Creating the Illusion of Space with Light
Do your rooms look and feel way too cramped? Would you like a more spacious living environment, either for yourself or potential homebuyers? Fortunately, you can create the impression of more space — without expensive room enlargements or mirrored walls. The key is proper light.
As the term suggests, light distribution is the projected pattern of illumination that a bulb or fixture disperses onto a given object or surface. Since brightness contributes to the impression of spaciousness, ideal light distribution patterns are those that create a sufficiently bright environment. This requires distributing light equally across all surfaces, thereby minimizing shadows and maximizing the sensation of roominess.
To create equal light distribution, designers often implement a technique called light layering. Based on the notion that no single illumination source is enough to get the job done, light layering utilizes multiple light sources to produce a desired effect. For bright, space-enhancing illumination, light layering strategies create even, ambient illumination in a given environment. Often used for this purpose are a combination of downlights, pendants, cove lighting, and wall washing.
Expanding Space with Color
Reflected light contributes largely to brightness and, therefore, spaciousness – the more illumination bouncing off of surfaces, the brighter the environment. Hence, anything that promotes light reflectivity is an efficient ‘space expander’.
White surfaces are among the best reflectivity enhancers, as this color absorbs the least and reflects the largest quantities of light. Based on this scientific fact, space-conscious individuals should employ white and pale (white-saturated) color schemes on walls to the greatest possible extent. Along with white, shades such as pale green and pale blue are excellent choices. The dark blue walls may be trendy on Pinterest right now, but light-absorbing like this will turn a small room into a closet.
Shine Where You Walk
Flooring also can provide reflective advantages. Light bounces wonderfully off of floors with a rich, gloss finish, adding space-enhancing brightness to a room. Carpeting, particularly the thick kind, will work against you – that layer of polypropylene, nylon, or polyester absorbs rather than reflects light. Even throw rugs and mats will swallow up precious illumination.
Accent lighting generally is not recommended when space expansion is desired – this type of illumination will throw unwanted shadows into a room, thereby dimming rather than brightening. There is, however, one type of accent lighting that can help expand spaces – backlighting. Backlighting is the technique of fixing a light source behind a particular object (such as a sculpture), thereby creating the impression of greater depth. Optimal spots for this type of lighting are alcoves, below cabinets, underneath furniture, behind screens, and beneath steps.
While many types of lighting solutions are suitable for space-enhancement, LEDs have proven the most promising. LEDs not only maintain their brightness levels longer than conventional bulbs, they offer the most precise light distribution.