how much light do you need in a room?

How much light do you need in a room?

An expert lighting guide to calculating lumens, balancing ambience and function in different kinds of rooms, and layering light...

We all know how crucial the right levels of lighting are for creating stunning interiors, but, of course, practicality plays a significant role. Just how much light do you need in a room? Well, it depends on various factors, including the room's size, its intended purpose, and the atmosphere you aim to create.

In this guide, we'll explore how to achieve the perfect amount of light in a room, including how many lumens you require, how to balance different types of lighting, and create the ideal ambiance.

How Many Lumens Do You Need?

In today's energy-efficient world of LED light bulbs, lumens (lm) are the measure of brightness. Lumens provide a more accurate gauge of light quality compared to the old wattage measurement, which primarily indicated energy consumption.

To determine how many lumens you need in a room, start by multiplying the room's length and width to calculate the square footage. For instance, a room measuring 10 x 10 feet has a total area of 100 square feet.

Next, ascertain how many lumens are necessary per square foot, also known as a 'foot candle.' This depends on the specific room and its purpose.

As a handy rule of thumb, a living room or bedroom generally requires about 10-20 lumens per square foot, while bathrooms or kitchens need stronger lighting, around 70-80 lumens per square foot. To find the total lumens needed, multiply the room's square footage by this figure. So, for our 100-square-foot living room with its 10-20 foot candles, you'd need approximately 1,000-2,000 lumens in total.

That's the technical side of it, but keep in mind that this formula provides only a baseline for room lighting requirements. As we'll soon discover, lighting a room is about more than just lumens.

What's the best way to light a room?

What's the Best Way to Light a Room?

In addition to room size and lumens, consider the room's intended uses.

Spaces like the kitchen or living room often serve multiple purposes. You can combine various types of lighting to accommodate these needs—ranging from focused, task-oriented lighting for specific activities like cooking, to softer ambient lighting for relaxation and entertainment. This approach is known as 'layering' your lighting.

There are three primary types of lighting: task lighting, ambient lighting, and accent lighting:

  1. Task Lighting: Task lighting is tailored for specific activities such as reading, sewing, chopping vegetables, or working at a desk, and it requires a higher lumen output than other forms of lighting. For instance, reading may require at least 450 lumens.
  2. Ambient Lighting: Ambient lighting encompasses the overall room illumination, including the main light source (such as a pendant light) and any other fixtures contributing to the general brightness, like wall mounts, recessed lights, chandeliers, or floor lamps.
  3. Accent Lighting: Accent lighting is used to draw attention to specific areas within a room, such as architectural features, décor, photos, or artwork. It may include recessed lights, table lamps, uplights, or wall sconces. As a general rule, accent lighting should be about three times stronger than ambient lighting.

By achieving the right balance between task, accent, and ambient lighting, you can create various moods and effects in your room. For more insights into layering light, you can read our guide here.

Living room lighting

How to Light a Living Room

The living room is a versatile space often used for various activities, from reading and watching TV to doing homework, having a light meal, entertaining guests, or simply unwinding. Your lighting scheme should cater to these diverse needs, providing ample illumination during the day and allowing for adjustment in the evening when you want to relax.

Consider the room's natural light, whether from bay windows, skylights, or patio doors, and how it interacts with different surfaces within the room.

Typically, the main source of ambient light in a living room is a pendant light or chandelier. To create an airy, spacious feel, complement the main light with floor lamps, wall lights, and table lamps. These can highlight ceilings, corners, and alcoves, adding balance and depth to the room's aesthetics.

For rooms with high ceilings, a long pendant light can emphasize the room's height. For specific tasks such as reading or homework, incorporate task lighting like desk or table lamps, or even adjustable floor lamps.

Additionally, consider using accent lighting, such as recessed lights or uplighters, to showcase architectural elements, cherished photos, or artwork. When it comes to relaxation or evening entertainment, a dimmer switch offers ultimate lighting flexibility, creating a warm and inviting atmosphere. Make sure to select dimmable bulbs for this purpose.

Browse our living room lighting collection.

Dining room lighting

How to Light a Dining Room

The dining room is an area where proper lighting can significantly enhance the overall ambiance. If your dining table doubles as a workspace or homework area, ensure adequate lighting for both daytime tasks.

The dining table serves as the focal point, so center your lighting around it. A striking chandelier or a central, low-hanging pendant light (or a series of pendants for longer tables) can make a stylish statement. Hanging the bottom of the light fixture about 36 inches above the table is generally ideal. When it's time to entertain, you can set the mood by dimming the lumens with some lower-level lighting.

Strategically placed table lamps and wall lights can contribute to creating the right atmosphere and sense of intimacy, which is also more flattering for your guests. Using a dimmer switch allows you to control the lighting and mood according to your needs. Explore more lighting tips for dining rooms here.

Browse our dining room lighting collection.

Kitchen lighting

How to light a Kitchen

Kitchens are multifunctional spaces used for cooking, dining, entertaining, and working. They require substantial general lighting and task-specific illumination. Achieving the right mix of lighting can add that extra touch of magic.

In the kitchen, focus on providing direct, targeted light above work areas like the stove, sink, counters, and food preparation spaces. This can be achieved through a combination of strategically placed pendant lights, adjustable spotlights, or recessed lights. A single pendant light or a row of pendants above a kitchen island can create an attractive focal point. Odd numbers, such as three or five pendants, tend to work best.

If your kitchen also serves as an eating and entertaining space, consider adding a pendant light or a striking chandelier hung low over the dining table. This not only enhances the visual appeal but also distinguishes the dining area from the working zones. To infuse extra ambiance, incorporate accent lighting like shelf lights or wall lights.

Browse our kitchen lighting collection.

 Bedroom lighting

How to Light a Bedroom

Bedrooms serve various purposes, including sleeping, reading, dressing, and watching TV. Once again, the key is to layer your lighting. In most bedrooms, ambient light typically comes from the ceiling fixture.

A pendant light or a statement chandelier positioned about 8-12 inches from the ceiling can provide an elegant decorative focal point.

If you enjoy nighttime reading, bedside table lamps come in a variety of styles, colors, and materials. Opt for a bedside light with a shade to cast a soft, warm glow that's perfect for bedtime and won't disturb anyone else sharing the room.

For other practical tasks such as dressing or applying makeup, introduce focused task lighting with desk lamps, table lamps, or low-hanging pendants. Additionally, incorporate accent lighting in different areas of the room to create a soothing and relaxing ambiance. Wall lights, table lights, and floor lamps offer a gentler, more serene alternative to the main light.

Browse our bedroom lighting collection.

In addition to the light fixtures themselves, consider the color of the bulbs you use. Blue and white light are known to increase alertness and inhibit sleep, while warmer, yellow lights are more relaxing, making them an ideal choice for the bedroom.

At Pooky, we offer beautiful, affordable lighting solutions for your interior design needs. Browse our extensive collection of lamps and shades, and let us help you illuminate your space with style and grace.