How is lighting a tiny house different than lighting a normal room of the same size?
A normal room can be treated as one, fairly unified, space. It is used for a limited set of purposes. For example, a dining room is used for dining and gathering.
On the other hand, a tiny house no bigger than many dining rooms may contain many diverse uses in one space. The lighting can serve to highlight these uses rather than making the house seem like one unified (fairly small) room.
If you’ve decided against unnecessary partitions, then lighting can create the feel of separate, intimate spaces without physically chopping the interior up into separate rooms.
There are two basic types of lighting to consider: daylighting and artificial lighting. Last week’s post was about daylighting; today, we’ll look at artificial lighting and the ways it can work for you.
Artificial Lighting for Tiny Houses
Artificial lighting will of course be needed at night, and as a supplement to daylighting when needed during the day. (If your daylighting is well designed, you may need very little artificial daylighting even on overcast days!)
Types of Artificial Lighting
Many different light sources are available: incandescent lights, fluorescents, LEDs, and so on. They’re discussed in depth on Energy.gov so I won’t go into them here. Instead, I want to talk about what is, in my opinion, the most important lighting design concept for tiny houses: task/ambient lighting.
Task lighting provides sufficiently bright light, where it is needed, for specific tasks: kitchen counters, reading areas, work areas, and so forth.
Ambient lighting provides a lower, diffuse level of light throughout the entire space; it should generally be about one-third as bright as the task lighting.
Used together, these two types of lighting can generate a lighting design that is both practical and beautiful. Here are a couple of ways that the concept of task-ambient lighting could be applied to specific areas of a tiny house:
- Kitchen/dining: If you have cabinets mounted above your kitchen counters, small LED “puck” lights under the cabinets could provide excellent task lighting. Otherwise, this task lighting could be incorporated in the ceiling or a soffit above the counters. A ceiling-mounted fixture in the center of the kitchen could provide ambient light for the whole space.
- Living area: A reading nook or chair could have task lighting in the form of a lamp on a wall-mounted shelf or niche, or a wall sconce. Lower levels of ambient lighting could be provided by accent lighting along the walls.
- Sleeping area: For a bed for two people, task lighting could consist of bedside lamps or wall-mounted fixtures on either side of the bed with switches that can be individually dimmed or turned off. Light the whole area with a low level of ambient lighting using valance lighting.
- Bathroom: A single bright and warm source of light could be placed just above or in front of the mirror. Make sure the light illuminates the tub, shower, and any other niches or closets. A nightlight or several small LED lights could provide low-level ambient lighting for nighttime use.
- Outdoors: If you have a porch, then one or two wall- or ceiling-mounted fixtures can illuminate the front door. Small LED fixtures could be placed above each stair tread to light the stair. A string of lights could be hung, draped, or wound around porch columns to create an enticing dazzle of light.
In my next post, I’ll talk about the basics of passive solar design, which can be applied to any house, large or small.
Have you come up with your own solutions for tiny house lighting? Share them in the comments below!
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