The Fundamentals of Lighting In A Tiny Home
Working in the lighting industry, you start to notice all the different lighting around your everyday life outside of work. Lighting is usually the last item people think about when choosing a home. That's unfortunate because it's arguably one of the most important items in a home!
People don't usually consider the lighting industry to be a big technology based industry. Well, it is. It's a crazy time to be in the lighting industry. They are starting to do things with lighting that not only change the feel and function of the room but change you on a physical molecular level. They have technology out right now that changes the color of your bulbs throughout the day to help with sleep levels and energy levels throughout the body.... and this is two-year-old technology now. The lighting industry is moving at a faster rate than people give it credit. It is kind of cool!
I was extremely lucky enough to have gone to Dallas and shadow another lighting rep before starting the position I am in today. He took me to this showroom for the first time, and I saw something different in lighting than just a chandelier or another wall sconce. They were doing some pretty unique things! It was around February 10th, 2015. #oldschoolinstagramarchive and as soon as you walked into their showroom there was this enormous pillar, and the ceilings were as tall as an old warehouse. It said :
"The "magic of lighting" is something you feel, rather than a visual thing. You step into an environment and somehow you are transformed in a subliminal way that creates a magical experience, which you may not even be aware of.
That is what lighting is all about creating: a psychological environment or emotion that can do many things. The idea that lighting becomes experiential is magical."
That really struck a cord and since then it has changed my thoughts about lighting and the effects that it has on our everyday life without even realizing it.
So I wanted to share a few basic lighting techniques and a couple things I have learned.
Task vs Accent Lighting
So what is task or accent lighting?
Task lighting is what I like to call "functional" lighting. This is the type of lighting you use in order to see for a completion of a task. Task lighting could be tape lighting in your cabinets like we did in our LED tape blog post to see inside. This could also be used for things like cutting or prepping food. It's lighting with a purpose behind it.
Accent Lighting is pretty much the opposite. You don't actually use this to do things but to change the environment or feel of the room. This is great if you want to highlight a feature in your home or a focal point. A great example of this would tape lighting under your stairs to make them appear floating or in Tiffany, the wall sconce next to the TV used for a calm warm feeling when you walk in or just surfing the web on the bench.
Now is there a middle ground to this? Of course, take our two kitchen pendants. We use them as the sole lighting source in our kitchen and they are used for tasking lighting and accent lighting at the same time. How did we do this? We have since changed the bulbs to a different LED color temperature (2700k ish ) to still have a warmer feel but with enough lumen output that we can get a task done on the awesome butcher block counter top! 😍 This way we can actually see what we are doing and when we want to use it as accent lighting we just dim them. Side note: You don't need to have the most lumens possible beating down on your counters, remember this is a tiny home and believe it or not there's a thing as too much light and the size of the bulb should be considered based on your fixture. I'll cover that here shortly.
Indirect Lighting vs Direct Lighting
Indirect lighting is when you have a light source that is not directly facing down at you. This is most commonly used on lamps that have the lighting facing up or a fan with a light kit bowl so the light faces towards the ceilings. This typically has a nice even spread of light and is much more pleasing to the eyes. I prefer not seeing the light source if possible.
Direct lighting is what the name says. The light source is directly facing down on you or towards the ground. Our shower lights are a great example of this. The only reason those lights should be on is for a scrub in the wooden tub 🛀
General lighting that is most common in most tiny homes is LED disks on the ceiling facing directly down to take place of recessed cans. These are great and they are getting closer and closer to a more recessed look, yet still be able to have it fit in a J-box for low ceiling spaces. People often think these have to be symmetrical because, naturally as humans, we love symmetrical things. These should be strategically placed through out the home with the idea of function behind each placement; not always symmetrical. We use Tiffany's as general lighting for cleaning or searching for something where we need a flood of light. This especially comes in handy when Oliver likes to hide his mouse toys and looks at me to reach in and get it. 😑
Okay, so what do you do with all these different kinds of lights? You layer them on top of each other. Take our headboard in the master loft for example. We have the accent lights in the headboard wall sconces and task lighting in the LED disk in the ceiling. Put them together and you have layers of lighting for different functions.
Bulbs sizes and color
There's a good rule of thumb that I am not sure if it's just an OCD thing of mine but think it's useful information. You do not want to see the light bulb while looking at the fixture. This means not having the bulb stick out of the fixture at most angels. Now I know a lot of manufacturers are using the old school vintage bulbs and incorporate it into the fixture and its design. But after living tiny I could feel the stress on my eyes since we are physically closer to the light source throughout the day, compared to maybe a traditional home layout.
What this can cause is cause a stress in the eye while using the light source. A "hotspot" in the room. Take our dinner wall scones.
A bulb coming out of the bottom of a fixture and having it right under you while eating can be annoying. It puts shadows on faces and foods while blinding the person not sitting directly under it. Our fixtures take a medium base socket. This means as long as the metal part of the bulb is the same size as a regular light bulb, it should work. And we used LED because well... It's 2017. They are so reasonable now and its an over all better technology than what's out right now.
We choose a Satco S9560 bulb. A very amber color bulb so it felt warmer and welcoming. It also has less stress on the eyes since the bulb isn't showing out of the Tiffany stained glass shades. Also made the glass a very cool yellow patina feel which was by mistake. 😇 Usually, with a more "cooler" color bulb, your brain intakes that light as if it was the middle of the day and can increase energy levels. Not so pleasing at night. That's why office lighting usually is a brighter color temperature.
These smaller bulbs give us enough light output for accent as well as general lighting at night. Typically we have this light on at the end of the night and when our Lutron system turns it on after sunset so we don't come back to a dark home.
FCC and why is it important in lighting
If you don't know what the FCC is then let do a quick run down. The FCC stands for Federal Communication Commission. They set the standards in a variety of things one being radio. Anything with a computer chip gives off some type of radio frequencies at low levels. Since there are computer chips in LED bulbs the bulbs should be registered with the FCC. Why? Because that way you don't have the same radio frequencies going throughout your house with two different products.
I have seen cases at work where people have placed light bulbs from online retailer and made in China in their light fixtures, turns on great and at a price. But every time they flick that switch on, their neighbor's garage door would go up. They had the same frequency because the cheap non-FCC bulb was giving off the same frequency as their neighbors garage door motor. The moral of the story is make sure you use a bulb that has the FCC logo on it or the box, save your self the possible headache for a few more bucks.
The sheer size of the fixture itself needs to be taken into account based on your space. We sometimes see in the lighting industry fixtures that aren't so pleasing to the eyes in the space it's placed. Either it can be too small or too big.
The fixtures sizes in Tiffany are on point. They are not too big for the tiny space but they are not so small that it's not functional.
The actual placement of the fixture should also be noticed. If you have the fixture up super high or low it might not even be functional or could just look awkward, like why do you have a light randomly there?
It is important to critically think about lighting in your living space. It's the one thing I feel is over looked. With all this lighting research and technology becoming more readily available, I think it's an exciting time for the lighting industry with tiny homes. I believe that tiny living will be just another common option of styles of living in the future and it's exciting to be able to see how lighting will evolve in this category.