your attention to the inside of your home is common but, particularly in areas where you do a lot of your living outdoors, it is a mistake to forget these areas. Even if your landscaping is staged as a future project, you must think through where you will want lights and plan for adding the appropriate outlets and switches.
Do you hang Christmas lights? If so, now is the time to plan for outlets in the right locations to avoid needing those ugly extension cords running around. Landscape, driveway and pathway lights can also make a huge impact and do not add that much to the budget. Usually these are inexpensive, low voltage, fixtures that require a transformer conveniently located for connection to the house power and access for timers to control the lighting.