When it comes to lighting, not all furnishings are created equal.
Take a look around your room right now. What do you see?
I’m being lazy and writing this on a laptop in my living room, so the first things I see are a fabric couch (sort of maroon coloured, still not sure why I chose that), an old wooden trunk we use as a coffee table, a grey rug, and dark textured wallpaper with butterflies on it. The butterflies are in lots of different colours, but predominantly red, blue and gold.
The first thing I’m thinking?
It’s time to spruce things up and buy some new furnishings at Oliver Lamps!
I’m adding that to my ‘To Do’ list.
The second thing I’m thinking?
If I look carefully, I can see how the light complements each of those different materials and surfaces very differently.
If you’re doing this with me, looking at your own living space, I bet you’re probably noticing that too.
Why does light behave in different ways with different materials?
Think ‘Transparent’, ‘Translucent’, and ‘Opaque’.
We all know that materials we can see through are called ‘transparent’. That’s because they transmit light, like the clear glass in the living room window.
Materials that transmit some light, but you can’t see through them clearly, are called ‘translucent’ like the frosted glass in the bathroom window.
Materials that absorb (block) light are called ‘opaque’. Because the light can’t pass through them, opaque materials create shadows. All the furnishings I’m looking at right now are opaque, including the fabric that’s covering the couch.
When a material absorbs light, it’s changing the light energy to heat energy. There’s currently sun coming through the window (or more likely a UFO, considering the summer we’ve had so far), and the sunlight is warming the arm of the couch. The sunlight is also reflecting off the texture and colours in the wallpaper and causing small shadows. Because the wallpaper is dark with a rough surface, it’s absorbing more of the sunlight than the grey rug. If I touch the wallpaper, that will be warm too.
That’s because light behaves in different ways with different materials.
Ever wondered why the sky is blue?
That’s because the light from the sun is made up of all the colours in the rainbow. As it hits all the different particles that make up our atmosphere, the light scatters in every direction. Blue light has a shorter wavelength than red light, so it scatters much more than red light does. When we look at the sky, we’re looking at all the places that blue light is scattering from.
In which case, when I look at the blue sky, why are the clouds white?
The clouds are white because the water droplets inside the clouds are much larger than the wavelengths of sunlight passing through them. That means the sunlight scatters differently through the large water droplets than it does through the microscopic particles of nitrogen and oxygen in our atmosphere, and so the clouds appear white.
Cool. Thanks for the science lesson, but what does all this have to do with my furnishings?
Because when you understand how light works on different materials, it’s much easier to pair your lighting and furnishings together to create the perfect ambience.
Every room should have a mix of lighting, including overhead, accent and task lights. The right combination of lighting can lift our mood, give us more energy, relax us, or make us more productive. That’s what makes light such a powerful thing.
For example, using downlighting in your living room gives a gentle wash to your walls and curtains, and the textures of those materials make the brightness feel warmer. Tonight, close the curtains, plug in a floor lamp, and see how the soft light that bounces off the ceiling gives those textures and shadows a cosier feeling.
Every room in our house is made up of different furnishings and materials. In the case of a living room, when we create a contrast between the light at the centre of the room and the light around the room’s edges, the interplay between dark and light gives the room life. Without it, everything looks dull and boring. Creating that interplay between dark and light isn’t hard to do. You just have to look at your furnishings and the layout of your room very carefully.
It’s the same in a bedroom. A bedroom should be calming and restful, but if the overhead light or bedside lights are glaring, or reflect off objects that bounce the light back into our eyes, it’s not a relaxing effect. Think about what your bedroom lights are doing. Think about the material and colour of your light shades and how your lights are positioned. Installing discreet up-lights in the corners of the bedroom can work great.
Have you got an empty corner in your living room or bedroom or a space on the perimeter of the room that just looks awkward because you don’t know what to do with it?
A trick that a lot of interior designer’s use is to transform that space with an oversized floor lamp. When you choose a lamp that complements the surrounding area (in other words, don’t just bring in a lamp from the garage and hope it will work!), that lost and empty corner will instantly become part of your room design.
A quick tip about lamp shades
A lampshade does two things. It protects our eyes from the glare of the light bulb and directs the bulb’s light into the room. Lampshades come in different materials. For example, a common type of lampshade for a floor lamp uses loosely weaved cloth or paper to block light horizontally.
There are three common types of lampshade assemblies – Spider, Uno, and Clip-On. These assemblies (especially clip-on) often create shadows and hot spots because of the kind of clips the manufacturers use. An excellent way to eliminate these is by using frosted or soft-white bulbs.
Also, make sure you position the lampshade so that it’s straight and its seams are hidden.
We hope that our very brief crash course on lighting and furnishings has given you plenty to think about! If you’ve got any questions, just drop us an email or comment on our Facebook page, and we’ll do our very best to answer them for you.
In the meantime, don’t forget that we always have a superb range of lighting and soft furnishings at Oliver Lamps. Why not pop into our shop to see them for yourself?
See you again soon!