See the Light: What is “Ambient Lighting” and What is “Task Lighting”?
You can probably guess the difference between “ambient” and “task” lighting just by thinking about their names: Ambient lighting (also known as general lighting) creates an ambiance, or a certain vibe. It offers an overall illumination of a space, provides visual comfort, and comes from sources like chandeliers, pendant lights, ceiling lights, or wall mount fixtures. Task lighting, on the other hand, is what you’ll want to have when you’re working—reading, cooking, etc. You can use accent, ambient, and task lighting in the same place, but make sure not to mix their functions--otherwise, it can become a bit disconnected.
Uplighting, Downlighting—All Around Confusing: How to Choose Light Direction
If you’re unsure about choosing light that glows upwards or illumination that glows downward, have no fear: you can do both. First, it’s best to understand the benefits of each, and the different functions uplight and downlight serve.
Generally, downlights are recessed lights in a ceiling that cast a perfectly ambient, welcoming light. They’re also versatile: Downlights can provide sufficient task lighting, so you’ll see them often in kitchens and other workspaces.
A Penchant for Pendants: How to Hang Pendant Lamps
Pendant lights don’t just illuminate a room—they add artistry to your space. So, how low should you go? When hanging pendant lights, keep these tips in mind:
- Consider the space itself, and opt for a lamp that best suits it. For example, for a modern space, opt for a sleek glass pendant.
- Consider the ceiling size, and choose the pendant that best fits it. A small pendant will get lost in a cavernous ceiling, while a large pendant can “take over” a smaller room—so choose accordingly.
- In the bedroom, installing pendant lights on each side of the bed is the best.
- Measure up:
-It’s recommended that pendant lights hang 55- to 70- centimeters above the kitchen bench top or island—measuring from the bottom of the pendant to the top of the bench top.
-In the dining room, pendants should hang 70- to 82 centimeters from the bottom of the pendant to the top of the table.
Count Me In: How Many Lights are Right?
Too bright, too dark—sometimes finding the “just right” feels all wrong. Luckily, we’ve got an easy formula for figuring out just how much light you need in any given room. First, think about the purpose of the room. Will you be reading there, dining, or mostly relaxing?
Then, learn the difference between illuminance (measured in lux) and light output (measured in lumens).
The lumen (LM) is a measurement unit describing how much light a lamp or fixture produces, while the lux (LX) is a measurement unit describing how much light covers a given surface area. One lux is equal to one lumen per square meter.
IESNA, the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America, provides recommended illuminance levels for all types of rooms. You can use these values to help find the appropriate amount of light for each space. The following are some examples:
- Kitchens: 300-750 lux
- Bathrooms: 100-300 lux
- Dining rooms: 200-300 lux
- Bedrooms: 200-300 lux
Know Your Place: How to Find Ideal Spots for Floor Lamps
You love your new FLOS lamp—so where should you put it?
If your lamp is to be used for tasks—such as reading—keep it close. Place it next to your favorite easy chair, or even by your bed in place of a reading light on your nightstand. Floor lamps provide great, direct light that’s comfortable to work by. Just make sure it’s fitted with a great shade, or the glare may bother you.
If you’re using your floor lamp to create soft indirect lighting—the kind you’d use in a bedroom, nursery, living room, or hallway—it's best to consider the space by “zone.” Consider if it will cast the most light where needed, and how you can place it so that it is in harmony with the rest of the room’s décor, accenting pieces you want the eye drawn to (such as artwork or a mantelpiece). Finally, make sure it is easy to access. (If you’re lighting a project that’s a new construction, make sure receptacles are installed close to all locations intended for floor lamps. Otherwise, you’re at the mercy of a web of extension cords.)
Tough Choices: How to Decide Between Pendants, Bar, or Side Lights
Before you decide which light is right, get to know them:
Pendant Lights: You’ll find these sweet stunners hanging from the ceilings in your favorite rooms—like the dining room, kitchen, and foyer. They’re versatile and offer an ambient glow that is also task-ready. Try them solo or with several in a row.
Bar Lights: For those who favor the more modern, Bar Lights offer an innovative style that is rooted in true utility. Sleek and cool with an industrial edge, Bar Lights are branching out: consider these lights in more modern kitchens, bathrooms, and bedrooms.
