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Interior Lighting Tips: Task Lighting

Lighting

Ever feel like there just is not enough light in a living room to sit down and comfortably read a good book or look over some business documents? Could you relax in an overly illuminated living room? Such thoughts come up when there is an imbalance between task lighting and ambient lighting. Understanding the difference between these two lighting types and using them effectively can help you bring harmony to the lighting in your home. So let's take a look at task lighting.

Basics of Task Lighting

You might be surprised to find out just how much of a role each room plays in the lives of its inhabitants. Rooms are often used for both work and relaxation. You may find yourself answering emails on the living room couch or playing a classical guitar piece in your bedroom. These activities contribute to and define the overall function of a room and typically require more than ambient lighting from overhead fixtures. That is when task lighting comes into play. Task lighting is fundamentally any lighting that helps to facilitate a particular visual task. In a residential setting, that job may be reading, writing, cooking, sewing, or even eating.

Task lighting can take on many forms, including desk lamps, track lighting, or fluorescent fixtures under cabinets. Efficiently distributing task lighting throughout a home requires carefully identifying the function of each room and choosing the right type of lighting.

Instead of going further into the theory of task lighting, why don't we take a look at the rooms of a standard home and suggest some task lighting solutions for each one.

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Bedroom

The bedroom is where you start and end your day. It functions as both a place for daily preparation and a quiet place of relaxation before turning in for the night. If you are like most people and enjoy reading or occasionally working in bed, you will most definitely need some task lighting. Though there are quite a few options available, one of the most practical solutions is to have a lamp on each side of the bed. Doing so allows one partner to read while the other sleeps. You may choose to place a table lamp on each nightstand or install wall lamps that will keep you from having to reach too far to turn the light on or off.

Bedroom

Bathroom

The most important aspect of a bathroom is the vanity, as it plays a large role in morning preparation. Most people make the mistake of placing a recessed ceiling fixture over the mirror or buying a vanity with built-in overhead lighting. But lighting from one side casts shadows on the face. The best way to balance vanity lighting and get rid of shadows is to place vertical fixtures on both sides of the mirror. The center of each fixture should be at eye level. You want the vanity to be very well lit. Use fixtures with dimmer controls if you are afraid of overdoing. In doing so you will ensure that any person who uses the vanity will be able to get the illumination he or she needs. This setup may not work for some vanities due to the layout of the bathroom. In that case, overhead lighting may be the best option available. Just remember that the goal is to evenly illuminate the face without shadows.

The shower is another key spot in the bathroom. A single recessed ceiling fixture will usually provide the lighting you need, but you may not need a dedicated fixture if the shower is open or has a glass door.

Bathroom

Living Room

Every living room should have a seat with a floor or desk lamp to accommodate reading and writing. You can make one lamp work for multiple seats by placing it on an end table connecting the sofa and another seat. The lamp should not be too bright, as the living room should still retain its relaxing atmosphere even when the lamp is turned on. The goal of lighting the living room is to create enough light to do the things you need without breaking the atmosphere that invites you to come kick back and relax.

Living Room

Kitchen

The work that takes place in a kitchen is often intricate and requires carefully planned task lighting to achieve both maximum efficiency and pleasure. Lighting a kitchen effectively usually involves a combination of both ceiling fixtures and lighting under cabinets. Recessed spot lights are a great way to focus light on the key work surfaces of the kitchen. The one drawback is that recessed lighting tends to be more difficult to install than its alternatives. A more flexible option is track lighting with halogen bulbs. Track lighting is easier to install and is more versatile since the direction of each head can be individually adjusted. Extra lamps can also be added to a track lighting system at any time in case the initial lamps do not provide enough light.

The more detailed kitchen work may call for more concentrated light. The best way to achieve this is by placing fluorescent light fixtures under the upper kitchen cabinets. Fluorescent lamps produce a bright light that reveals detail without producing heat. This combination of lighting should keep you working comfortably in your kitchen. You may also consider using fixtures with a dimmer control to regulate light and to make your lamps last longer.

Kitchen

Dining Room

Most dining rooms have a single chandelier right above the table. Such a configuration works great for creating a light dinner atmosphere. However, the dining room is often used for other purposes. You may find yourself working together with your children on a school project or sorting through your monthly bills with your spouse. For this you will need a bit more than the dim bulbs of your chandelier. One solution is installing brighter bulbs together with a dimmer control to make the current lighting a bit more flexible. Another option is installing a set of recessed ceiling fixtures that can be turned on and off independent of the chandelier.

Dining Room

That basically wraps it up for task lighting. Take a look at our article about ambient lighting.

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Ray East III
Published: March 2010
All pictures made in Live Home 3D by Victoria Naumova