Football season is here and baseball playoffs are just around the corner, which means it is also time to get your entertainment area in shape for family and guests. Whether your TV is in your family room or a dedicated media room, be sure everyone’s viewing experience is optimized with the right lighting. According to the American Lighting Association (ALA), it takes more than just a big TV to get the most enjoyment out of your viewing experience. Good lighting can significantly enhance movies and sports watching, while poor lighting can be a distraction to relaxing family time.
“The affordability and popularity of big-screen TVs, high-quality sound and home entertainment systems has created many opportunities for using specialized lighting to enhance the experience,” says architect Joe Rey-Barreau, education consultant for the ALA and an associate professor at the University of Kentucky’s School of Interior Design.
Fortunately, you can improve the lighting in your media room. To get started, ALA offers these easy-to-do media room lighting tips.
1. Consider reflection. If you’ve got a big TV, you’ve got a big surface that acts as a reflector. “Because your point of vision is at a much larger object, more light will affect it more than if it were a smaller TV,” says Maria Scutaro, President, Feiss-Monte Carlo. A bigger screen equals more bounce, particularly with overhead light sources.
Focus on ambient light more than direct light. A large source of overhead light will cause more glare, which is why ambient or task light—side lights, sconces—should be a big focus. “Light coming straight down is harsh and interfering,” says Scutaro. “You need to diffuse it and spread it out more, and you want more light on the walls than you do on the ceiling.”
2. Dim it. Most people turn the lights off when watching a movie. You need some lighting to create a balance, so the TV is not the single glowing source. Ideally, install an integrated dimming system that controls all the lights from one location. “The beauty of an integrated dimming system is that it can be controlled with one remote control, so that the lighting can be adjusted with the same ease as your cable TV and entertainment systems,” says Rey-Barreau.
3. Light the room in layers. To be properly lit, rooms should have three layers—overhead, task, ambient. This allows you to have the exact mix of light that works for a particular time, day and need. The ideal lighting for the entire family to watch a full-length movie in the evening might be with the recessed lighting turned off and the decorative ceiling lighting and wall sconces dimmed to a low level. “If the kids are watching cartoons or playing video games, turn the recessed lighting to the maximum output, and turn off the decorative lighting,” says Rey-Barreau. “For sports watching, the recessed lighting should be turned down 50 percent, while the sconces and ceiling fixture should be turned off or dimmed to a low level.”
4. Reduce glare when you can. The amount of natural light can compete with lighting sources and also with successful viewing of programming and sporting events. Reduce it when you can with window treatments, and allow artificial light sources to supplement as needed.
Most importantly, whatever your style, there are beautiful decorative lights that can complement the décor and, in the long run, are as important to comfort as a cushy sectional sofa. “Your media room can be anything you want it to be style wise and you can get the right kind of lighting for it by thinking about it early and talking to a lighting professional.
Visit your local ALA-member retail showroom to see the newest products and to talk to an expert about media room lighting that is most appropriate and energy efficient for your space.