Side Lights: Don’t get it twisted, Side Lights don’t play second fiddle to any lamp: They are the main event. These featured favorites diffuse indirect lighting to create an intimate, soft, and relaxing atmosphere. They’re the perfect illumination for your most relaxing spaces.
Work It: Are Pendant Lights “Task” Lighting?
Sure, pendant lights look great—but can they pull their weight in a working environment? In a word, yes. Providing both ambient and direct light, pendant lights pull double duty in spaces like kitchens, where you’ll need the benefit of clear lighting when you’re dicing up dinner. When deciding on a pendant for your space, consider the room and your style: Versatile pendants look great solo, or can be added in a row for enhanced lighting and effect. Just make sure you opt for a pendant that has a lampshade, or you may find the glare bothersome.
Prep School: How to Find Creative Solutions for Food Prep Areas
Don’t go dicing in the dark—find the right light for your food prep areas and get ready to cook up a masterpiece.
Pendant lights are ideal in kitchen spaces: They offer the direct lighting that’s perfect for tasks, and they add an interesting element to your décor. Consider a large, breathtaking dome light or a row of smaller, sleeker pendants with clear glass shades.
LED lights are a “cool” option for the kitchen—literally. Because they don’t emit heat like other less efficient light sources, you can comfortably use them no matter how steamy your soufflé gets. Also, since LED fixtures are generally designed to be shatter-free, they can be a safer option. Consider lining the underside of your cabinets with efficient LED fixtures instead of fluorescent bulbs. (Bonus: Some LED lighting is equipped with dimming and color adjustment capabilities.)
Mixed lighting is a great option for kitchens—a mix of uplighting and downlighting from sources like wall sconces, pendants, and under-cabinet lighting allows you to customize lighting for your needs at any given moment.
Dirty Talk: How to Clean Pendant Lights
Dust, grease, spider webs: Even the cleanest homes accumulate grossness sometimes, and dusty, dirty pendant lights don’t just look bad, they work less efficiently and cast the wrong color on their surroundings. Here’s how to get them shining right and bright again:
Get Unplugged: Always unplug any electrical equipment before cleaning. For lights not connected to a receptacle, flipping the switch isn’t enough—you’ll need to disconnect the circuit breaker, too.
Baby Your Bulb: Remove any bulbs so they won’t sustain damage, and remove any shades while you’re at it (check the care manual of your lamp for instructions on removing shades and any pins, etc.)
Be Bookish: Check your FLOS manual for specific cleaning instructions, as each product’s care varies.
Raise Your Glass: How to Clean Glass Light Shades
Light—and any room it shines it—looks best coming from a clean source. Cleaning glass lampshades can feel tricky, but a few easy tips will keep you in the clear.
- Honor the Intricacies: Your glass shades are special and detailed, with delicate parts and exquisite elements—so don’t clean them the same way you would your favorite chipped coffee mug.
- Get Macro About Micro: Microfiber cloths are versatile, superior, and worth the investment—they clean carefully without scratching any surface.
- Be Water Wary: Don’t submerge the lampshade in soapy water, since you can potentially damage fine details and metallic parts.
- Be Factual About Fluids: Harsh fluids like ammonia, alcohol, and acidic cleaning agents can damage glass shades permanently. Instead, use furniture polish or lemon oil cleaning wax to preserve fine details.
- Spray Away: Never spray cleaners (even water) directly on the lampshade. Instead, spray your microfiber cloth and wipe the shade gently. Then, dry with a separate piece of microfiber.
- Bonus Tip: Stay safe by turning off your circuit breaker to avoid any electric shock.
The Right Light: What is Incandescent Lighting vs. LED
It’s about more than just a light bulb: Incandescent and LED offer different types of lighting performances—and each has benefits (and drawbacks) that are uniquely its own.
The hallmark of incandescent lighting is a warm white output with perfect color rendition. It matches the quality of daylight, which makes it perfect for illuminating decorative features or fine art. The traditional rounded bulbs also offer a design element within a light fixture. However, incandescent bulbs fall short on energy efficiency—using more than five times the energy of LED bulbs during a service life that’s generally less than 1,000 hours. In addition, they generate heat. If your space uses air conditioning, the extra heat released by the bulbs will increase the cooling load and your energy expenses.
LED lighting offers color performance that’s close to natural lighting, but unlike incandescent lighting, it cannot offer perfect color rendition. What it lacks in ambiance, however, it makes up for in efficiency: the average LED bulb saves over 80% power compared to an incandescent one, and lasts 25 times longer.
