Sunday, August 15, 2010

Creating a Healthy Nursery for your Baby (and the Planet!) - Part IV

Continuing with our insightful discussions with Claudia Kalur, a European interior decorator and founder of A Room for Frances, this week we are talking about eco-friendly Lighting. You can ask questions using the comments field here or on our Facebook page.

Lighting - Part IV
When deciding on lighting for the nursery (or any room, really), just think about the layout of your furniture and what tasks you will be performing where - this will tell you the kind of lighting (type of accent or ceiling) and how strong you will need it (task or ambiance lighting). However, when it comes to environmentally conscious lighting, whether you like using ceiling lights, or you're like me and prefer accent lighting - it is all about the bulbs!
While a few years ago, no matter how eco-conscious you wanted to be, the thought of using bright white fluorescent bulbs was enough to make you cringe, now there are endless options for softer or brighter lighting, less white or yellow, and in all sorts of tones that take your fancy. There are even bulbs that take only a few seconds to reach full power, instead of gradually, and now there are also dimming and 3-way switch fluorescent bulbs!
And seriously... there is no longer any excuse for anybody NOT to be using compact fluorescent light bulbs. Despite industry propaganda as to the modest mercury content of these bulbs, fluorescents are of modest risk even if broken but should be handled carefully none the less.  In fact, all sorts of fluorescents bulbs have been used for years (remember your school room?) and there was little industry concern of them until they became part of the greater trend towards energy conservation. Compared to incandescent bulbs, they now can emit a just as pretty light, they are dimmable (although these are more specialized and you may pay a bit more for a good dimming fluorescent), they are cheaper than ever, they last about 10 times longer, they save you 7 times as much energy (and money) and they produce about a 2000th of the carbon emissions. It's a no brainer!
As to what lighting goes where - I prefer accent lighting; it gives a cozier feeling, it is task oriented and you save energy by having smaller light bulbs on. We still have ceiling lights but I rarely use them. There are two table lamps in my daughter's nursery, each with a different wattage bulb, depending on the task that they perform: the one on the small table is for general lighting and ambiance, and has a warmer, yellower and weaker light; the lamp on the changing table is brighter and whiter (you want to be able to see what you're doing! To make it easier, if you can, have dedicated outlets for your accent lighting and place at least one switch by the entrance to the room. Another fundamental change is the use of dimmers - once you've used them, you will see how rarely you really need a full blast of light!
Lastly but not least - vintage lamps are a great way of being sustainable and they add so much character to any room (just make sure your wiring is new and safe!). Try also craigslist, fairs, eBay and estate sales in your area - you can find vintage, new or like news lamps and accessories for a much cheaper price and you are extending the life of these items - which the best thing you can do for your planet!

Click here to access last week's posting from Claudia, covering "Wall Treatment" concepts.

Stay tuned for coming weeks when Claudia will be discussing more topics about eco-friendly children's rooms and nurseries.

Claudia Kalur is the founder of A Room for Frances, Nursery and Children's Room Design. She lives in rural Connecticut with her husband, Steven (an architect who specializes in green building systems), their 18-month-old daughter, Margot, and their doggy, Bayou.

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