How To Choose The Right Light Fixture For Your Project

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When you’re working on an interior design project, you probably often wonder how to choose the right light fixture for the space you’re designing. Lighting design is an integral part of every project, ever since the introduction of electricity. Nowadays the choice and possibilities are practically endless, so no wonder you might feel overwhelmed. Especially if you’re at the beginning of your career. 

No worries, though, I’ve got you. I’m going to give you a little guide on how to choose the right light fixture, so next time you work on the lighting scheme for a project, it will be much easier.

Let’s Start With The Basics

If you haven’t already, go ahead and read my blog post about light layers and how to use them in interior design. From there you will learn the importance of layering the light in your scheme, depending on the function it has to fulfill. Yep, sadly, putting a single light source in the middle of the ceiling is not enough. 

Once you decide on the layout of the space you’re designing - think about what you want to illuminate and how. Is there anything important that you’d like to highlight? Is there a table that will require some light above it? Will there be a workspace? Etc. Follow the information from the post I mentioned earlier and decide how you want to distribute the four layers:

  • general light
  • task light
  • accent light
  • decorative light

It’s not obligatory to use all of them in every room. Once you understand how the layers work, you can play around with various configurations, to create a unique ambiance.

How To Design Light

Remember - never design the lighting scheme on a flat 2D layout. Or at least not ONLY there. You might be tempted to align the light fixtures with the corridor line or put several light spots in a straight line that flows to a neighboring room. Who cares if you don’t see both rooms simultaneously, at least it looks good on paper, right? Well, no.

Think about how the clients will use the space. Will they look at it from a drone or a helicopter above, after having magically removed the ceiling? No, that’s how you look at your Sims when you play (was it just me obsessed with the game back in the day?). Real people, however, live inside the spaces you design, so they look at them in 3D, from the floor. 

And so that’s how you should design the light. If you work with 3D modeling software, like Sketchup, you can create a model of the house or apartment, and ‘walk’ through it as if you were inside. This will help you to imagine where the light fixtures should go and what should be illuminated.

If you don’t use any 3D modeling software it’s ok. You can still sketch your design in perspective from different angles and look at the space this way.

Don’t forget to illuminate the walls. We usually look at them when we move around so there must be some light on the eye level.

ceiling with orange lamps on it. learn how to choose the right fixture for your interior design project

Learn About The Parameters Of Light Fixtures

You probably noticed already that most light fixtures come with a list of parameters and characteristics that describe the type of light source, its color temperature, and power. There’s a lot more to it and most of the elements are nominated with abbreviations. Things like IP, UGR, CT or CCT, CRI, and probably the rest of the alphabet. Sounds like gibberish to you? I get it. It did to me too but once you get the hang of it, it will be easier to choose the right light fixture.

It so happens that I wrote an ebook that explains it all and a lot more! You will learn everything an interior designer should know about light. I should’ve written that with capital letters as it’s actually the ebook’s title 😀

Don’t hesitate and click on the banner below to get your copy today!

From the ebook, you’ll learn not only what all those abbreviations mean, but also what actually is light, how it affects our mood, how much light is enough, and… how to choose the perfect light fixture 🙂 you can click on this link to see the table of contents and get an even better idea of what’s inside. You don’t want to miss it!

Back to the subject - once you understand what all those parameters mean, choosing the right light source won’t seem like a puzzle anymore.

Which Light Fixture Is Right For My Interior Design Project

We touched a bit on the theory, which is, in my opinion, crucial in the choosing process. After all, how do you know which light fixture to choose for your project if you don’t know anything about light and light fixtures themselves?

But, as it usually is in life, the theory goes hand in hand with practice. So, how do you know how to choose the right light fixture for your interior design project? 

