Mood Lighting

Mood Creating Aspects of Lighting

Skillful application of lighting can, more than any other element in the architectural environment, affect the experience of the viewer. Light is an element of design which should be used not only for visual comfort but also to achieve predetermined emotional responses from the lighted environment.Mood lighting is a useful tool to achieve the right level of visual comfort.

Through the use of lighting patterns of varying levels of illumination, and of color in the light source and the illuminated object, it is possible to produce certain moods such as solemnity, restfulness, gaiety, activity, warmth, and coolness. The lamps themselves can be used to dramatize elements of interior design-line, form, color, pattern, and texture.

Higher levels of lighting generally produce cheerful effects and stimulate people to alertness and activity, whereas lower levels tend to create an atmosphere of relaxation, intimacy, and restfulness.

Lighting also can be “soft” or “hard.” Soft lighting is diffused light that minimizes harsh shadows and provides a more relaxing and less visually compelling atmosphere. Too much diffused lighting lacks in interest and can make a room dull looking. Careful use of “hard” or direct lighting can provide highlights and shadows, model form, and emphasize texture. Usually, direct lighting is not used as a primary source of illumination, but rather as a supplement. The shine of metal, reflections of crystal, rich texture of other materials, create a sense of aliveness in an environment.

Creating an Atmosphere

Colored lighting can enhance an atmosphere. Certainly color lights are heavily used in stage sets to create moods. In a home, however, they should be applied with much restraint, and be much less intense or saturated. When overdone, colored lights destroy the appearance of materials and people’s coloring. A case in point: rosy-tinted lamps can flatter, but red lights wash out the redness of lips and cheeks and undo the flattering effect, as can be noted in some nightclubs.

To design a more solemn atmosphere, try using subdued patterns of light but do emphasize dramatic points in the room to avoid a monotonous effect. Use color sparingly.

To achieve a restful effect, use low brightness patterns, no visible light sources, subdued color, dark upper ceiling, low wall brightness. By way of contrast, to develop a sense of alertness and activity, employ high levels of illumination with lighting focused over specific tasks or areas.

For imparting a sense of warmth, use colors at the red end of the spectrum: pink, orange, amber, yellow. And for coolness, use colors at the cool end such as violet, blue, and green. Be aware that blue, blue-green and green detract from the human complexion and, when used indiscriminately, produce ghastly effects.

For a mood of gaiety, utilize higher levels of illumination, perhaps with kinetic lighting elements. Positioning lighting fixtures so that rhythms are created by light and shadow, reflections and diffusions, can impart an active dynamic effect to the atmosphere.

One cannot, when dealing with light and thinking about the mood effects of light, discount its relationship to color. Light and color are basic human needs. Both are necessary for sound mental health. Deprivation can be harmful.

Producing a Mood with Lighting

Light also is life-giving basic energy for any organic existence. And it affects the rhythmic processes of life; our biological clocks. Man has evolved to perform under eight hours of daylight and sixteen hours of incidental light and near-darkness.

So the room to which we retire, be it a bedroom or living room, should have built into the lamp designs lights that emit low levels of illumination. This produces a quiet mood. One extreme experience comes to mind. After leaving the clattering, noisy subway and passing through a doorway that leads directly from the subway to Rockefeller Center, one enters a black marble area where there is dim lighting.

The immediate effect is startling because people tend to suddenly lower their voices to a whisper after competing at shouting levels a moment before. This effect was designed into the environment through the mood created by light and color that induces a hushed, quiet atmosphere.

By way of contrast, to develop a celebrating mood, or a sunny, joyous mood, the sparkle of reflections from objects and bright lights helps to make light of an environment. On the other hand, for a romantic environment, one would employ low levels of lights, tinted on the warm side so that light flatters as it modulates our face and form, much like the feeling one gets when entering a candle lighted room.

The positioning of lights affects the modeling of forms. Side lighting intensifies modeling; front lighting flattens it. Light affects not only the surface and structure but the ambiance.


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