That’s Intense: What is Light Intensity and How is it Measured?
It’s soft from one angle and glaring from another—light intensity can seem tricky, but it’s really all about how you look at it.
Lighting intensity is the brightness of a light, specifically from a given direction. The brighter, or more intense, a light is, the more energy is present. Technically, light intensity is the rate at which energy from the light hits a surface. So, you may notice that intensity varies for the same light source based on where you’re standing, and on other spatial variations.
A highly specialized device called a goniophotometer measures intensity, and yes, that’s a real thing. Luckily, you won’t need your own to measure intensity—manufacturers supply lighting intensity curves along with their product specifications.
Support System: Why Secondary Lighting is Important
To understand secondary lighting, let’s have a primer on primary lighting.
Primary lighting refers to objects that produce their own light-- anything with a light bulb in it, regardless of type.
Secondary lighting refers to objects that reflect primary lighting. For example: Assume an architect uses only uplighting in a room. The downlighting effect is achieved through the reflection of the uplighting on the ceiling. The ceiling is your secondary lighting source. The point is, whenever you use the reflection of lighting on objects and surfaces, that is secondary lighting.
So why is secondary lighting so important? A room that’s lit only on the floor may feel cavernous or dark. In the example listed, the architect used the ceiling and walls as a secondary lighting source to illuminate the room overall.
Get Out: Why Exterior Lighting is Important
Exterior lighting doesn’t just look great (hello, curb appeal!)—it’s also really smart. The right light makes it easier to navigate your outdoor areas in the dark, and it’s a security measure that makes your home less of a target for ne’er do wells. And, since light travels so beautifully in the dark, you don’t need to light an area directly in order to illuminate it.
All of those are good enough reasons to install lights by your pool, steps, and in doorways, but here’s another: It is magic for your home’s façade. The right exterior light can completely change the face of a building, drawing attention to the elements of your décor that you thoughtfully planned out: your stunning doorway, your stone path, even your darkened windows and flower beds.
Before you go and light up the neighborhood, here are some things to consider:
- Make sure you select products, like the outdoor designs from FLOS, that have enclosures rated for outdoor use. That means they’re dustproof, corrosion resistant, and watertight- so they’ll stand up to the elements. (Shopping tip: Ask for a design that features a NEMA 4X enclosure.)
- Ensure that no light is projected in unwanted directions. No need to annoy the neighbors. (The same is true for uplight- you can unwittingly disturb nocturnal animals).
- In residential settings, warm colors work best for outdoor lighting. Since cool colors can make it hard for people to fall asleep, avoid white/blue illumination--sleep deprived neighbors aren’t the friendliest. (And, they can be affected by the light even if they aren’t receiving the beam directly.)
As with any lighting design, you’ll want to consider the style of your home when choosing exterior light sources.
Homey Run: How to Create Hospitality Lighting that Works
It says it right in the name: the hospitality industry specializes in making guests feel comfortable, welcome, and, well, right at home.
The key to hospitality lighting is control, and by that we meaning giving it all to the guest. Control panels in hotel rooms allow guests to adjust the lighting as they get their body clocks in rhythm with their environment—even allowing them to account for jet lag.
Avoiding harsh lights is also important, which is why so many hotels and restaurants opt for incandescent lighting. While providing a lighting effect that feels more natural, it is also less efficient, so consider warm white LED lights with a high color rendering index (CRI) if you’re looking for a greener lighting design. Top performance LED lights now offer CRI values above 90, which is almost like natural lighting. Such a slight loss in color rendition is a small price to pay for energy savings of 80%, no?
Current innovations in lighting also make it easy to incorporate light sources into décor. For example, light patterns on wall serve as functional artwork, and luminous textiles set an ambient mood. LED lights illuminating the back of a headboard can set the stage for sleep when dimmed, while also offering light to read by when turned up.
Finally, a blend of task, accent, and direct lighting offers guests what they need, when they need it. Lastly, it’s worth noting that no other lighting source matches LED in terms of personalized customization and design flexibility. And, LEDs can adapt to any lamp shade while delivering any color output.
What is Human Centric Lighting?
It sounds like the stuff of science fiction novels, but the idea behind Human Centric Lighting is simple: We need light for both visual and non-visual reasons. And, we need it delivered in a healthy way: Negative effects such as glare can damage human sight with prolonged exposure.
