Rooms need different kinds of lighting

"Back to basics" seems to be the interior-design buzz term for the '90s. The fashionable approach these days is to simplify, simplify, simplify.

But there's one area of home furnishings that I doubt will ever go back to basics. That's because innovations in lighting techniques and fixtures have been so useful that hardly anyone will want to return to candles or to shaded lamps with incandescent bulbs.


Actually, there may still be a limited demand for those most flattering of light sources. Because of their golden glow and dim emissions, they're perfect for intimate dinners and cozy conversations. But for reading and almost any other kind of activity, it's better to rely on modern technology.

In fact, a well-lit room ought to have multifunctional lighting from a number of sources. Ambient, or overall, lighting is essential, and can usually be best achieved through traditional fixtures such as floor lamps, torchiers and table lamps. Task lighting is vital as well. And it can be produced relatively easily, with an adjustable light source placed close to a particular work area.


A sophisticated setting will also include special types of lighting that bathe entire walls and accentuate art and objects. The problem today is not in locating such fixtures, which are readily available in all sorts of models, but in making cost-effective choices.

Don't make the common mistake of assuming that a room has to be brightly lit to be well lit. High wattages in every fixture aren't at all necessary, and will actually detract from a room's appearance by creating glare, flattening surfaces and negating textures and color contrasts. Like the noonday sun, bright interior lighting is wisely avoided.

Caution should also be exercised in purchasing a lamp touted as multipurpose. For example, a recessed ceiling light will almost certainly not be suitable for reading, regardless of whatever claims are made. And don't expect track lighting to do the job of a desktop task lamp.

Users of either traditional office equipment or the latest in personal computers will be able to find plenty of new fixtures that reduce glare and facilitate reading and writing. Two

examples are shown in the photos. Both these lamps are from the Luxo Corp., one of the most reliable manufacturers of office and industrial lighting. Its products are so good that they've begun to show up in homes as well.

"Jac," photographed against a white background, is an adjustable compact-fluorescent task lamp designed specifically for use alongside desktop computer terminals. "System-2" can be mounted on a wall or placed on a desk. This general-pur

pose task lamp features a halogen bulb and a foldable swing arm.

Almost any kind of styling is suitable for such lighting devices. But because of their high-tech properties, they usually have a futuristic look, complete with sleek lines and flashy surfaces. Don't think they're inappropriate for a traditional setting. I've seen many elegantly appointed rooms where the most up-to-date lighting fixtures are situated alongside antique furnishings.