I’m not gonna beat around the bush and go straight to telling you - there is no one perfect recipe for that. As I said in the beginning - the possibilities are endless, so I won’t tell you “oh, for the bathroom always use this and for the kitchen always use that”. It would have been awesome, but don’t worry, there is a way to at least narrow it all down.

picture of multiple light fixtures

To do that, I suggest you ask yourself a few questions. As an example, I’ll show you 5 important ones that will help you get closer to the perfect choice. Let’s see:

5 Important Questions To Help Choose The Right Light Fixture

1. Which light layer is it going to cover?

Remember the light layers from my post? Deciding on the layer which the light is going to cover will help you determine the general type of fixture. Is it a task light? Then it would be good if it’s directional so that you can evenly illuminate the surface in question. Is it the general light? Well then, a round light fixture with a diffuse cover should do the trick. Those are examples but I’m sure you see what I mean.

2. What do I want to illuminate?

Seems obvious, but focus on the details. Yes, you want to illuminate the scene you’re creating. But what in particular? A picture in a frame? A kitchen island? A shower? Each of those elements will require a slightly different light fixture. For a picture frame, you want to choose for example a ceiling-mount spotlight and direct it toward the picture. For a kitchen island, you should choose something bigger, like a long pendant. Or three separate pendants, to make sure the light is evenly distributed on the whole surface. In the shower, you should opt for a hermetic light fixture that works well in humid places. Preferably something recessed as they are easiest to seal.

3. Which materials are being used in the room?

You might wonder what materials have to do with light fixtures. Well, they do, as they determine the intensity of the light you want to use. From the theory of light, we know that light materials (like white marble, white paint, light oak floor, etc.) will reflect a lot more light than dark materials will. The latter (like slate, dark paint, walnut floor, etc.) will absorb a big portion of the light your light fixtures produce. So to illuminate dark interiors, you’ll need more powerful light fixtures, than for light interiors.

4. Where will the fixture be placed?

Ceiling? Wall? Floor? But also - inside? Outside? Or even - the bathroom? Kitchen? Yes, the placement of the light fixture is important. It’s detrimental when it comes to IP (oh the abbreviations! IP describes the level of protection) you decide on. If you’re placing the light fixture outside, the IP should be higher than if it was inside. Something around IP 65 should be safe. Inside, you’re fine with IP20, unless it’s in a bathroom. Then it should be water protected. The place can also be detrimental when it comes to color temperature. You might want to install something cozy and warm in a bedroom, like 2700K. But in a kitchen or a bathroom, where your clients perform various tasks, it’s better to use light fixtures with a color temperature of something around 4000K.

5. Who is going to be the user?

I say this a lot but when you design you should always keep the end user, i.e. your client in mind. After all, you don’t design for yourself. So who is going to be the end user? Is it an elderly couple? Or a young single? The reason to ask yourself this question is that older people need more light to be able to see well than younger people do. So to design a proper illumination (especially the general and task light layers), you need to know how strong the light should be. This way you’ll be able to eliminate anything that, even though cute and in style, doesn’t meet the power requirements.

a picture of a chandelier

Ask For Help

If you’ve determined all of what we talked about but still are not sure which light fixture is right for your project - ask for help. If the project is very important, or if you’re designing a public space, you can collaborate with lighting designers. They are there to design the lighting scheme and choose the right light fixtures for you. 

You can seek help even if your project is small or the budget doesn’t allow any collaborators. I’m sure the vendors, technicians, or even producers will help you with any doubts you might have. If you cover the basics using the information I gave you, you should be close to choosing the right light fixtures for the project.

Play With It

I know that it all might be intimidating or overwhelming in the beginning. But don’t be scared. After all, it's all a part of the design process. Play around with various light fixtures, and try creating different ambiances - have fun with it!

Oh and remember that my ebook about Everything An Interior Designer Should Know About Light is out there to help you! Go and get your copy today!

hi there!

I'm Aleksandra, an interior architect with multinational experience, on a mission to help beginning or self-taught designers gain confidence and create systems that will help them bring their businesses to the next level.




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hi, I'm Aleksandra!

I will help you create an organized interior design business with systems and processes, and to gain confidence to bring your career to the next level.

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