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Bedroom Lighting

Completely make over your bedroom without changing colors, fabrics, or furniture! You can do it all with lighting.

Bedside Basics
When lighting a bedroom, you want to create an atmosphere of quiet relaxation, while providing bright spots for reading and other activities. Develop a combination of general and task lighting based on these examples, and remember that dimmer controls let you vary the light to suit different moods and tasks.

Swing-arm or other bedside fixtures cast a peaceful light and illuminate bedtime tasks. If you want to add mood lighting without making the room too bright, supplement your bedside light with soft sources such as a fireplace or candles. A dimmer switch can also give you more control over the room's brightness.

When your bed is the focal point in the room, create drama with recessed downlights near the head of the bed. Separate controls allow snoozing and reading simultaneously on opposite sides of the bed. Table lamps elsewhere in the room will help make the space usefully bright.

Active people love a room awash in a bright, warm Active people love a room awash in a bright, warm glow. This design combines an overhead fixture, which casts a wide beam of downward light, and uplight fixtures that illuminate shady corners. By wiring the overhead light and the uplights separately, you can have some or all of them on at one time.

Highlight the View
To show off attractive artwork, wall-hung collections, or areas of interest other than the bed, consider lighting that highlights those areas. These track fixtures, for instance, are easy to adjust, creating dimension with shadow. Be sure to install additional sources of ambient lighting to boost the room's overall function.

Avoid unflattering and distracting shadows at your dressing table with lights on each side or one light directly above the table. Side fixtures should have shades that direct light either up or down at a 45-degree angle from the wall.

Types of Light
Knowing the different kinds of light will help you choose and arrange fixtures wisely.

Ambient Lighting
The most basic and practical form of illumination, ambient lights mimic the qualities of natural lighting. Often directed from a central, overhead fixture, they create light that surrounds you uniformly. It's best to control this type of light with a dimmer switch, which allows you to adjust the light according to time of day or task.

Most bedrooms start with one ambient light source, which is a good beginning, but you'll need other types of lighting to create dramatic highlights around the bedroom. One drawback to ambient lighting is that it often creates shadows in front of you, as you work or read with the ambient light source at your back.

Task Lighting
Intended to illuminate a task or a specific area, this bright light is generally work-oriented (reading, paying bills, needle-crafting). To generate task lighting, choose a fixture with a shade that focuses the light onto one spot. If the shade is open at the top as well as the bottom, it can supplement the ambient lighting.

Accent Lighting
If you get a headache from your task lighting, your ambient light is probably too dim and causing an uncomfortable contrast. Remedy this by increasing the wattage of the bulb in your ambient light, installing more lighting, or covering your work surface with a light-color covering to reflect the task light rather than absorb it.

Used to create drama, this light type also is known as point-source lighting because it focuses attention on something important. It does not have room-illuminating qualities, so it should be combined with ambient and perhaps task lighting. Select a fixture with a strong beam of light that can be directed onto a focal point such as art or a vase of flowers.

Kinetic Lighting
Kinetic means motion, and this kind of light flickers and dances to create drama and interest. It can come from candles, mirror balls, or lava lamps, for instance, but the hypnotic quality of candlelight or a wood fire is more conducive to a bedroom than a strobe light would be. Just be sure to place candles on a nonflammable surface and in a place where they won't be knocked over.

The Right Height for Lights
Don't underestimate the proper placement of task lighting. It can save you eyestrain, headaches, and accidentally pairing blue socks with black pants. Here are some preferred placement measurements for different task lights. (Adjust them accordingly if you're a great deal taller or shorter than the average person.)

Abide by this general rule: The diameter of the beam spread out of the bottom of the shade for reading and writing should be about 16 inches.

For a dressing table, have 2 lights 36 inches apart (on either side of the mirror you use) and about 15 inches above the base of the table.
Similarly, for lighting a dresser whose top is used for grooming, place 2 lights 36 inches apart (again, on either side of your mirror). Assuming the dresser reaches your waist, the lights should rise 22 inches from the dresser top.

For bedside reading lamps, the bottom of the shade should be 20 inches above the level of your bed. If your night table is extremely tall or short, you may need to choose lamps to compensate.

At a desk, work lamps should be 15 inches above the desk's surface, whether they are mounted on the wall or sitting on the desk.

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