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Remodeling 101: Bedroom Lighting Secrets

by LiveModern Webmaster last modified Dec 12, 2014 01:03 AM
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by Janet Hall last modified Dec 11, 2014

Bedrooms have evolved: During waking hours, many now double as dressing rooms, workspaces, libraries, and even exercise studios. All this adds up to a conundrum when it comes to lighting: Soft, ambient light is needed to create a relaxing retreat, while brighter, more-focused light is a necessity for tasks. What to do? Lighting designer Thomas Paterson, founder of London– and Mexico City–based Lux Populi , offers his tips. Above: No single fixture can serve all bedroom lighting needs; what's needed is a combination of gentle ambient light and controlled task lighting. This use of multiple sources, as shown in Remodelista editor  Francesca 's bedroom, is known as light layering. The hanging light is the Taraxacum S2 Pendant Lamp designed in 1960 by brothers Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni and still in production  (Take a complete tour of Francesca's Brooklyn town house in the Remodelista book .) Photograph via Steven Harris Architects .  What's the simplest way to light a bedroom?   Overall ambient light is the first step. “The most robust way of lighting a bedroom in general is a surface-mounted ceiling light,” advises Paterson. This type of fixture offers soft, diffuse light throughout the space. “The effect is a bit flat sometimes, but as part of the mix, it's a great way of lighting a space simply, cheaply, and effectively,” he says.  A dimmer for your primary light is ideal: “Bedrooms sometimes need to be really bright, such as when you're getting up early and want to wake up fast, or when you're packing a bag, or cleaning. But, of course, they don't always need to be,” says Paterson.  Above: Emily and Shane Pribble (who chronicle their home improvements on Lifestyle and Design Online ) use a ceiling-mounted glass pendant as the primary light in their bedroom. Do ceiling can lights work?  In a word: rarely. “Downlights [cans] on bedroom ceilings are a terrible solution most of the time,” says Paterson. Why? “You lie in bed looking up into them, the glare and the guts. That's why they're especially to be avoided directly over the bed. And downlights never really add atmosphere; they just light the floor.”   Above: Not just for dining rooms, chandeliers can add drama and ambient light in a bedroom, as seen in a room at the Ellis House in Australia's Kyneton, in Central Victoria. Photograph by Sharyn Cairns for Ellis House . How effective are standing lamps for lighting a bedroom?  A big floor lamp that provides lots of light up out of its top can work wonders in a space. Look for lamps with dense shades on the sides so they primarily light up and down, rather than sideways.   Above: The Santa & Cole Tripode Floor Lamp features a large shade and a cleverly hidden cord with a dimmer switch; $1,050 at Y Lighting. What about wall lights? One of Paterson’s favorite techniques for lighting a bedroom is to wash a wall with light. Recessed ceiling wall-wash fixtures, such as the WAC Tesla Wall-Wash Light , are effective without being distracting. Most often Paterson selects the largest white wall in the room, but not the wall with the bed. “The light bounces off the wall softly into the room, but it also lets you light art and decoration on that wall.” Any special tips for lighting artwork in a bedroom?  Paterson recommends using a couple of spotlights or a picture light, both of which can add great depth and contrast to a bedroom. “But be careful with placement,” he advises. “When lying in bed, you don't want to be looking up into these spotlights.” What's the best way to illuminate a bedroom workspace?  “Although most of us aspire to having a bedroom for the sole purpose of sleep, bedrooms are where our kids do their homework, and where we go to get away from the noise in social spaces,” says Paterson. The best solution for lighting? Desk lamps. “They can add atmosphere even when the desk is not in action.” Paterson often uses banker’s lamps.   Above: A reissued  Snoopy Table Lamp  by the Castiglioni brothers from 1967 tops the Studioilse  Writing Desk  in the bedroom of  The Apartment , a Copenhagen gallery. See Mastering Warm Minimalism: Ilse Crawford in Copenhagen for more. What are the options for bedside lighting? Bedside lighting is the most flexible part of the equation. It's fun to select and easy to change. Consider table lamps, wall-mounted lights, pendants, and adjustable task lamps. They're typically placed on either side of the bed and are usually matching. To determine the optimal height and type suited to your needs, read our Bedside Lighting Primer .  Above: A simple bedside pendant light in the bedroom of the Veda House Studio  in St. Louis.  What about night-lights?  Light and sleep are not a good match (see  How to Achieve Total Darkness in the Bedroom and Why It Matters ). But finding your way safely in the dark to get to the bathroom or to a crying child is important. “New technologies make it easy to hide a soft light under a bed, table, or skirting, softly lighting the floor—and then, thanks to a motion sensor directed away from the bed (so it doesn't turn on when you move in bed), you have light to find your way whenever you get up," says Paterson.    Above: An LED Battery-Operated Motion Activated Night-Light is $14.91 at Amazon. How best to light a closet? Whether your closet is a large walk-in or a tiny cubby in the corner of the bedroom, you want light that is bright enough to illuminate not just you but also your clothing selections. Overhead lights are a good solution that offer overall bright and flattering lighting. Consider adding ceiling lights close to your hanging rods and upper shelving so you can see what you pick to wear (but not so close that the light presents a fire hazard). And if you have a full-length mirror, consider an overhead light positioned above where you stand.     Above: A serene bedroom in a 200-year-old chalet remodeled by Zurich's Bergdorf Agency for Concepts and Communication . Learn about the bedside lights in  Design Sleuth: The Tolomeo Light Takes a Turn .  Looking for lighting in other rooms? Read our Remodeling 101  primers: How to Install Flattering Lighting in the Bathroom Lighting Your Home Office How to Choose an Overhead Light Fixture Afterglow—10 Solutions for Romantic Lighting Bedside Lighting More Stories from Remodelista Remodeling 101: Bedside Lighting Mix-and-Match Linens from France Design Sleuth: The Japanese Boro






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