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Home Improvement Guide 2007
First things first
Before launching into any home improvement project you should carefully consider your motivations and goals.
First things first
Let there be light
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Lighting has gotten more sophisticated along with homeowners themselves. If you want to create great lighting, study the lighting treatments in a boutique hotel or a great upscale restaurant, says Lowell. They can be a great source of ideas because they know how to do it right, he says. "Their livelihood depends on it," Lowell says.

Today's homeowners are taking their cues from what they see when they go out to restaurants, clubs, galleries and hotels. "They want a template that doesn't look like where their parents live," says Lowell.

Some lighting options, such as recessed canned lights, blend into the background, while others are hidden behind sconces. Homeowners are using dimmer switches to flood a limited area with plenty of light for activities like cooking, reading or hobbies. They later turn the same lights down to create a softer mood for entertaining.

Some popular lighting solutions:

Pendant lights hang down on cords (hence the name) to create task lighting over specific areas. These are especially good for kitchens.

Chandeliers are not only for over the dining room table anymore. Stylish versions are showing up everywhere from the bathroom to the bedroom. From Southwestern wrought-iron designs to romantic Victorian models replete with faux crystal, chandeliers are becoming a popular way to decorate and add illumination. Combine them with a dimmer switch to give a range of light levels.

Recessed canned lights are installed in the ceiling -- although you can get great looks placing them around the floor in a room -- and provide task lighting. Install several in one area and they can provide a strong background of ambient light.

Under-counter lighting is popular in kitchens, both as task lighting and to highlight beautiful cabinets and countertops.

Track lighting, popular in the 1970s, has gotten its own makeover, and it's back in a big way, says Lowell. Today's tracks are available with bulbs almost as small as holiday lights or as large as you like. And track lighting can be bent or shaped to show off architectural details and really fit into a room. Want to make them invisible? Paint to match your ceiling and watch them disappear, says Lowell.

Sconce lighting is hot everywhere -- bathrooms, bedrooms, kitchens or dining rooms. Available in a variety of styles, sconces attach to walls and double as a finishing detail, much like crown molding or a chair railing, when the lights are off. Flip them on for a subtle glow that adds to ambient light or throws illumination on specific areas.

Spotlights have always been popular in galleries and restaurants. Now these are hot at home, too, as homeowners try to create a more sophisticated, urban look. Use them to show off points of interest, like art or cabinetry.

Want a really simple, relatively cheap do-it-yourself way to illuminate and decorate a room? Table lamps. "Table lamps are becoming the new art form," says Lowell. "For $125, you can get an absolutely beautiful piece of sculpture that puts task light where you need it."

-- Posted: April 4, 2007
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