Tips on Bedside Reading Lights
Our lighting expert tells a cozy bedtime story about perfectly positioned illumination.
 
You once said you used a recessed pinpoint halogen in lieu of bedside lamps. How do you calculate where to put them in the ceiling?
A good alternative to bedside reading lights is to install a pair of recessed adjustable low voltage luminaires in the ceiling above the bed. This is what I like to call the “airline approach” to providing focused light for reading. You may have noticed that the reading lights in an airplane are not located directly over your seat, but actually over the seat of the person sitting next to you. That’s because the airline designers knew that your head makes a better door than a window when it comes to light transmission. Two individually dimmed recessed adjustable fixtures provide pinpoint reading light from above. The same principle applies in the bedroom. The person on the right controls the recessed adjustable luminaire over his or her partner’s side of the bed, and vice versa. By using a lamp with a tight beam spread, such as the MR16 ESX (20W spot), the light is confined to a circle of illumination about the size of a magazine. If all your clients read are paperbacks, you can use an MR16 EZX, which projects a very narrow spot. Regarding where to install the reading lights, I recommend having them 18 inches to 24 inches out from the wall and 2 feet from the centerline of the bed, putting them 4 feet from each other. Make sure that the light over your loved one’s side is the one controlled by the dimmer next to your pillow. This way the light is directed away from the person trying to sleep. If more than two people are in the bed, reading is probably not on the agenda.
Randall Whitehead lighting designer
Randall Whitehead, IALD

Randall Whitehead, IALD, is a professional lighting designer and author. His books include "Residential Lighting, A Practical Guide." Whitehead has worked on projects worldwide, appeared on the Discovery Channel, HGTV and CNN, and he is regular guest on Martha Stewart Living Radio. Visit his website www.randallwhitehead.com for more information on books, upcoming seminars and the latest lighting trends.

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