Our handy guide to choosing and arranging light fittings for the professional buyer & home renovator
If you are reading this blog, it means you’re in the market for lighting products for your property project or business and if so, congratulations! The world you’ve entered is an exciting one with light playing an important role in realizing designs and creating beautiful spaces for us to live in.
In this blog we take a look at the basic concepts behind lighting a single space in a home. While the actual locations of our light fittings will vary from room to room, we can look at the underlying principles that define a typical layout, and apply them to any residential space.
With the advent of smart light fittings, that can be activated by wireless control hubs connected to the internet, we are entering into an unprecedented era of change. While these new technologies may not directly affect our basic principles, they are changing the way users interact with lighting products. We’ll take a walk through our typical layout first and come back to this aspect at the end.
Lighting for a space can be divided into 3 main types. There is a fourth type, but to start off, we’ll focus on the first 3. These are Ambient Lighting, Task Lighting and Accent Lighting. The terms are self-explanatory but to clarify we’ll take a look at each and how together these different light sources combine to provide all lighting you need in a space.
Ambient light is light which provides the general illumination in a room. Single ceiling lights, or luminaires, are the most common type of ambient lighting. In a large space there will be an arrangement of these. In commercial spaces, such general light sources might be in the form a grid, evenly spaced. Ambient lighting delivers an even wash of light over the space without any emphasis on any one location.
Task lights are lights that provide additional illumination to a particular area, where a specific activity is taking place. This can be anywhere in a space and can often be indicated by more intense lighting created by different looking, smaller fittings than our background lights. Example of these are table lamps next to a sofa, desk lamps and strip lighting above a kitchen benchtop.
Wherever we want to provide emphasis or draw attention to a place in a room, we use accent lighting. Like task lighting, these lights are often stronger or variable in light intensity to our ambient lighting and provide visual interest in the space. Now, instead of having uniform light, the room becomes ‘shaped’ that is, more textured, as different elements are highlighted.
While most spaces are defined by our three main lighting types, there is a fourth type, the feature light. This kind of fitting is different to our other types because, while those highlight an important location, the feature light is the highlight. The feature light may be a chandelier, an illuminated light box or a video screen, for example. In each case this element is a source of light that must be considered when creating our lighting layout.
Here are some great examples of each type of light source
And when combined, a well-designed lighting layout makes a huge difference to a space! Below we see a typical bedroom. Once our lights are installed, the room becomes more interesting visually and because of this, more inviting.
Here are examples of each light fitting type. Indicative only as there may be exceptions.
|wall lighting - uplighter
||wall lighting - uplighter
|wall lighting - downlighter
||wall lighting - downlighter
|wall lighting - up-downlighter
||wall lighting - up-downlighter
Specifications & Illumination
Before we decide how to place our lights, it’s important to know how to define them and see what they are doing in the space.
Illumination and Lux
Light received from a light fixture is measured in lux. This is a standard unit of light intensity that falls on a given surface. One lux is the amount of light falling on a one-by-one square-meter area produced by our standardized light source at a distance of one meter. The lux is also known as the illumination.
This also means that when our light source is further and further away from our target surface, the amount of light reaching our surface drops. Because of this, we will often need more than one light fitting to achieve our target lux. This is often the case with task lighting or even ambient lighting when the areas to be lit up are large.
Here are some rule-of-thumb values1 for ambient and task lighting in common areas in a home or other residence. The right hand column shows how much light intensity or lux is desirable in each space.
|Living Room / Task
||300* / 500 task (*some references say 50)
|Family Room, Home Theater
|Kitchen / Kitchen Work spaces
||300 / 750
|Bedroom / Task
||100-300 / 500
|Home Office / Task
||500 / 800
For interest, and as a comparison, we can see how many lux are standard for other types of spaces2
||10,000 to 25,000
|Supermarket, Sports Hall
|School Classroom, Lecture Hall
|Family, Living Room
Lumens or Luminous Flux
The luminous flux measured in lumens, is the total amount of light emitted by a given light source; in this case, our light fitting. This total amount is sometimes referred to as the luminous flux, but nowadays most lighting products will have their output displayed on the box in lumens.
