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Lighting Without Breaking the Bank

Updated: Oct 24, 2019

The Right Lighting Can Make a Room.

All too often the first thing that pops into my head when I enter a potential client’s home is “Lights, camera, action!” FYI, that’s not a good thing. The lights in their home are so bright that I feel like I should break out my song and dance routine (not pretty, I assure you). Proper and effective lighting is the most cost-effective and easiest way to dramatically make a difference in your home. With the flick of a switch (literally), the mood of your room goes from stage bright to warm and inviting.

Dimmers – Mood Setter and Match Maker

How important are dimmers to me? Just ask my husband Jack how many rooms should have dimmers. Without missing a beat, he will say every room. In fact, one of the first questions I asked when we first started dating was whether or not he knew how to install dimmers. Romantic, right? Today every room in our home has dimmers – all installed by my best guy Jack!

To achieve an immediate interior change in a room, dimmers really are the way to go. Not only do they provide great ambience lighting, they really do save on energy. Today’s dimmers use something called a TRIAC Switch. When dimmed, these switches cut the flow of power to a light fixture up to 120 times a second. Unlike the old rotary dimmers, they convert the energy that’s being sent to the light but not being used into heat. Diming your lights an average of 50 percent of the time can cut your electric use by 40 percent and extend the life of your bulbs by 20 percent. An easy way to transform my home and save money? I’m sold!

It took Jack a bit longer to come around to the idea though. When I asked him to change all our bathroom lights over to dimmers, he gave that patronizing ‘are you crazy’ look. But why not? Beyond installing fixtures and tile, bathrooms are often forgotten in the interior design process. That’s a shame because it’s one of the rooms your family uses the most, and at some point, all of your guests will see it – in a private and distraction-free moment. Since bright light isn’t necessary to ‘do our business,’ why not improve the mood of this room as well? For the record, after the umpteenth complement on our half-bath and a comparison of old and new electric bills, Jack became a believer. See how much you can save in your home by using a dimming system at

One important thing I would be remiss to not mention about dimmers – all of today’s dimmers are warm when the lights are on. But if the dimmer is hot to the touch, stop using it and immediately consult with an electrician.

Accent Lighting – A Decorator’s Best Friend

While we’re on the subject of lighting I would be remiss not to mention the unlimited potential and possibilities that accent lighting can provide. Also called object lighting, accent lighting is the effective positioning and angling of light to feature a specific element in a home. If you have a piece of art, plant or architectural element that you want noticed, accent lighting will make it instantly become the focal point of the area. When working with clients on a new home build or remodel, I start with focal points and lighting for those areas. Everything else falls into place.

There are many different fixtures that you can use to deliver general accent lighting. An ‘eyeball’ recessed light is the most commonly used fixture to achieve this effect. The rule of thumb for eyeball lights is to position the fixture at a 30% degree angle from the vertical object, ensuring the light will strike the wall not the floor. These fixtures are available in three-inch, four-inch, and six-inch diameters. The bigger your accent area, the wider your accent light needs to be.

The rules for proper distance between the light fixture and the wall/accent area are a bit trickier. I’ve included common ceiling heights and proper distances in this article. Keep this information handy if you’re embarking on an installation project.

A Girl’s got to have Options

Back to dimmers for a minute. Another quick way to update and refresh your home using lighting is to remove the fluorescent lights under your kitchen cabinets. I recommend flexible and dimmable LED lighting strips. These are very easy to install and can be found at your local hardware store. This one-day project (or just a few hours for ‘Super Jack!’) will add instant charm to your kitchen without the remodel price tag.

And don’t forget about lamp dimmers. They can also be found in any hardware store and look similar to extension cords. Although these types of dimmers don’t have any energy savings, they can extend the life of your bulbs. I have dimmers for my living room lamp and both of my bedroom nightstand lamps. My last thought on dimmers (if you haven’t figured it out by now, I have a passionate love fordimmers!) – I’ll reiterate the suggestion I made in my Holiday Decorating Made Easy and Memorable article. Add a whole new dimension to any of your holiday greenery that incorporates lights by using a dimmer. This includes your Christmas tree, staircase or mantle garland. A dimmer will place the focus on the ornaments rather than the lights.

Happy Dimming,


Placement is sooo important


Ceiling height

Distance Wall to Fixture or Fixture to Wall

8ft ____ 20”

9ft ____ 27”

10ft ____ 33”

11ft _____ 40”

12ft _____ 48”

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