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Lighting Your Home

Lighting Your Home

Welcome to Second Nature, a Q+A series with Jute founder, Ali Davin, that explores all things healthy living, with a fond emphasis on that thing she does best—interior design.

When designing your home, lighting is probably one of the last things you think about. But it’s just as important as the structure, surfaces, and furnishings, if not more so. Light plays a huge role in the functionality and the mood of a space, as well as how you feel inside of it.

But light can do more than transform a space—it can also affect your health. Here’s how to enhance your lighting to help you feel more at home.


Why is lighting so emotional?

I’ve found that people don’t know they have strong feelings about lighting until we start talking about it. A lot of people have sensitivities to light, some have migraines that are triggered by certain kinds of light, others have mood disorders and prefer things to be bright. And a lot of people just hate exposed lightbulbs. Like, it bothers them to their core. There are a whole host of things that you can bring to the equation that make lighting personal.


How do you design around these preferences?

The exposed light aversion is a big one, so if that’s the case, you want the light source to be shaded—all of your lights need to have lampshades or a glass cover. Your ceiling fixture, which is usually required for building code, needs to have diffused light—you don’t want a chandelier with bulbs or anything modern or industrial-looking. Another important thing is where you want the light directed. I personally prefer lighting that glows and illuminates the space, but sometimes clients want it directed up or down, not toward them.


What’s your lighting philosophy?

Think of an older home that was built before electricity. The lighting was sparse but strategic so that you have enough light where you need it but not too much. You don’t need lighting on every single surface—it’s not necessary!


Are there any general rules about lighting?

Every county has lighting codes that you have to follow when you’re building. They tend to be very strict on the outside of the house. Inside, they frequently require overhead LED fixtures, and those can be very polarizing for people. But just because they have to be there doesn’t necessarily mean you have to turn them on.


What’s your favorite type of fixture?

We do a lot of sconces. Swing-arm sconces are very functional in the bedroom flanking a bed, especially if you like to read there—you can manipulate them more easily than table lamps. I love them on built-ins in the living room, library, office, or anywhere you have storage. We almost always put them in the bathroom too, on either side of the mirror versus above it. Sconces just give off a better glow.


What about table and floor lamps?

It’s a great idea to have a desk lamp right by your computer monitor—it’s much better for your eyesight, versus relying on a light source from the ceiling or, worse, from the monitor itself. You always want a table or floor lamp next to where you read or work, although it’s hard to get close enough to a table lamp in bed.


Is overhead lighting really that bad?

Not at all. It’s recessed overhead lighting that people tend to dislike. I use a lot of decorative ceiling fixtures with pretty lights. They work particularly well in a kitchen, where you want brighter light. In any room, you want light coming from different directions and different heights. It’s more functional and more flattering that way.


Is there anything you stay away from?

I do not understand under-cabinet lighting in the kitchen. For some reason it’s popular in America but nowhere else in the world. It’s not even functional—all it does is show you how dirty your countertops are. Just do a mixture of sconces and overhead lighting instead.


Varying light fixtures at different heights are a great idea.

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