Lighting a Fiber Arts Studio
Last year my husband and I packed up our home and business and moved across the country. This was a huge shakeup, and one of the biggest changes was my studio space.
Lighting has been a huge challenge in this space. My previous studio spaces had lots of windows for great natural light, plus great overhead lighting. This one doesn't. Since we've had a lot of other big expenses with this move, I've decided to hold off on hiring an electrician to install hardwired lighting. This also gives me time to figure out exactly how I want the lighting in the studio set up.
This approach has had its fair share of challenges! One of the first things that I figured out is that lighting a fiber arts studio is way different than lighting other spaces in a home.
TL;DR - Use an online calculator to determine how much light you need. Use bright, cool light. Look for plug-in wall sconces and pendant lamps to get lots of light on the cheap. Your eyes (and your wallet) will thank you!
Design Challenge #1: All the Light is in One Corner
This room was originally meant to be either a formal living room or a large dining room. And somehow, all the light ended up in one corner of the room. There are large windows that let in a lot of natural light in the summer and fall. There's also a ceiling fan with three small lights.
I started out with using two floor lamps in the darker parts of the room, but even with a high-powered task lamp for extra lighting, I found I wasn't getting enough light.
This led to....
Design Problem #2: I Don't Want to Hire an Electrician Just Yet
Design Problem #3: Floor Space is at a Premium
As far as I'm concerned, these two problems are related. In an ideal world, I'd have dimmable, moveable track lighting, so that everything in the room is well lit. But there are several reasons why that's not on the table right now. First, it's not in the budget. Second, I want to "live in" to the space and really make a solid decision before making big changes.
Once I'd made that decision, I found that most of the lighting options were for floor lamps - like I already had. Adding more floor lamps didn't seem like it would solve the problem. Plus, they'd take up valuable space, add to tripping hazards, and potentially increase glare. I wanted a bright room, but one without too much glare.
Everyone I consulted kept saying "wall sconces," but I kept thinking of the dim mood lighting in hotels. Plus, all the wall sconces I'd ever seen had been hardwired in - work that would require hiring an electrician. This conundrum kept me stuck for longer than I care to admit.
Finally, I found out that there are plug-in wall sconces available. I bought two sets (four total), and it only set me back $60. They do require that you drill a few holes in the wall, but they are simple to install and connect to your existing outlet. No electrician needed, and no floor space sacrificed.
Design Problem #4: Light Temperature
Even after doubling the amount of light I had in my studio, I found it still wasn't bright enough. So I swapped out all my bulbs for brighter ones. And it STILL wasn't enough!
At that point in time, all the light bulbs in our house were "soft white," or about 2700k. This is a warm light, and it seems to be popular among designers as the "best light" for homes. But we use our homes a lot differently than we did even a few years ago. A studio space is more like an office than a living room. While warm light is great for relaxing, cool light tends to be better for working. So out went the soft white bulbs, and in came (ever brighter) "Daylight" bulbs. These have a color temperature of 5000k, and helped make the studio feel better lit.
Design Problem #5: How Much Light Do You Really Need?
Switching to brighter, cooler lights was better - for a while. But I found I was still experiencing eye strain, especially when threading the heddles on my floor loom. I was limited to the times that the room was filled with natural light on a sunny day. Even then, I needed to have all the lights on and use a task lamp to be comfortable. This was limiting me to working from about 9 am to 11 am in the winter months, and those hours didn't always line up with the other things I needed to get done.
I used an online lighting calculator to determine how much light I needed in my space. The answer: somewhere between 10,000 and 20,000 lumens. At that point, I had about 3,000 lumens from my overhead lighting and wall sconces, plus about 1,000 from my task light. At less than half the minimum, no wonder I still felt like it was too dark!
I knew I needed lots more light, and I especially needed to add light to the middle of the room. This time, it was plug-in pendant lights to the rescue. A set of two cost only $39, and they were easy to install.
Lastly, I made sure all the bulbs were as bright as they could be.
There are currently 7 electric light sources in my studio - three overhead lights, three wall sconces, and one task lamp that I move around as needed. I have one more wall sconce to install (I'm waiting until I've finalized the room layout). Once that last sconce is installed, my ambient lighting will be around 10,600 lumens.
Even without that last sconce, it finally feels bright enough. I no longer find myself wandering away from a task, only to later realize that it was because I couldn't see well enough.
Each light is controlled by its own switch, which has definite pros and cons. On the negative side, it takes more effort to turn all the lights on. In reality, it's less than 30 seconds! On the positive side, it's easy to customize exactly how much light I need at any given moment, making it much easier to just get on with the actual work of fiber art!
I also have read several books that have impacted how I think about designing my studio spaces:
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