home office lighting

Home Office Lighting

Lighting: The Most Important Pieces of Equipment in Any Office

When designing your ideal in-home office, there are three elements that are the most important: Your desk, your chair, and your office lighting. All three of these must work well together in order for you to function comfortably in your home office. Which is the best type of home office lighting to use?

The type of light fixtures and lamps you choose will depend on your office space requirements, what time of day you work, how much natural light is available and how your desk is situated to take advantage of it, and probably a few other factors, not least of which is personal preference. If you choose to work after dark, you may find you need more than one of these types of lighting.

If your home is rented you will be less likely to install any permanent light fixtures, so desktop lamps, clamp on lamps or hanging lights will be more desirable for most rental properties.

Type of Bulb

Another factor is the type of bulb used. Fluorescent bulbs and compact fluorescent bulbs are energy saving and long lasting, but do have an environmental and safety downside if they break, since they can expose you and your family to mercury contamination.

Good quality LED fixtures are extremely efficient and long lasting, but are still fairly expensive to purchase, though as they gain more acceptance the price is coming down.

Eyestrain and Glare

Reading in low light sends mixed signals to your brain, resulting in mixed signals being sent to your visual muscles. Your muscles are trying to relax so that the most light can be gathered, but at the same time they’re trying to contract to focus on the written word. This causes EYE STRAIN.

Avoiding eyestrain and glare is key. You want to choose lights that mimic the natural light spectrum as closely as possible, since this is the spectrum that causes the least eyestrain. How bright the light is and how it adjusts to put the light exactly where it’s needed is also important for avoiding glare and eyestrain. It’s also important to take note of any window treatments and how they are reflecting light from outside into your office as well.

Some fluorescent fixtures flicker and/or strobe, which may be very subtle, but the resulting eyestrain and headaches will be anything but subtle! If you are using a fluorescent light fixture and experiencing discomfort it is time to assess whether you need to switch it out for a newer fixture. Better quality fluorescent fixtures and bulbs don’t strobe, and LED fixtures don’t do this at all.

Let’s explore the types of office light fixtures you can choose for your work at home office.

Traditional Desk Lamps

Traditional Desk Lamp

The most common type of office lighting is the desk lamp, https://www.architecturelab.net/architect-lamp/. These come in many forms, ie; architect, banker’s, swing arm, gooseneck or flexneck, magnifier, piano, and other types of desk lighting.

Pro— Desk lamps put the light exactly where you need it– on the surface where you’re working. Most are adjustable to at least some degree, allowing you to position both the light and the lamp so that you can work comfortably with little to no glare.

Con— If your office and/or desktop is very small, the lampbase may take up valuable desktop space. Also, they use an outlet, and sometimes adding one more wire is one too many!

Swag Lamp, Pendant Lamp or Hanging Lamps

One way to get your lighting up off your desktop to conserve desktop space is to use a swag lamp, a pendant lamp, or hanging lamp.

Swags are made to plug into an outlet, with the long wire laced through a chain that then hangs from a hook or bracket. These work well if you rent your property and wish to minimize damage to the walls or ceiling. They also work well if you plan to move and don’t wish to make permanent changes to your existing property.

Pendant type lamps or hanging type lamps are permanently installed into the ceiling and then wired to a wall switch. These work well if you own your own home and don’t plan to move for a good long while.

Though in most cases your lighting will be fixed in position with a hanging light, some versatility can be achieved if you pair your swag lighting with a swivelling bracket for hanging it, and an extra long chain and cord.

You can also buy a swag kit and pair it with your choice of shade, giving you more decorating versatility!

Pros— These allow you to put the lighting exactly where you want it without sacrificing desktop space.

Cons— Because they require either a ceiling hook and/or a wall bracket for the plug-in type, or to be wired directly into the ceiling for the wired in type, they can’t as easily be moved if you decide to move your desk. There are few LED options for hanging swags or fixtures at this time, though that will change as LED lighting becomes more cost effective.