Lumens to Watts
The lumens rating for any lighting fitting can be calculated from its wattage (W), or vice-versa, by using a specific formula. We don’t need to delve into the math behind this, but as a rule of thumb we can take a look at the following output for different watt light fittings.
From the guide above we see that, if we require 1500 lux in our space, we can either purchase a 25W LED or another type of 1500-lumens light fitting, to give us the light intensity we need. You’ll also note that LEDs deliver far more lumens for less watts than an incandescent globe, which is why LEDs are far more efficient and better value for money in the long term, since they last a lot longer than traditional light fixtures. Because of this, LED light fittings are increasingly supplanting all other types, including halogen, as the go-to choice for fittings.
Lumens for Lux
We calculate the number of lumens required to be provided by a light source, needed to deliver the required amount of lux for a specific surface area, by multiplying the lux by the area of the surface in square meters.
If take the example of a 1m wide x 2m long kitchen benchtop, using the guides above we can see that the total output in lumens for our light fittings, needed for this workspace is 750 lux x 2sqm = 1500 lumens.
Ideally our light source should be around 1.0 meter away from the benchtop, which in most designs, it normally is. Taking our example above, we would need 1 x 25W LED producing 1500 lumens or 2 x 25W LEDs that produce only 800 lumens each to give us our light. We can also use 4 x 15W LEDs that produce 400 lumens each.
LEDs producing 400 lumens are a common light fitting, so in our case we would use 4 LEDs. Indeed this is the case as many kitchen lighting layouts will feature a track of 3 or 4 small light fitting over an island benchtop. This arrangement also is regarded as more appealing and less imposing than having one intense, larger light source.
Putting it all together
Now we have our basic principles established, we can decide on our layout. Normally we want enough lights to be able to illuminate the space but also emphasize different areas according to need. Centrally placed ceiling lights are a good first fitting, then look to add strip lights for less intrusive and muted background lighting. These are also good for highlighting a wall section or an interesting edge in the room. Add task lighting over dining areas, benchtops and other activity areas and use accent lighting to highlight a wall unit, display niches or a piece of artwork. Aim to have enough lighting to change the look of the room for specific situations during the day, for example midafternoon on a cloudy day, evening / dinner time and during late night work or tv watching. This is not only practical but gives you the best lighting conditions to maximize enjoyment of the space at a given moment.
Remember, the fewer light fittings there are, the higher output each one must have. The further away the light is from the area we are illuminating, the stronger it must also be. Take a look below at the different lighting layouts and you will start to see how light fittings should be positioned in a space.
Many smart lighting systems are really suited to new homes where the correct wiring and other infrastructure can be installed during construction. They require a central control hub, a series of connections and compatible light fittings for the system. The central hub can then be controlled throughout the home or even wirelessly via the internet. In established homes, owners can access some aspects of the smart lighting experience by purchasing smart fittings that connect individually to a central controller wirelessly then using a smart app to turn the fittings on or off as well as perform other functions.
A smart lighting system can include wireless fittings, voice-controlled functions, a centralized controller and exterior lighting. The principles of laying out lights does not change with the use of smart lights. What is different is the level of control. With smart lighting you have far more control in a given situation and in more situations than the three - midafternoon, dinner, late night - described above. You can also adjust light levels easily since the units are activated automatically. Lights can be activated remotely, without the resident needing to be on the premises and specific environments can be programed to be on or off throughout the day and even when you are
not occupying the property for an extended period of time.
Now that we’ve explained the basics , it’s time to go light up your world. Enjoy!
You’ll find a whole selection of lighting products to surprise and inspire you on your journey on our lessohome.com website. And you’ll
find more great ideas in our separate blog on how to light up your home using Lesso Home light fittings.