A Interior illumination comes from three different sources. Natural light (or daylight) floods into a room through windows and skylights. Depending on the orientation of these and the time of day, the season, the color of your furniture and the weather-natural light can have either a gentle or harsh effect.
The other two kinds of light are artificial. When artificial light from a central source is diffused throughout a room and provides a uniform level of illumination, the effect is called ambient lighting. Artificial light that is concentrated and directed on a particular area is called task lighting. Whether or not an office has good natural light, it will need both types of artificial light.
Natural lighting. Windows, skylights, and French or sliding patio doors bring light, air, and views to your home office. The trick is to provide adequate natural light, but not too much.
Windows may be double-hung, casement, sliding, awning, hopper, or fixed in style. If in doubt, follow the styles used elsewhere in your house or neighborhood. What matters most is exposure: south windows let in bright, direct sun, while north windows provide soft, diffuse light. High clerestory windows and skylights draw light deeper into the room while maintaining privacy. Also consider glass block, which is making another comeback.
Think of French and sliding doors as windows, too: today they share the same solid construction and energy-efficient glazing. While hinged French doors mark the traditional indoor-outdoor transition, today’s sliders seal better and can look great, too.
Ambient lighting. Creating soft ambient lighting for a home office requires careful planning. It’s important to avoid high contrast between your work area and its surroundings. If you’re working at a computer screen, for example, too little or too much background light will require your eyes to adjust frequently. A dimmer switch can control ambient lighting and add flexibility. Having several light sources is preferable to having just one.
Task lighting. Whether emitted from individual desk lamps or from track lights mounted on the ceiling or a wall, task lighting focuses illumination on areas where vision will be concentrated. Insufficient lighting can quickly lead to eyestrain.
If you’re right-handed, task lighting should shine over your left shoulder so that your writing won’t cast shadows on your work. If you’re left-handed, it should shine over your right shoulder. Keep in mind, too, that a desk lamp with a fluorescent tube will not cast a shadow like that of a lamp with an incandescent or halogen bulb.
Beware of glare. Besides inadequate lighting, glare must also be assiduously avoided. Office lighting designs evolved for paper-related tasks, but the computer has changed all that. In general, computer environments require lower levels of well-shielded ambient light than traditional offices plus flexible task lighting that can be tailored to the job at hand. If possible, place both ambient and task fixtures on dimmer switches.
Computer users know how glare detracts from the visibility of a monitor screen. Glare is commonly produced in three ways:
- 1) light bulbs are reflected on the screen from above and behind the computer operator;
- 2) bright windows are situated behind the screen;
- 3) shiny surfaces within the user’s field of vision compete with the screen.
Window coverings can help; so can a screen shade or glare guard for your monitor.