Milwaukee/NARI Sheds Light on Fixtures in the Home

Nov. 9, 2011

From sconces to under-cabinet fixtures, there are many options when it comes to lighting a space. According to members of the Milwaukee/NARI Home Improvement Council, Inc., celebrating 50 years as the area’s leading home improvement and remodeling resource, it’s important to consider how a space will be used and select the optimal fixture for a homeowner’s needs.


Types of lighting include ambient, task, and accent.


Giving a space a uniform light level, ambient lighting is typically a room’s main source of illumination. “Ambient lighting contributes to the overall feel of the room. It is general lighting,” said Diane Nelson of Diane Nelson Interiors in Wauwatosa.


Task lighting helps individuals perform specific jobs, such as reading, preparing food, playing games, participating in a hobby, and more. “Task lighting is important for spaces in the house that need additional light, such as the family room, home office, or kitchen,” Nelson said.


Accent lighting adds drama to a room. It is used to highlight or draw attention to a particular object or detail – wall art, plants, sculptures, bookcases, and architectural elements.


Types of Light Fixtures


Recessed. Great for rooms with low ceilings, basements, and hallways, recessed lights are installed flush with the ceiling. “Recessed lighting is ideal because it doesn’t obstruct the space,” said Heather Scott, owner of Heather Scott Designs in Brookfield. It can be used for ambient, task, or accent lighting.


Chandeliers. Adding style to a room, chandeliers are traditionally used in the dining room over a table or in foyers. Hung 30 to 32 inches above the surface of the table, chandeliers provide ambient lighting.


Ceiling. Supplying ambient lighting, this type of fixture is attached directly to the ceiling and is practical for high-activity areas such as hallways, bedrooms, laundry rooms, dens, and more.


Wall sconces. These are perfect for hallways, home theaters, and foyers, and they are a form of ambient and task lighting.


Lamps. Table lamps, floor lamps, and other portable lighting offer illumination for tasks, such as reading, that require more light than the general glow in a room.


Under-cabinet fixtures. Mounted under kitchen cabinets, this fixture delivers task lighting for a kitchen countertop. “Under-cabinet lights can also provide accent lighting to highlight the cabinets or a decorative backsplash,” said Nelson.


Track lighting. Mounted or suspended from the ceiling, track lighting contains adjustable heads that can be used as accent or task lighting.


Pendants. “Pendants are typically seen over an island or table,” said Trish Johnson of Trish Johnson Interiors in Delafield. “They bring the light down to the surface where a person is working and add style to a space.” Pendants are suspended from the ceiling and provide task and ambient lighting.


Lighting Tips


Choosing light fixtures requires planning. “Plan for lighting, especially ambient lighting. It is more difficult to add ambient lighting later than it is to add other forms,” said Nelson. During the planning process, consider how the space will be used. For instance, if it’s a room where people will work on a hobby, they should plan how task lighting will be implemented into the space.


Layering is another essential concept. “In a bathroom, it’s important to use different types of light,” said Scott. “A person will want ambient lighting from above and behind them. Task lighting, used for applying makeup or shaving, will be located in front of the individual with a sconce or vanity light. This will prevent shadows.” Layering should be done in rooms where a variety of activities take place, including bathrooms, kitchens, and family rooms. Each layer serves a different purpose and adds dimension to a space.


Homeowners should pay attention to detail and have fun with design. Nelson explained, “When choosing fixtures, it is important to consider the style of the home and finishes – brushed nickel, bronze, and more.” Light fixtures should tie into the other design elements of the space and show the homeowners’ personality. “Don’t be afraid to get creative,” Johnson added. “Stay within the style of the room, but use fixtures that are eclectic. They don’t have to be from the same place or match one another.”


The Milwaukee/NARI Home Improvement Council was chartered in July 1961, as a Chapter of the National Home Improvement Council. In May of 1982, the National Home Improvement Council merged with the National Remodelers Association to form NARI - the National Association of the Remodeling Industry.


The Council's goals of encouraging ethical conduct, professionalism, and sound business practices in the remodeling industry have led to the remodeling industry's growth and made NARI a recognized authority in that industry. With over 800 members, the Milwaukee Chapter is the nation's largest.


For more information or to receive a free copy of an annual membership roster listing all members alphabetically and by category, and the booklet, “Milwaukee/NARI's Remodeling Guide,” call 414-771-4071 or visit the Council’s Web site at

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