If you’re restoring a historical home with board requirements or simply trying to keep the feel of a period home, you may feel stumped when it comes to home lighting design. Despite your desire for authenticity, there’s no denying the fact that lighting technology has become so much more advanced in the last 15 years.
With a hundred-year-old home or older, you may have discovered that even the electrical service was a later add-on. And even if 1940s electrical wiring and fixtures were an improvement over dangerous gas lamps, the advantages of 21st-century technology make using anything else a poor decision.
LED is on the Frontlines of Home “Greening”
LED lighting has really made a breakthrough in energy conservation, as well as lamp efficiency and lifespan. Advances in the last five years alone mean that homeowners can affordably light their homes in comfort while saving so much money in electrical service.
Even CFL lighting is considered passe. Homeowners can even purchase LED “filament” bulbs that look every bit as authentic as an old Edison light bulb for their period home.
Calculating Home Lighting Needs
Depending on the room, you’re going to want to lay out a plan for home lighting according to the lumens provided by the fixtures and the areas you need lit for certain tasks. You’ll need the most flexibility in areas like living rooms and family rooms, where the need for lighting changes throughout the day. The need for lighting even changes by what part of the room is occupied. You may want spotlighting near reading chairs and desks. Dimmable lighting for even TV watching or entertaining is often preferred.
Kitchens and utility rooms need brighter lighting than other rooms. Particularly kitchens, where family members are moving throughout from cabinets to refrigerators to counters to stoves. Many homeowners prefer a well-lit kitchen, since they’re more comfortable to work in.
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The term “lumens” is the measurement of visible light from a fixture. There are two ways to measure light as it’s used, however. Like other measurement systems, there is a metric system (expressed in lux) and an imperial system (measured in foot-candles).
- 1 Lux = 1 lumen/square meter
- 1 Foot-candle = 1 lumen/square foot
There are standard recommended light levels for different rooms and needs, expressed both in lux and foot-candles. Homeowners should consider light needs in each space. Multiply the area you’re lighting by the lux or foot-candles to determine lighting needs.
In the industry, the term “lamp” refers to the bulb providing the light. The term “fixture” refers to the base that holds the lamp and supplies energy. There are a number of different types of lamps available for a home lighting system.
- Incandescent lamps
- Compact fluorescent lamps (CFL)
- Metal Halide
- Light Emitting Diodes (LED)
- High-intensity discharge lamps
- Low-pressure sodium lamps
The most common lamp types found in residential interiors are incandescent, CFL, LED, and fluorescent lamps. They all have their advantages and disadvantages:
- Incandescent lamps (bulbs) are cheap and still easy to find. They’re not energy efficient, however, and they create heat.
- Halogen lamps were very popular for a short time. They provide a great deal of light that is as close to natural sunlight as possible. Unfortunately, they also put out a great deal of heat and are expensive.
- Fluorescent lamps are cold and flat, but they’re very cheap and commonly used in kitchens, utility rooms and workshops.
- CFLs use much less power than fluorescent bulbs, but have developed a bad reputation. They contain small amounts of mercury, so must be handled with care. Some people complain that the put off fumes that cause headaches. Although there isn’t any solid proof of them causing harm, some sensitive people have discarded them to return to incandescents despite the energy savings.
- LEDs seem to be the growing market. New technologies have made LEDs suitable for home use, from engineered diode arrangements and diffusers to provide whole-room lighting to techniques for providing a warmer colored lamp. The prices are also dropping rapidly. Manufacturers have developed LED “bulbs” that fit into a standard light fixture and provide the same color and spread as an incandescent bulb.
Finding the Right Light Fixtures for a Historical Home
Once you have created a home lighting plan that will meet your needs, you’ll need to find light fixtures that will fit into your décor scheme. This is easier than you think, even when fitting out a period home. There are a number of light fixture manufacturers that produce historical reproductions of classic forms.
Antique Reproduction and Restoration
For registered historic homes, owners may choose to have antique lights restored or reproduced in exact detail. Requirements can vary from one region to the next, so consult with your organization’s requirements. Although in no way the cheaper way to go, a restored original fixture or exact replica may preserve the home’s value, both historically and financially.
Ball and Ball
Ball and Ball specializes in the historical reproduction of 18th-century hardware through the Victorian era. They boast the ability to reproduce period fixtures according to current UL codes in period-authentic materials. They can also repair and refinish original lighting fixtures.
St. Louis Antique Lighting Company
St. Louis has a grand tradition of keeping and restoring historic homes and districts. So, the St. Louis Antique Lighting Company is properly placed with a worldwide reputation. They restore antique fixtures for both residential and public use. They also provide consultations for determining a lighting plan for historic restorations. With a library of over 3,000 historical designs, they also reproduce light fixtures on custom order.
Aurora Lampworks provides both antique restoration as well as historical replication. They can also retrofit European light fixtures for U.S. electrical wiring and codes. In addition, they can also retrofit antique light fixtures for LED use.
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Period Style Lighting Fixtures
For period style homes without historical society guidelines or a stricter renovation budget, period design light fixtures can provide the same style and old-fashioned ambiance for a much lower price. Especially if the original lighting fixtures are missing and unknown, or the interior design style planned isn’t exact to the period of construction.
Although Lamps Plus doesn’t specialize in reproductions, the styles provided range from traditional to modern. Shoppers can search by styles that include Arts and Crafts, Tiffany, and Mid-century, which should fit in most American homes. Lamps Plus also has a wide range of landscape and party lights for outdoor entertaining. Best of all, these lights feature the same design styles as the interior lines for uniformity both inside and out.
Rejuvenation features vintage and antique reproduction light fixtures in a wide range of styles. Arts and Crafts and Mid-century styles are joined by Classic Revival, Art Nouveau, Art Deco, even Romantic and Gothic style light fixtures. Despite the lack of historical authenticity, Rejuvenation’s attention to detail and the creative vision behind their designs is simply inspiring.
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Whether your home is a bona fide registered historical building or just a beautiful period home, you’ll want to keep all the charm and beauty without losing out on modern lighting technology. Creating a lighting plan is the first step. After mapping out light requirements in your home and determining placement, you can shop for appropriate fixtures and lamps that meet those needs. Antique restoration and custom fixture fabrication can be expensive. Luckily, homeowners can also find modern fixtures that will fit in with their home’s décor perfectly.
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