# Lighting Design

# Introduction

Properly lighting a home provides a unique challenge. It must be both effective and visually pleasing in a large variety of situations and purposes. As the ultimate multi-use environment, home lighting requires thoughtful planning and design. Lighting is able to add drama and beauty to rooms, while making smaller rooms appear more open and airy, and larger rooms feel cozy and inviting. Lighting in a home can drastically change the mood and allow homeowners to enjoy their home to its full potential.

This equally applies to commercial environments. Whether it's a well lit, vibrant office or a intimate, cozy restaurant, our Products can provide lighting for any situation.

Some factors the need to be included in a successful lighting design are the quantity and quality of light, the impression it creates about the merchandise, and the visual effect it has on the space. A designer must consider a variety of key characteristics when developing their lighting plan including lamp life, system efficiency, maintenance, color rendering and appearance, daylight integration and control, light distribution, points of interest, cost, system control, and flexibility.

# Understanding light obtained by LED

LED Luminaries are known for their durability and high efficiency. They last much longer than fluorescent and incandescent bulbs. LED has better light quality with cleaner light, a higher Color Rendering Index, and minimal to no flicker. LED lights create much less heat, so they do not overheat, reducing the risk of fire.

Light using LED to:

  • Create a warm and inviting environment, while making it functional and safe.
  • Integrate and balance ambient, task, and accent lighting into every room to allow for a variety of settings and moods.
  • Establish a path of illumination through the house to allow for comfortable transitions from room to room.
  • Enhance and strengthen the character of the living space by highlighting areas of interest and architectural details.
  • Design a flexible lighting scheme to take you from dawn to dusk and a system that is easy to maintain.
  • Address energy efficiency concerns and code issues.

# When lighting a residential space, consider the following characteristics:

  • Size and shape of the space.
  • Traffic patterns through the home.
  • How the room will be used: what tasks will be done in each space and how much light these taks require.
  • The ceiling height and shape: how light will be reflected off these surfaces and contribute to the ambient light level in the room.
  • Age of the persons living in the space: the older we get, the more we are adversely affected by glare.
  • Color of the walls: darker walls absorb more light and may require higher levels of illumination.
  • Artwork and highlight areas: knowing which pieces and areas are to be highlighted helps determine the number of accent lights required.
  • The families of luminaries: recessed down lights used as adjustable accents and wallwashers should match surrounding lights. They should have similar aperture size and trim finish, as well as use matching lamp types. Complementing choices of lights avoids drawing attention to the lighting system.

# Lighting layers

Lighting layers help designers classify the kind of lighting a specific room may require. This helps them create particular moods or feelings for a given space. Combining and balancing these lighting layers gives visual interest to the space and creates a more attractive, exciting, and inviting environment. The four layers of light typically used in residential lighting are: general (also called ambient) lighting, task lighting, accent lighting, and decorative lighting.

# General (Ambient) lighting

General (ambient) lighting is the main source of illumination in a space. This uniform, base level of lighting can easily become the focus of energy reduction, as the light levels from other fixtures can be lowered. Recommended light levels for general lighting is about 30 to 50 foot-candles. It provides the area with overall illumination for orientation and general tasks. Ambient lighting should radiate a comfortable level of brightness and provide a sense of relaxation and spaciousness. The light level should be uniform throughout the space, inconspicuous and neutral. A simple way to achieve this is by arranging recessed fixtures using reflectors, baffles, and lensed trims in overlapping positions. Perimeter lighting, or wall washing, helps define spaces, provides vertical lighting, and makes the space feel larger. Done with sconces or wall washers, vertical lighting creates a pleasant, welcoming environment and adds to the visibility and visual impact of the space. It is important that vertical surfaces are lit for visual comfort, spaciousness, and visual and directional cues.

# Task Lighting

Task lighting is used to illuminate an area for a specific task; it provides a focused, localized, and higher level of illumination. Necessary to the functioning of a space, it is important to use energy efficient sources to reduce operating costs. Task lighting is most effective when used as a supplement to general lighting in workspaces, conference areas and on counter tops. Effective task lighting should eliminate shadows on the specific illuminated area, while preventing glare from the lamp itself or off surfaces. Although ambient light should still provide the majority of illumination, task lighting reduces the reliance on overhead lighting, and provides a better quality of light for specific tasks. Recommended light levels for task areas are 50 – 200 foot candles. When lighting a task area, take into account the difference in brightness, or contrast, between the task area and the surrounding space. A 3:1 ratio of task lighting to general illumination provides a nice contrast. The amount of light needed on the task, or luminance, is usually the most flexible variable of task lighting, and can be increased to compensate for low contrast levels.

# Accent lighting

Accent lighting reinforces design aesthetics and creates a dramatic emphasis on shapes, textures, finishes and colors. It creates a visual interest in the space and can enhance almost anything. It adds depth, contrast and creates a focal point; it highlights shape, texture, finish and color. If this light is directed ambiguously, the end result may be many unwanted shadows, obstructing the details of the highlighted items, or distracting glare. The key is to make this illumination more precise and of higher intensity than the surrounding ambient light. Track fixtures, recessed housings with adjustable trims, and concealed adjustable illumination with point source lamps provide directional control and are especially effective for accent lighting. They are easy to aim precisely to highlight a product's best attributes and influence the customer's impression. Accenting everything and emphasizing nothing is a common mistake with accent lighting; always keep in mind that there is such a thing as providing too much light. The IESNA recommends a 5:1 ratio of accent light to ambient light to make objects stand out and create a significant visual effect. Dark merchandise may require a higher ratio to bring out detail. Recommended light levels for accent lighting are between 150 – 500 foot candles. For feature displays, higher ratios of 15:1 or 30:1 are used, especially to create sparkle in jewelry or crystal.

