Have you ever settled down on the couch to watch a movie—popcorn popped, favorite blanket across your lap, pillows in the perfect position—only to have your perfect set up tarnished by bad lighting? You’re not alone.
Overhead lights, table lamps, floor lamps. Night lights, chandeliers… there are an awful lot of different light fixtures in our homes. And while that table lamp may provide the perfect light for watching your favorite show after a long day’s work, it might make reading your favorite book nearly impossible. So, how do we choose between overhead lighting and table lamps, warm white and cool white light bulbs? We consulted with award-winning designer Adrienne Morgan and lighting expert Ben Rousseau to help us find the light when it comes to lighting.
Temperatures & Layers
Light has its own unit of measure called the Kelvin. The higher the kelvin (K) rating, the whiter and brighter the light.
By now we all know that no lightbulb mimics natural sunlight, but the Kelvin scale makes understanding temperature and purpose a little easier. Soft, low candlelight hues range from 2000K to 3000K, while 3100K-4500k deliver a bright, cool white light. For what lighting companies call a “daylight” hue, the temperature ranges from 4600K to 6500K.
But if you’ve ever bought a daylight light bulb, you’ll know the color they emit is often cold, very bright, and almost blue. Rousseau recommends bulbs between 3000K and 3500 K for the overhead (or general) layer for almost every room in the house, since this temperature provides “as natural a color rendering as possible.”
The accent (or decorative) layer, is something non-designers don’t really think about. Wall sconces, strip lights, and track lighting all work to highlight things you want to show off—great architectural features or beautiful works of art, for example. Accent layers of lighting are usually dimmable, ranging anywhere from 2000 to 7000K.
Task lighting is the final layer—and likely what we’re all the most familiar with. Floor, table, and desk lamps. Task lighting needs to fit the mood and function of the room. A desk lamp should provide clean, workable light—around 3700K—but if you want a light to keep on while watching TV at night, your task lighting should be lower than 2000k.
Office / Working
“For home offices or workspaces, it is critical to have proper task lighting,” says Morgan. “Assuming one works at a desk or table, a lamp close by is perfect. And one which can be adjusted up, down and side to side is ideal. As long as there’s enough light focused on the work surface, one feels less fatigue and more focused.”
Kitchen / Cooking
Morgan says to hone in on task lighting in the kitchen. But what is task lighting, really? “Wherever one is focusing on a task, such as cooking, one needs direct and bright light focused on the workspace. One type of task lighting is recessed downlights which come in a variety of sizes, strengths and types. They should be strategically placed over the areas in the kitchen used for tasks, such as chopping vegetables, cooking on the stove, etc.”
Living Room / Relax
Because the living room is actually the leisure room, Morgan suggests a general layer of lighting that can be adjusted with dimmers. “The most pleasing lighting to the eye is indirect lighting. This means light which is directed towards the ceiling or a wall and then reflected into the room. A torchiere, shown here, is an excellent type of indirect lighting fixture for a living room. They are tall and come in any style you can think of.”
Bedroom / Sleeping & Waking
Bright lights be gone! “Just having a table lamp on each side of the bed would suffice,” says Morgan. “To take it one step further, a wall mounted swing arm lamp works even better because it frees up space on a bedside table. It also is adjustable for reading in bed or sewing, etc. Make sure it’s on a dimmer.”
Bathroom / Primping
“At the bathroom vanity, you need excellent even lighting in order to apply makeup or shave,” urges Morgan. “Experts agree the way to achieve this is to place a wall sconce at eye level on either side of the vanity mirror. A linear sconce going up and down is the best as it gives off a more even light and fewer shadows. LED lights in the sconces are wonderful especially when you choose a color temperature which is a bit warm, such as 3000 degrees Kelvin.”
Featured image: @ericashelton__