Lighting Design for the Bedroom: Save Energy and Set the Mood

Create a pleasant atmosphere in your bedroom with good lighting design.


| November/December 2004


Although we come to the bedroom for a little shut-eye, much of our time in this room is spent reading, writing, dressing, and relaxing, so well-designed lighting helps create a pleasant atmosphere for those activities. By introducing daylight, carefully selecting room finishes, choosing which areas to light, and dividing the lighting system into controlled components, you can also significantly affect energy use. First, let’s get familiar with the basics of good lighting design.

Daylighting: The cheery, vibrant atmosphere created by daylight can’t be duplicated with electric light. Utilizing natural light is also the most important step in saving energy.

Brightness: The human eye doesn’t see illuminance, the amount of light falling onto a surface. Rather, we see the brightness of a surface that has been illuminated. Surface brightness depends on a material’s reflectance—the percentage of light that “bounces” off its surface. So, room finishes can impact lighting energy use as much as the light sources themselves. White plaster may have 70 to 80 percent reflectance, while stained wood may have only 5 to 20 percent. The same amount of light will create more brightness in a space that has high-reflectance surfaces such as light-colored, matte finishes.

Special Lighting: Thinking of light in terms of three “layers” provides flexibility, adds visual interest, and reduces overall energy use. Ambient light should provide just enough light for general tasks around the room. Task light increases the light level for a particular task—on the bedside table, a desk, or near a reading chair. Accent light creates contrast by highlighting artwork, furniture, or a colored accent wall or colorful quilt.



Lighting Strategies for the Bedroom

Skylights and light tubes







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