The Right Lighting Color Temperature
The best Kelvin temperature depends on the task at hand, says our expert Randall Whitehead, IALD, in a rare exchange with a reader.
In response to your answer about preferred color temperature: I have been designing working and living environments for close to four decades. Why would you follow behind the "interior decorator crowd" who, like you, specify excessively warm 2200K to 2900K lighting? They most certainly have no idea or any understanding of the science of lighting! Sorry, my friend, but even with quality LED fixtures, we specify 3500K for residential environments, except home offices and laundry rooms, where we specify 4000K. Where do you come up with 2200K? That would give lousy color rendition and a real strain on the eyes when performing everyday tasks!

OMG, four decades? You must be really old. Now, my friend, if you go back and look at the question, you will see that the reader was asking about ambient light. I'm totally with you on task light, especially in work environments. Task lighting should be a cooler, cleaner color temperature. Indirect lighting is different animal, though. The majority of my clients want the warm glow of incandescent light — and yes, that includes the interior decorator crowd. Sometimes it isn't about science; it is about the feel of the light from a glow fire and candlelight. Where's your romance, man? Do you really want to make sweet sweet love in 3500K? If so, you'd better keep your lab coat on.


Reader's response: I have to fully agree with your reply! Please accept my apology. Most of my designing through these past hundreds of years (it feels like that) has been commercial in nature — such as office, healthcare, hospitality and corporate environments — and not too much residential. As far as the "romance" question: I am pleading the Fifth ...and will not let my wife see your e-mail!

When my wife and I do have intimate moments in our bedroom, unfortunately the motion sensor light switch really messes with our romance! We lay very, very still until the motion sensor shuts the lights off ... and then we move ever so slowly.

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.

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