HCL acknowledges that our brains are affected by light in two ways. First, we need it to see—our brain uses light along the visual path that helps us to determine images. Here’s a few quick tips: Clear, or neutral, white light helps improve our concentration. Aim for a color temperature of around 4,100K. Warm, or yellowish, white light is relaxing and helps us sleep better. The goal color temperature is around 2,700K.
Daylight white light is energizing, making it great for a gym or a tennis court- but skip it for your toddler’s bedroom. That color temperature should be above 5,000K.
Next, we need light to adjust our body clocks. Light indicates the time of day and our immediate need—and our bodies will emit hormones accordingly.
Understanding HCL and the effect the color rendering index on mood is nothing new, but thanks to the innovations of LED lights, we are better able to experiment with the effects of light on our mood, energy level, health, sleep quality, and comfort.
Aren’t You Smart: How to Achieve Smart, Sustainable Lighting and Energy Savings
Here’s a light bulb moment: lighting your home in an artistic, functional, and stunning way doesn’t have to strain energy consumption (or your wallet). Here’s how.
Be a Control Freak: Adjust your light output for exactly what you need—from 0 to 100%. Consider a control panel that will let you manage lighting during different parts of the day, even if you’re not at home.
Be Sensor-tive: Consider occupancy sensors that will trigger lights on when you’re in a room, and shut them off after a period of inactivity.
Get Responsive: Try daylight-responsive controls that dim the lights in response to the availability of sunlight. You’ll save energy because when your light system delivers exactly what’s needed- no more, no less.
Know Your Ps and Qs About LEDs: LED lights are the greenest option, using 80% less energy and lasting longer than incandescent bulbs. However, not all LED lights are created equal. There are many low-cost LED bulbs on the market, but they normally sacrifice lighting quality to save energy. The best advice: Avoid them! They distort color perception in indoor spaces. And, check for an ENERGY STAR rating before purchasing yours, or talk to a FLOS expert.
Size Matters: Make sure you’re choosing the right size bulb for a specific area. Choose higher wattage for task lighting, and less for ambient and accent lighting.
Space Case: How Light Can Make Your Home More Spacious
Even the smallest rooms dream big—so show them the light!
Light is the best way to make a space seem bigger than it is. Maximize the availability of natural light by making any window a focal point of the room, and opt for light and neutral paints that won’t absorb the your glow.
Next, get tricky. Mirrors and other décor pieces can deflect and magnify light, so place them near to any light sources.
Next, look up. It’s important to light the whole room-- including the ceiling and walls--to avoid the “small cave” effect.
Finally, consider lights that pull double duty: artistic light patterns or luminous textiles, or LEDs that run under the counter or along flooring—all offering illumination without commandeering space.
Create Your Space: How to Light Personal Spaces
Lighting your space is a deeply personal experience that ultimately comes down to preference. Here are a few tricks to getting yours right:
Choose Your Hue:Are you looking for a more energetic environment that’s suitable for work? Opt for bright, white light. Want a mellower mood? Lights that mimic warm, golden incandescent light will help you set a relaxed tone.
Do a Dimmer:Your mood changes often, and so should your light. A dimmer will help you adjust the light in your space based on your need and your desire at any given moment.
Use Your Phone:Smart bulbs and other innovations have made it easy to control lighting right from our phones. Going from a news show to a romantic movie? Dim your lights without getting up off of your couch.
Automatic Lighting Controls:The best thing about technology is that it is starting to know us better than we know ourselves. “Smart” controls within your home may seem futuristic, but they’re actually quite common. They’ll learn your habits and adjust accordingly--from dimming lights when you’re less likely to use them to increasing them as the day goes on.
RV Lighting 101: How to Light Your Recreational Vehicle
When it comes to lighting your RV, you’ll need to consider a few things:
- Light fixtures. Older mobile homes will be more compatible with incandescent bulbs, which offer that golden-retro vibe but are far less efficient than LEDs. Consider updating your RV’s
- The need for versatility. Track lighting is a great way to offer a bit of light without illuminating your space (and giving a front row seat to the happenings inside to other drivers on a dark road). Dimmer switches allow you to customize central lighting based on your need and mood. Small, direct light fixtures allow riders to personalize their own use at any given time.
