Originally published version of this article in Latina Style magazine
As the season shifts to the shorter days and gloomy weather of winter I sometimes feel more tired than usual. I’ve heard that lighting can make a big difference in how I feel in my home. Do you have any suggestions that will help me get through the Fall and Winter holiday season feeling “brighter”?
Brightening your home can brighten your life. In fact, improved lighting can even save you a trip to the eye-doctor. The shorter days of winter require brighter interior lighting to ward off tired eyes and if you’re over 30, you may need to amp up the light in your home just to do the same tasks you did when you were younger.
Even though you’ve gotten a bit older, it’s not necessarily true that you need stronger glasses (though a doctor has the last word). Sometimes, the lighting in your home is the problem. Though a room may seem well lit to one person, another person may perceive the same room as poorly lit.
Here’s why. After our twenties, the amount of light we perceive with our eyes changes. According to Dr. Susan MacDonald of the Lahey Clinic and Assistant Professor at Tufts Medical School in Massachusetts, the population of rods (the photo receptor cells in the retina of the eye) decreases subtly with every decade as we age. Our ability to tell black from white is called contrast sensitivity. “Though a person’s visual acuity such as having 20/20 vision may be good,” says Dr. MacDonald, “it’s decreased contrast sensitivity that often causes patients to perceive their vision is changing.”
If we’re lucky enough to grow old, our perception of light may eventually be as though we are wearing dark sunglasses in a dimly lit room. Dr. MacDonald tells her patients that, “Many times it’s not the prescription of your glasses that needs to change, it’s the amount of illumination that needs to increase.”
So, if you’ve been living in the same home for a number of years without any upgrades to the lighting, it may be time to add some wattage to keep up with your vision needs. Here are a few things you need to know to assess the lighting you have and make some positive changes.
There are three categories of lighting: Ambient or general room lighting, task lighting and accent lighting. Ambient lighting gives you a level of brightness that enables you to see well enough to walk around the room. Task lighting is usually found in the kitchen and bathroom as well as reading areas. And, accent lighting is all about drama and design, like spotlighting a favorite art piece or potted plant.
These are not strict categories. A light fixture can satisfy more than one of the three categories. For example, a table chandelier with directional spotlights provides both ambient lighting to the room along with task lighting for doing homework or playing games. Accent lighting such as a wall sconce may both illuminate an architectural detail and contribute to the ambient lighting.
Unless your home is very old, you won’t have to break open walls to put in more lighting. The easiest way to start is by adding lamps. If you have existing overhead single center fixtures, a very handy do-it-yourself type or an electrician can install a contemporary pendant style fixture or a track light for more illumination. If you want to add a little nighttime drama to a room, have the electrician add dimmers to some of the existing switches.
The trends in lighting are varied from the traditional to the modern, and available in a variety of finishes and materials. You may want to choose designs with a certain style or mix fixtures for an eclectic look. With all of the options available, you’ll have fun finding something to match your décor. There are so many great choices in lighting fixtures and products at a variety of prices that I’m sure you’ll find fun ways to bring more light into your home.