# Decorative lighting

Decorative lighting serves a dual purpose: not only to contribute to the lighting layers in a retail environment, but also to enhance the look of the space as a design element. Decorative lighting includes pendants, sconces, chandeliers, table and floor lamps, and cylinders. Decorative lighting should complement and add visual interest to the interior, as well as provide or contribute to the overall lighting plan. Pendants should be mounted 6 - 8 feet above the finished floor (a.f.f.) so they are still within view, but not too low as to deter visual communication. Wall sconces and wall mounted cylinders should be mounted approximately 5-1/2 feet a.f.f.; this helps to create a sense of human scale. Adding décor, beauty and style using decorative lighting is also an important reflection of a store’s brand image, and reinforces the theme and style of the space. Decorative lighting can also contribute a feeling of hospitality and comfort to the retail experience, putting shoppers at ease and encouraging a longer visit, which can potentially lead to more sales. By combining and layering these lighting types, your store environment will be more attractive, exciting, and inviting.

# Determine the Room Square Footage

Multiply the length of the room by the width of the room to get the Room Square Footage.

# Determine the Foot Candles required for a Room

A Foot-candle is how bright the light is one foot away from the source. Lighting requirements need to vary depending on the type of room being lit. For example, a bathroom or a kitchen will require more foot-candles than a living room or bedroom.

# Determine the required Lumens

Lumen is a unit of measurement of light. A lumen is a way of measuring how much light gets to what you want to illuminate. To determine the required lumens, you will need to multiply your room square footage by your room foot-candle requirement. For example, a 100 square foot living room, which needs 10-20 foot-candles, will need approximately 1,000-2,000 lumens. A 100 square foot dining room, which needs 30-40 foot-candles, will need approximately 3,000-4,000 lumens.

Here are some examples of needed foot candles :

  • Room :

    • Living Room : 10-20
    • Hallways : 5-7-10
    • Kitchen General : 20-30-50
    • Kitchen Stove : 20-50
    • Kitchen Sink : 20-50
    • Dining Room : 10-15-20
    • Bed Room : 5-10-20
    • Bathroom : 20-50
    • Writing / reading : 40-80
  • Office :

    • Accounting : 50-100
    • Audio-visual areas : 20-50
    • Conference areas : 20-70
    • Corridors, stairways : 20
    • Drafting : 50-200
    • Private offices : 50-100
    • Lobbies, lounges & Reception areas : 0-20

# How to Calculate Lighting to get a quick idea of fixture foot print : Kitchen Example


The lighting calculation example below is calculated using the imperial system (feet). If you are working in metres, simply exchange the foot candle numbers for the appropriate lux numbers from the table and calculate your room area in square metres. (foot candle x 10 = lux)

Let's do a lighting calculation for a 10 by 12 foot kitchen as an example. For our basic general kitchen lighting, we know from the table above that we'll need 20-50 foot candles. For food preparation, we'll want closer to 50 to 100* foot candles. Start by calculating the area of the kitchen. By multiplying the length and width of our kitchen together we get 10 feet X 12 feet = 120 square feet.

Now to calculate the required lumens for the kitchen we multiply the number of foot candles (let's take the dimmest general lighting level of 20 foot candles first) by the square footage. For this we'll need

20 foot candles X 120 square feet = 2400 lumens

so 2400 lumens.

For the maximum foot prep level of 100 foot candles, the calculation would be:

100 foot candles X 120 square feet = 12,000 lumens

For compact fluorescent lights (CFL) the illuminance tends to be about 40 to 70 lumens per Watt of power draw (incandescent lights are closer to 10-17 lumens/Watt). For our example let's use 20 Watts CFLs rated at 1200 lumens.

So for our lowest light requirement of 2400 lumens, the calculation would be:

2400 lumens / 1200 lumens per bulb = 2 bulbs

For our brightest* light requirement of 12,000 lumens, the calculation would be:

12,000 lumens / 1200 lumens per bulb = 10 bulbs

That seems like a lot of lights but if you consider all the light possibilities for a kitchen: dimmable recessed lights, under cabinet lights, stove top vent hood light, and a few tracks or hanging lights right above an island or prep counter, you could reach that ten bulbs level easily.

For some however, this level of 12,000 lumens may simply be too bright. For a more personalized home lighting design, do a few quick calculations in your current home to determine the light level in a given room. Compare the light level of that room to the tasks shown in the table above. If you feel the light in that room is inadequate, bring in a few extra lamps from other rooms until the light seems right. Add up the number of lumens from all the bulbs in the room and then calculate the number of foot candles you now have in that room. Compare this number to the chart above to get a feel where in each range you prefer your lighting.


Keep in mind that any kind of shade over the light fixture, whether it is a lamp shade or a colored glass pendant over the bulb, will lower the number of lumens output for that bulb.

To achieve the variation in light level required between the general kitchen lighting level and the food prep lighting level, you can group your lights on a few different switches. Under-cabinet lights are often on a separate switch, as are the lights in the stovetop vent hood. You can also have any fixtures directly over an island or peninsula style counter on their own switch.

# Documents required for Colorbeam when requesting a quote

These documents are needed to create a effective lighting design plan and an accurate scope

  • CAD file (Very important to start with. At the very least a PDF file with all the dimensions.)
  • Height of all the rooms (at floor finish)
  • Furniture layout plan (required in most cases)
  • All information about wall finish (Paint, Wood, Brick, Metal, Glass, etc...)
  • Colors of all the finishes
  • A list of any other lighting fixtures planned by the designer and/or architect
Last Updated: 8/5/2020, 3:33:50 PM