Task Lighting

January 01, 2016

When developing a lighting scheme for a task area, the amount and direction of the light can be critical. In a kitchen, I want plenty of light on the task, whether reading a recipe or chopping carrots. Best lighting shines in a straight down direction. If the light source is in front of me shining back at the task surface, reflected glare could become a problem. Remember, elimination of glare is one of the primary assignments in developing a lighting system. When working on the kitchen counter with upper cabinets above, under cabinet lighting can be very effective. Place the fixture at the front edge of the cabinet instead of the back to decrease the chance of reflected glare.  If the work is on an island, lighting from directly above the island is best, preferably from multiple sources to decrease shadowing. And, there should be some general illumination in the space so that it feels well lit.

The bathroom is a very challenging task lighting area. The most effective vanity lighting is also one of the least attractive types. Those old makeup strips with multiple white globe shaped bulbs placed on either side of a mirror evenly light the face with no shadowing and minimum glare. A dimmer to control the amount of light provides ultimate flexibility and allows for varying eye sensitivity. Very few clients accept that look, however. So another effective choice is sconces on either side of the mirror (or mounted directly on the mirror), either with fabric shades or glass diffusers to shield the bulbs. Again, the light addresses the face from both sides, minimizing shadowing. The evolution of LED lighting has produced a number of attractive, effective fixtures for providing side lighting. If space restrictions render that option not viable, then the fixture mounted to the wall above the mirror or recessed lighting in the ceiling or furr down become our only other choices. In either case, multiple bulbs are very important. A single source produces shadows that make shaving or applying make-up most difficult. With two, three or even four bulbs, shadows are diminished and there is a better chance of seeing clearly. One very flexible choice for over the mirror is to mount track lighting to the wall, the exact width of the vanity, and then install sheet mirror above and below the track, making it appear to float in the mirror. Small heads can be placed along the track, shining down towards the sink, up towards the ceiling to provide reflected light, or towards the face from the extreme ends of the track. With all choices, don’t forget the dimmers! They provide control, flexibility, and energy savings.