The inspiration for designs in your home can come from any place, and we need to keep our eyes open at all times. When you remember that form must always follow function, it can assist you in knowing where to look when you are working on various rooms. Clearly, your visits to restaurants are going to assist with your dining room ideas as well as what might happen at the kitchen table.
One of the important aspects of most every successful restaurant is the creation of mood through lighting. Generally larger restaurants are part of a computerized system that regulates the light though out the evening to create mood. In restaurants with higher ceilings, the drop fixtures offer a way to drop the ceiling visually so you don’t feel as though you are in as big a space; your chandelier is trying to create a sense of intimacy at the table.
In a residential application you want to have the light fixture between 32 and 36 inches above the table-top. It should be kept a relatively low intensity and should always be placed on a dimmer. The chandelier or drop fixture over the table should be augmented with other lighting fixtures, but you want them to all be relatively dim so that one doesn’t overpower the others.
You will see in a restaurant setting that often the art or architectural details are lighted with “wall wash” fixtures, which is a way of drawing attention to that particular fixture. In residential applications, the same is true. You may have a beloved piece of art, a mirror, or simply a brilliant wall covering that you want to feature. An art light over that painting will not only draw attention to the art but will also round out the lighting of the room.
The same is true of textural wall treatments and the addition of a light source to further enhance those features. Place the light source about eight to ten inches away from the wall and focus it back to the wall. These details can be mouldings, wallpapers in a combination of gloss and matte finishes, or a carved wave wall detail. The light source creates shadow and highlights to further pronounce the features. You may also want to have a couple of pot lights placed over the side board to detail the elements on it.
Now that you have a decorative fixture in the chandelier, task lighting in the wall wash, art lights and buffet lights, you want to add general lighting for the walkways. Restaurants have servers that need to see where they are going, and while you may not have service staff at home, someone will have to serve and need to see the pathway. Install pot lights to light the space between the back of the chairs and the wall. You may only need to install, say, four in total to create a well rounded space.
The final important reason to have good lighting is because the people using the room will look better (including the host) with light on their faces from several directions as opposed to one. Do you recall placing a flash light under your chin as a kid and the horror face it produced? With well rounded lights, you will have soft, younger looking details to your face and, frankly, high school was the last time most of us could deal with the harsh lighting of a cafeteria!