Adjustable Floor Lamps

floor lampIn some cases when you wish to conserve desk space but don’t wish to use a hanging fixture, an adjustable floor lamp may be the best option.

Pros— No permanent installation needed, and can be moved easily. Adjustable lamp arms allow you to move the light where you wish, which can be more versatile in certain cases.These work especially well when the desk is not against and facing a wall.

Cons— Requires floor space, which can be a challenge in cases where the office is in a very small space. Requires an outlet, which can be a challenge in cases where one more wire and plug will cause issues. Cheaper floor lamps are often less stable and may create a toxic hazard when used with carbon fluorescent bulbs.

Clip Lamps and Clamp Lamps

If space in your office is at a premium, then clip on lamps or clamp on lamps are one of the most versatile options for you. They can be fastened to the edge of the desk or table, to a shelf above your desk or to any other nearby surface of the right thickness ie a window sill. This frees up valuable desktop space.

Pros– These lamps take up very little space, and most are very adjustable so that you can focus the light exactly where it’s needed, and move it if you need to. Clip-ons are more easily movable. Clamp-ons are usually much more durable and don’t have a tendency to shift if clamped properly.

Cons– These lamps require an outlet and sometimes one more cord is one too many. The cheaper clip on lamps can be unstable and the clips will eventually lose their tension. Clamp on lamps are not as easily movable, and the cheaper swing arm lamps will lose tension and become unstable. Pairing a cheaper and less stable clip on lamp or clamp on lamp with a carbon fluorescent bulb may create a toxic hazard. Halogen lamps of this type may, if the lamp becomes unstable, cause a fire hazard because of their high heat output.

Under Cabinet Light Fixtures

For situations where both desktop space and floor space are at a premium, you might choose to mount light fixtures to the bottom of your hanging shelves or hanging cupboards above your desktop.

In most cases you’ll choose low profile or flush mounted lights for this purpose, but in some cases you may have the room to use short profile track lighting, which gives much more versatility, allowing you to aim the light exactly where you wish.

Pros— This type of fixture takes up the least amount of room in any office and is great for small office spaces. You can find these types of fixtures that can be either plugged in or permanently wired in. This type of lighting comes in both fluorescent and LED options.

Cons— This type of lighting isn’t as versatile and is harder to move if you move your desk or office. There is no way to use most of these in situations where the desk isn’t under a hanging cupboard or shelf.

Battery Operated Office Lights

If there’s a space in your office where you need some extra light and it’s just plain inconvenient to either run another wire or unwise to plug another plug into an already crowded wall outlet, then you’ll need to consider alternatives. Battery powered lamps and lights are available. There are also solar charging lights that can be useful if you have a window with natural light where a solar light can easily be charged. These come in different types. Some are lamps, others can be fastened to a wall, clipped to a table or shelf, or stuck to the underside of a cupboard or hanging shelf.

These lights will not completely replace good electrical lighting. They are not as bright. But they will add some light in a place where you need it.

You could also look for solar powered ones as well. If there is enough sunlight getting through, then you have an office where you don’t even need to pay for electricity for your lighting.

create a home office

Changing a Guest Room into a Home Office


We have a guest bedroom in our home that is lovely; however, it only gets used three weeks out of a year. I really would like to have a study and am not sure how to set the room up. This room is directly across from the great room and I would like them to relate. I would appreciate some ideas for developing this room into a more useable space.


Since “Home Office” is all about function, you have already taken the first important step in analyzing a space by considering the use of the space as well as the function. The original room worked well for the week-end guest with the queen size bed, but did not leave enough room for the much needed work area.

The goal was to convert this existing room into a highly efficient home office by taking advantage of the spaces available. As it was also important to provide a nice area for reading, listening to music as well as guest sleeping, we suggested placing the work surfaces along the perimeter of the rooms.

This allowed enough available floor space to install a nice sleeper sofa for the few times guests will be using the room and also provided cozy seating to be used on a daily basis.


