With the debate tonight and Election Day a month away, I’m in a presidential state of mind. No matter who we choose to run the country for the next 4 years, he’s going to live in a stunning, immaculately lit home.
While much of the White House décor would overpower a regular-sized home, we can take away concepts from its lighting scheme to make our own dwellings more beautiful. Here are a few universal lighting principles carried out Washington-style:
Layer those lights! See: The China Room
While I was scrolling through photos on WhiteHouse.gov, I noted that every room had two, three, four different light sources. For instance, in the China Room created by First Lady Edith Wilson in 1917, there’s not only a beautiful chandelier for overhead lighting, but there are also wall sconces and even display lights in the china cabinets. This adds visual interest, eliminates unflattering shadows, and creates striking focal points.
Light layering is a flattering design strategy in any room in your house, but I chose The China Room so you could see how pretty it looks to have illuminated cabinets, hutches, shelves, and display cases. It might not be your first impulse to install a few linear or puck lights, but it’s really easy to do, and will make your cabinet’s contents and the entire room dazzle.
Know your color temperature. See: The State Dining Room
When we think of classic, traditional lighting, we often summon images of warm incandescent lights, as close to candle light as we can get. But, The State Dining Room shows us that cooler white light can be just as dignified. The daylight white light of the chandelier and sconces is unexpectedly cool, but it looks great! This color temperature is perfect to offset the clean white walls and crisp table cloths – a warmer light source may make things look too yellow.
The takeaway from this room is that warm white light isn’t always universally flattering. If you’re going for a fresh aesthetic with clean lines and light colors, a warm white light may make your room look dated or cheap. Try a color temperature between 4,500 and 6,000K for a modern, invigorating environment.
With a few recessed cans comes great potential. See: The Roosevelt Room
The Roosevelt Room is an all-purpose conference room in the west wing of the house, and the perfect illustration of the subtle impact of some well-placed recessed accent lights. On the far left wall, you can see how a few of these lights can make the entire thing pop, illuminating the artwork with a technique called wall washing. The two lights on the far right wall serve to spotlight a single painting.
Wall washing and spotlighting are just as easy to incorporate into our own homes. It adds yet another layer of light, and helps make our favorite artwork, architecture, and even wall treatments come alive. Installing a line of recessed lights along a wall will create an instant focal point out of your gallery or textured walls, and even bookcases! Spotlighting with a few well placed cans will accent special wall hangings, and even fireplaces. You can learn more about how to place recessed cans here.
Necessary natural light. See: The Grand Foyer
You can imagine how gloomy this large room might feel with no natural light, but the sunlight streaming through that large window perks it right up. Natural light is, after all, the most flattering anyway. The airy open feeling makes The Grand Foyer a perfect spot for the President and First Lady to greet their guests.
Bummed because you don’t have presidential-style windows at your place? Here’s a little trick: hang mirrors opposite what windows you do have, and double the amount of natural light you get.
Outdoor lighting for style (and safety). See: The North Portico
The lights that illuminate the White House’s exterior ensure it remains a beautiful site at all hours for whoever passes by. The uplights in the hedges make sure the beautiful landscaping doesn’t go unnoticed at night, and the lit fountain adds to its stately appearance. The thorough lighting also adds an extra security measure – you’d definitely be able to see if any funny business was going on.
The same goes for your home. A few well-placed uplights along your home’s exterior and in the yard can make it a majestic site for passersby, while deterring any ne’er-do-wells. If you prefer a mellower look at night, but don’t want to scrimp on safety, you can put your lights on a motion sensor to scare any intruders far away.
So, no matter who you’re voting for next month, we can all agree that the lighting design at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue offers beautiful, adaptable inspiration for all.