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Best Lighting for Your Home

Ready to light the way? These home lighting ideas can help you optimize how your home is lit.


Multiple light sources are especially important in the bathroom. "Ideally, you want light from three sides -- from above and from either side of the mirror," says Doreen Le May Madden, owner of Lux Lighting Design in Belmont, Mass. "Make sure you have enough light to subtly fill in the shadows on your face. And you want to make sure the fixture is a type that shields the bulb from your sight, to reduce glare."

Task lighting is essential. In addition to overhead and "up" lights, it's generally a good idea to have task lights to direct light precisely where it's needed, for reading, cooking, and hobbies. To reduce glare, get a fixture with a shielded bulb -- or position the light so the bulb is out of your line of sight.


If you like to read in bed but worry about keeping your partner awake, consider a dual light fixture placed above the center of the headboard. By allowing light to be directed only toward your side of the bed, such a fixture often works better than having one lamp on either side of the bed. Make sure the shade is opaque, so that light does not illuminate other parts of the bedroom.


Backup lights can help keep you safe. To cope with power outages, one flashlight is good, but more is better. "Ideally, you want several LED flashlights," says Rizzo. "They're longer-lived than flashlights with incandescent bulbs." It's also a good idea to have battery-powered emergency lights.


Nightlights can help -- sometimes. It's best to sleep in total darkness, experts say, because light exposure can limit your body's synthesis of the sleep hormone melatonin. If you wake up at night and need to get out of bed, it helps to have some strategically placed warm-color nightlights -- but the light they give off should be dim. You might have one by your bedroom door, another by the toilet, one in the hallway, etc. Your goal should be to see well enough to avoid hazards, without having to turn on a bright light. Exposure to bright light at night can make it hard for you to fall back asleep.


For outdoor security lighting, less is often more. A very bright outdoor light may make you feel safe from assailants, but experts say that it can actually compromise your safety. How? By interfering with your night vision. Better to have a dim light -- say, a 25- to 40-watt incandescent bulb -- so your eyes are able to make things out in dark areas in your yard, where an assailant might be hiding. Make sure the bulb is shielded, so glare is not a problem.


Motion-activated lights can help prevent burglaries, but be aware that pets and other animals as well as burglars can set them off. Exterior stairs and other potential hazards should be illuminated at night.

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