Interior Designers are always looking for new, creative twists for existing spaces. As our design team began to develop the plan, we suggested removing the one existing, bedroom door which lead into the great room, widening and reframing the opening by an additional 2’6” for a total opening of 5’ wide.

This enabled us to create a gracious entry into the new study and add some dynamite doors while allowing the two spaces to flow and compliment each other.

To add additional drama and interest to these spaces, two custom leaded glass doors were designed and hinged to open into the great room. Whether in the open or closed position, these doors bring in a wonderful element of interest, color, and design to not only the study but also the great room as we hinged the doors to swing into the great room for all to enjoy.


As long as we were into a little sheetrock and drywall anchors tear-out and new paint, the decision was made to remove the closet doors and eliminate the short, wing walls. This “new-found space” worked well for developing a computer workstation with upper bookcases and enclosed upper cabinets for storage. (See revised plan.)

An additional workstation was added under the view window that enables this office to be used by two family members at the same time while keeping each area independent.

An upper bookcase could easily be added to this area on the wall space just left of the window which duplicates the amount of storage and work surface.

By using just a few design changes, the space has become very compact but efficient and with a wealth of practical features which is especially important with the ever changing demands of the modern business world.


When investing in any item for the home, not only think about current use but also anticipate and plan for future needs. Home offices can often begin with a simple need to escape from family activities while paying bills, and this office can grow into a highly used area by spouses catching up on work, children playing computer games or preparing a school paper.

Home offices often turn into the main office for a home business or a retreat haven for the newly retired.

Make a list of needs for the present office as well as for the projected use of this space during the next six years. List how the space will be used and what family members will be using the space together or at separate times. Include in your list all equipment that you will be using such as computer, copier, printer, scanner, etc., and decide if it is acceptable for you to have this equipment displayed in the open or prefer to have the equipment behind closed doors when not in use.

As equipment will change over the years in type, style and dimensions, keep your dimensions and space flexible.


As a general rule, the depth of the worktop should be a minimum of 24” deep. The main work area could increase to a comfortable 30” deep for spreading out papers if your room space allows this. The desk work-height should be at 29” to 30” from the finished floor. If a pencil drawer or computer tray is to be installed, be sure the thickness does not exceed 4” high or the legs and knees will be crowded.

With the actual knee space, I recommend keeping the minimum width of the open knee space at 27” or more if possible.

Upper cabinets over the work area should be hung 18” to 24” above the finished work counter. I prefer to keep the open space at 24” above the worktop and add a task light with a light rail under the upper cabinet. This task light gives additional, quality lighting for the actual work area. The upper shelves should have adjustable shelves when possible, and a combination of doors and open shelves on the upper cabinets is an excellent idea.

The doors help conceal items such as copy paper, note books and items that are not that attractive.


There are several different options for obtaining the furniture for your home office. I would encourage you to keep quality in the forefront, as this will be an investment that will certainly perform well for years to come.

  • Consider purchasing one of the wonderful collections of manufactured home-office furniture. There is a great variety of styles and wood types such as cherry, walnut, maple or oak. The details on these pieces are very attractive and the quality pieces come with all the amenities such as pull-out shelves for printers and scanners, file cabinets, grommets for cords, task lights, fabric corkboard for tackables, keyboard trays, pencil drawers and power tracks that include phone jack outlets, switched electrical outlets and a high speed data “out” port to name a few.
  • Cabinet shops (whether manufactured or custom) can also provide the parts and pieces for compiling a well functioning workstation. If choosing this direction, maintain the design goal of having these pieces look like furniture pieces and not kitchen cabinets.

Select a companion wood, use furniture base and crown moldings and stagger the height of the upper cabinets so the finished project exceeds your expectations.

Home offices are here to stay, and this is where form as well as function should play an important part. Don’t forget to select a great accent wall color, soft panels of window covers, dynamic artwork, and a lush leather chair for reading and retreating in the corner of your new home office/study.