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 for more information on books, upcoming seminars and the latest lighting trends.

Leave A Comment

  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>

More information about formatting options

By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.

Lastest from ask randall

I think that it's an aesthetic call, not hard science. Crystal-type chandeliers can hang lower, since you can see through them. The more modern drum-... read full story
You didn’t tell me what type of bulb you were using. I’m going to guess incandescent or halogen, since fluorescents or LEDs will not cause fading.... read full story
The quick formula is to add together the length and width of your room. The total of those two numbers is the suggested diameter of your chandelier... read full story
There are kits available made by two companies I know of that can transform a recessed downlight into a pendant light. Hopefully there is one... read full story


Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2-3 p.m. EST Sponsored by Emerson and Kuzco Lighting. Register for this free CEU webinar by clicking here. Webinar Overview:Learning units:AIA/CES LU (HSW... read full story
Sponsored by Bock Lighting, CSL, Fanimation, Pure Lighting/Edge Lighting and USA LED Lighting Solutions.   Wednesday, June 10, 2-3 p.m. EDT This free CEU webinar has... read full story
Sponsored by Emerson, Ferguson and Pure Lighting/Edge Lighting. This free CEU webinar has already taken place, but you can watch the archived presentation on-demand by... read full story

RL Tweets!