> FOCUS BY CRAIG DILOUIE
Residential interior lighting design
Residential interior lighting is as much art as science. A good residential lighting design is functional and comfortable, blends with the architecture and decor, and helps the owner personalize their home. The result is experienced as work, leisure, living,
showcase, castle and sanctuary.
At the start of a project, some interior lighting clients know
exactly what they want, while others may still be looking for
inspiration. A competitive practitioner offers ideas and general
education about lighting, so clients can make the best choices
and get exactly what they want. Fortunately, conventional wisdom provides common owner expectations, and best practices
and rules of thumb provide useful guidance for practitioners.
This article describes the basics of residential interior lighting design and offers ideas and layout principles for various
spaces in the home.
The first step is to learn what clients want from their interior
lighting. In lighting design, this is called programming. This
information can come directly from the client or from a builder’s profile of its home’s intended market. The more you learn
about the client’s desires and personality, the better equipped
you are to give advice.
Throughout the home, layering is the primary lighting
design principle. The general (ambient) lighting layer is for
general use (e.g., walking); a good example is a chandelier
in a living room, which provides ambient illumination while
serving as a decorative element. It fills the room with a soft
glow. Localized task lighting, such as pendants over a kitchen
island or a portable table luminaire next to a chair or bedside,
is added where more intensive tasks are performed. Accent
lighting draws attention to focal points, such as wall art. Use
daylight for general lighting wherever possible, as that daylight
can affect space appearance due to its variability in intensity,
direction and color at different times of day. All lighting should
be visually comfortable, with no glare or unwanted shadows.
Based on typical activities in each space, ensure proper uniform light levels for safe and efficient completion of tasks. The
Illuminating Engineering Society lists typical home spaces and
activities with recommended light levels in foot-candles (fc)
and lux (lx); see Table 1 for examples. More light can be added
where necessary, based on factors such as user age.
The Light Within
Table 1: Typical home spaces/activities and IES minimum light
level recommendations (Source: Illuminating Engineering Society)
Space/task Light level (foot-candles)
Kitchen general lighting (on floor) 5
Kitchen food preparation (on counter) 50
Kitchen sink (on top of sink) 30
Kitchen cooktop (on cooking surface) 30
Dining (on tabletop) 20
Hallway general lighting (on floor) 3
Desk (on desktop) 40
Living room general lighting (on floor) 3