Lighting a Home Office: How to Light Up Your Work Space

lighting a home office
(Image credit: Original BTC)

Lighting a home office properly is crucial if you want your work space to be productive and a pleasure to spend time in. 

Working from home has pretty much become the norm for many people, leading to a surge in interest in home office design. The need for office furniture that looks beautiful as well as being comfortable has also risen. 

Perhaps one of the most important elements in creating a home office though is lighting design — without giving careful consideration to lighting a home office, what should be a space that encourages creativity and efficiency can easily become somewhere that feels dull and depressing. 

Our guide to lighting a home office explains the steps you can take to ensure your lighting design scheme is spot on and explains how to position your light sources properly too, as well as highlighting the importance of natural light in the home office and how to take full advantage of it. 

home office lighting

The right home office lighting is crucial if you want your work space to be somewhere you enjoy being and feel productive in. The scheme shown here features multiple light sources from John Cullen Lighting, including task lighting from the desk lamp, ambient lighting from the downlights and accent lighting from the shelf lights.  (Image credit: John Cullen Lighting)

How to Design Lighting for a Home Office

Before you can start choosing lighting for a home office, you will need to think about several key factors and ask yourself certain questions, the answers to which will help you select the best lighting products and create the most effective lighting design scheme for you. 

Before you begin, ask yourself:

  • What time of day will the office be used the most?
  • Who will be using the room?
  • Will there be more than one person working in here at a time?
  • How much natural light does the room receive and where does it enter the space?
  • Are there areas you want to highlight, such as shelves or within cupboards?
  • Will the room be used for other activities other than working (such as for a guest bedroom)?

home office with two desks

Before you can come up with a lighting plan for your home office you need to think about who will be using the room and at what time of day. This fitted home office from Sharps features two desk spaces — note the perpendicular positioning of the desks to the window too.  (Image credit: Sharps)

The answers to these questions will help you build up an idea of the kind of lighting that will work best. For example, if you realise that two people will often be working in the room at once, you will need two sources of task lighting. Likewise, if you come to the conclusion that you will often be working in the space in the evening, you will need to carefully think about the best artificial light sources to provide enough light for you to work comfortably. 

Best Ways of Lighting a Home Office

When it comes to successfully lighting a home office, it is important to understand how to use layers of lighting. If you have not come across the idea of 'layering' light before then fear not. The term simply refers to combining different types of light to ensure that all the requirements that a particular space demand are met.

You are probably already using layers of light elsewhere in your home, perhaps without realising it. Does your living room feature recessed downlights and a selection of floor lamps? Is there a central pendant light in your bedroom along with bedside table lamps? If so, you are already layering light. 

There are several different types of light that make up these layers and some are more suitable for certain rooms than others.

(MORE: Lighting Design Ideas)

best home office lighting scheme

This home office, from Brayer Design, features a combination of downlights (providing the ambient lighting), a desk light to fulfil the task lighting and under-shelf lights for accent lighting.  (Image credit: Brayer Design)

Types of Lighting for Home Offices

The best way to light a home office is to include a combination of three main lighting types —  ambient (or general) light, task lighting and ambient lighting. Each of these plays a different role. Let's take a look at these different types of lighting in a little more detail.

Ambient Lighting: This is the background lighting that serves to illuminate the entire space. It is usually provided by a central pendant light, recessed downlights or a selection of wall lights.

Task Lighting: This is the very practical type of light that allows you to get the jobs you need to carry out in a space done. In a home office, task lights often come in the form of directional desk lamps, although floor lamps and even low hung pendants over your work area can work too. 

Accent Lighting: Accent lighting is primarily there for aesthetic purposes, allowing you to draw attention to features or certain areas of the room. 

Accent lighting is also sometimes called directional light. Good sources include hidden LED strip lights, wall washers and uplights. While this type of lighting is not as crucial in a home office as task or ambient, it helps to make the space pleasurable to be in. 

(MORE: Best LED Bulbs)

“Integrating lighting into shelves can make a great eye-catching feature while also adding additional light to the room," says Luke Thomas, Design Director at John Cullen Lighting. "A product such as our Contour HD27 linear lighting strips under shelving for a soft yet consistent glow of light works well, paired with integrated Etta Eyelid Under Cupboard Lights to create a spot and focus. When combined with additional layers of light from correctly positioned downlights and table lamps, this can create a calming ambient light to work by. This can be adjusted depending on the intensity of the natural light.”

accent lighting in home office

This cosy home office set up features a desk lamp and Contour HD24 LED strip lights from John Cullen — perfect for illuminating shelving.  (Image credit: John Cullen Lighting)

The Importance of Natural Lighting in a Home Office

Natural light and the way in which it enters your home office is hugely important, although even if your space is flooded with natural light, you will still need some kind of artificial lighting. 

In order to make the most of the light entering the room from outside, aim to position your desk in the area that receives the most natural light. 

Some people prefer their desk to face the window, but others find that a little distracting. In this case, place the desk at a perpendicular angle to the window instead. 

If your only option is to place the desk with the window behind you, be sure to fit a blind on the window for days when the bright sun could cause glare.

home office in living room

Positioning a desk in front of the window will avoid screen glare and provide views — if you find this distracting, placing the desk at a perpendicular angle to the window works well too. The furniture in this home office is from Ligne Roset (Image credit: Ligne Roset)

Where to Position Lights in a Home Office

The positioning of your home office lights is just as crucial as the fittings you choose. 

“A grid pattern will often light dead space, but lighting towards the walls and other vertical surfaces makes rooms feel bigger and brighter" advises Luke Thomas.

"Avoid harsh shadows on the desk area," he continues. "Place two or more low glare LED downlights to cross light the work space. Ensure fittings are positioned so that the user is not working in their own shadow — you do not want to position them behind the desk. 

"When selecting a beam, go for a wide beam for any downlights and maybe consider adding a honeycomb lens to soften the light and reduce glare."

home office with desk lights

The wall-mounted adjustable lamps in this smart home office from Wren Kitchens, are a great idea, allowing you to tweak the beam of light where needed.  (Image credit: Wren Kitchens)

How Much Light Does a Home Office Need?

When designing a lighting scheme you will see two common measurements — lux and lumen. 

Lux refers to how much light falls on a surface, whereas lumen indicates how much light is emitted by a light source (usually a bulb). You might also see a Kelvin level.

"The Kelvins (K) is the colour temperature and it’s best to use either 2700K or 3000K for an office," says Luke Thomas. "For a home office I would go with 2700K so it is not too stark and you achieve a softer ambience”.

Some desk lamps allow you to change the colour temperature according to your needs. 

When it comes to lux levels, it is advised that for general office work, a lux level of 250 and above is required, while school classrooms require at least 300 lux and computer work areas should have 500 lux. 

Natasha Brinsmead

Natasha is Homebuilding & Renovating’s Associate Content Editor and has been a member of the team for over two decades. An experienced journalist and renovation expert, she has written for a number of homes titles. Over the years Natasha has renovated and carried out a side extension to a Victorian terrace. She is currently living in the rural Edwardian cottage she renovated and extended on a largely DIY basis, living on site for the duration of the project. She is now looking for her next project — something which is proving far harder than she thought it would be.