- Your outside space. If you’re setting up the grill (or just a place to chill) outside when you’re parked, a mounted light or track lighting will be essential to your experience.
- Outside light changes. Unlike a stationary home, an RV will need more or less light depending on the area it’s moving through. Consider light sensors that adjust accordingly, or different styles of light (including uplighting or downlighting) that will fit different light needs.
- Your taste. As with any other home, your light fixtures should reflect your taste and style. And RV is a unique home—your lighting should be equally so.
Commercial Lighting: Why It’s So Important
As with any space, commercial spaces need to set the right mood, and lighting is a key part of that. Here’s why:
- Customers should be, first and foremost, comfortable. They should have enough light to see details without feeling the stress of too much brightness. Brighter overhead lighting is a good way to achieve that level of comfort: It enables those in the space to see what they need to, without a feeling of overwhelm.
- Lighting affects energy. White light lends to more energy—which is why you’d want it in your gym or office space. A more dim light—like that at a restaurant—promotes relaxation, and allows a customer to feel more “off duty.”
- Bad lighting is bad for business. A poorly lit dressing room that doesn’t allow a customer to see what they’re trying on can be frustrating, and it will inform their experience in a way that means they may not return. In the same way, a too-dark office can create obstacles for employees to work around. Whenever possible, lighting should facilitate whatever business is happening in your space.
- Lighting should be suitable for the projects being sold. For example, high color temperatures (daylight white, >5000K) are recommended for showing off luxury items with fine details. Lower color temperatures (warm white, <3000K) are better for products with red, orange or yellow tones (fruits, for example, or some clothing).
- Accent lighting is useful in commercial settings a well. For example, retailers can draw attention to specific products - the latest fashion trend or seasonal products like Christmas decoration.
Decorate Like a Pro: Experts Share Insight on How To Light Your Home
Beautiful lighting is as essential a part of your design plan as your wallpaper or flooring. When it’s done right, it feels like an integral, organic part of a space. Done wrong, and it’s all too noticeable—in the worst way. Here are a few pro tips for lighting your space.
Consider Each Space:To determine the best light, first decide what you’ll be doing in each room. Workspaces like kitchens benefit from direct lighting (think pendants over counters, LED lights under counters) while spaces meant for relaxing (that cozy bedroom) will do better with ambient, soft, and dimmable lighting.
Opt for Variety:Choose different types of light sources in varied locations—sconces, pendants, direct lighting, accent lights, and a mixture of up- and downlighting will illuminate rooms without lending to eyestrain or “fatigue.”
Light the Whole Room:A room that’s not lit to the ceiling will have a cave-like feel that’s the opposite of cozy. Choose lights—or a combination or light sources—that illuminate all the way up. To that point, lighting large surfaces (like walls) will add to the overall brightness of a room.
Be Direct:Use direct light in task areas where you need it—such as the space over a kitchen counter or in the bathroom.
Utilize What You Have:Accentuate natural light by choosing window treatments that don’t obstruct it. A few well-placed mirrors will boost light that comes in from the outside.
Light What You Love:Spotlights on art work, accent lights illuminating frames—the best way to draw attention to the décor you love in your space is to light it right.
Do Right by Dimmers:Dimmer switches are easy, affordable ways to personalize your light output based on need and desire.
Find Your Focal Points: How to Design Around Areas of Interest
Some areas of interest in a room are easy to spot: That crackling fireplace, the huge picture window that looks out over the lake. Others rooms, though, can feel harder. The key to designing around focal points is to first find them. Here’s how:
- Understand what it is. A focal point in a room is an area of interest, of emphasis, or of a different composition than the rest of the room.
- Determine what stands out. Is it a bookcase, a fireplace, or a window? Pick your favorite part of the room, and organize the space accordingly.
- Create a point. Not sure what stand out? Create your own focal point with a striking mirror, mounted television, or work of art. Even furniture, like a couch, will work.
- See it first. Your focal point is likely the first thing you see when you enter a room.
- Light it up. Spotlighting, accent lights, or other detail lights will draw more attention to your favorite focal point.
- Add contrast. If you’re looking to call out a dark wood mantle, use a light colored paint on the wall behind it. Similarly, support lighter focal points with dark colors to make them pop.
- Add accessories. To finish, call further attention to your focal point by adding elements of décor. For example, for mantles and shelves, consider a well placed plant or framed photo.