Lighting small spaces for function and style

Posted by Raelle Bell on Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Lighting can be tricky in a closet, laundry room, or any small space that requires adequate illumination and good color rendering. After all, true trend setters don’t show up at the office wearing one brown and one black sock.

It's common to focus on brightness when installing fixtures or selecting bulbs for task lighting, but just as important is the color rendering index (CRI) of a light source. CRI is a measure of how well people or things look when lighted by a particular light source compared to how they look when lighted by incandescent bulbs or outdoor daylight/sunshine. This is obviously important in a closet or laundry room where you may be trying to match or coordinate colors of shoes, clothing, and accessories.

When shopping for lighting consider:

  • The scale used for CRI is 0-100 where 100 is a perfect color match.
  • The higher the CRI; the better (more natural) people and things will look.
  • For residential lighting, use LED light sources with CRI ratings of 90 and above.
  • From a practical standpoint, most LEDs (even the ones with poor color rendering) usually have a CRI of 70 or more.

Electrical codes are another key consideration when it comes to lighting small spaces, especially closets, where there are clothes and other potentially flammable items near light sources. Fortunately, LEDs do not emit the heat that traditional incandscent bulbs do; however, there are many codes that apply regardless of the light source being used. This means it's always advisable to work with a lighting professional, even when installing lighting in spaces like closets, where visual appeal may not be as important. 

Shadowing is another common issue in closets and laundry rooms. Innovations in product design and type, made possible by LEDs, can greatly improve this. Many products with the LED light source built into the fixture are slimmer and require less space to produce the same light output as their larger counterparts, this means you may be able to install them in places where a traditional fixture with a screw in light bulb might not meet code. Other low-profile products like LED tape light can be used around door frames or in ceilings to eliminate shadows.

There's a lot to consider when lighting small spaces, especially when it comes to improving function. Visit your nearest ALA-member showroom to learn more and work with a trained lighting professional.

Looking for more on lighting closets? Check out this episode of ALA's podcast, That's Brilliant!, to hear from 45-year lighting industry veteran Jeffrey Dross of on all considerations of lighting closets and other small spaces.

Photos by Livex LightingCapital Lighting Fixture Company, and Maxim Lighting (in order displayed). 


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