Lighting is an important design element in any interior, and correct application can add tremendous character to a home.
In most properties, the lighting follows a generic layout consisting of ceiling and wall fixtures and perhaps a solitary pendant. Modifying this can be a frustrating endeavour. With so many limitations, tenants and homeowners often end up ignoring the ceiling fixtures. However, successful interiors use a combination of lighting types to avoid looking institutional, so it is advisable to consider options.
Lighting can be divided into three categories: architectural (recessed fixtures), decorative (surface mounted) and accent (such as a floor or table lamp). Every type of fixture has a purpose that may include general illumination or highlighting an important detail.
To my dismay, there is very little opportunity to modify the existing lighting in my apartment. The tile ceiling in the dining area lacks a place to install a pendant lamp. The ceiling fixtures in the lounge and bedroom resemble tiny UFOs and do nothing more than cast a general, inadequate glow.
I replaced the two living room fixtures with small, inexpensive, surface-mounted spotlights aimed at the wall over my sofa, where I will eventually hang artwork, and on my coffee table, where I have stacked art books and small decorative items. This draws the eye to an interesting composition and colourful objects. For accent lighting, I have a modernist-inspired floor lamp at one side of the sofa and a sculptural Tizio table lamp on the other.
In the bedroom, the lighting needs to serve multiple functions, from general illumination to lighting clothing in a wardrobe, so I installed an affordable white track fixture with multiple heads to position as needed. For a task light on the desk that doubles as my bedside lamp, I used my budget surplus to invest in a Louis Poulsen PH3/2. Although a somewhat expensive acquisition, it is essentially a piece of modern sculpture I will use every day and have for the rest of my life.
I would be remiss if I didn't mention the importance of lighting controls. For the fixtures I retrofitted, I also replaced the wall switches with dimmers. These devices allow for the control of the light level, which can dramatically affect the mood in a room. Dimmers also extend the life of a light bulb and use less energy.
With numerous suppliers in the UAE, from speciality lighting stores to furniture showrooms, I encourage front-end research to find photos of desired fixtures. A handy web resource is www.lightology.com.
Robert Reid is a professor of architecture, art and design at the American University of Sharjah.