By Candis Meredith
After we’ve done the exterior and gotten the bulk of the structural work done on an old home restoration, lighting is one of my favorite projects. It can be a deceptively difficult challenge, too. You might not think about lighting being an issue if you’re used to working on houses built in the last twenty years or so, but with houses that are a hundred years old, things can be a little bit tricky.
First of all, before I get to the actual tips for choosing and installing lighting in a restoration or renovation, I have to talk a little bit about wiring. If you’re bringing a very old home back to life, it might not be wired for electric light, or the wiring might not be up to today’s codes. So, before you start looking for light fixtures, you’re going to have to rewire the whole house.
Make Sure Your Wiring Is In Place and Up to Code
Of course, that can put you in a catch-22 situation. Without new wiring, you won’t know where you can hang lights or what kinds of fixtures you can use. Without knowing what kinds of fixtures you want to use and where you want to hang them, you’re going to have trouble with your rewiring job.
So, when you start the project, go through the house and try to picture it as a finished product. Make a note of everywhere you think there needs to be a light fixture and what kind you think you’ll want to install. Then go through the house again with your electrician and point out where you want lighting, where you need outlets, etc. That way you won’t get stuck later on.
Do Some History Homework
When you start planning your light fixtures, don’t just go with the chandeliers and wall sconces that you think would look the best in each room. Instead, do a little bit of research on the architecture and interior design trends of the period when your home was built. If you’re lucky, you might even be able to get some photos of the house when it was first built and see what kinds of lights were used then.
Work With the Design of the House
In the time that Andy and I have been restoring houses together, I’ve found that the best solutions are almost always the most historically accurate ones. I’m not talking about lighting candles instead of hanging lights, but I am definitely talking about hanging lights that are designed to replicate the kinds of lanterns and lights used in your house when it was first built.
Think About Lighting Needs for Each Room
As you’re picking out fixtures, remember that you don’t have to light up every room like it’s noon on a summer’s day. Instead, think about the function of the lights in each room. In the dining room, everyone gathers around to eat at the table, so that’s where your light needs to focus. In the living room or family room, people will watch TV, read, play games, and lounge around in different areas, so you want more lighting across the whole room. In the bedroom, you want a cozy, warm feeling. You get the idea.
The more you think about what the lighting in each room really needs to accomplish and the more research you do on the kinds of lights that were used in your home when it was first built, the better idea you’ll have of what kinds of fixtures you’ll want to choose as you restore or renovate your home.