There’s a lot to consider for interior design. What color will the walls be, what furniture will you include, and what artwork will be hung on the walls? However, one aspect that’s commonly overlooked when designing a room is lighting.
The color temperature of interior lighting can have a big impact on the look and feel of a room. Some rooms might work well with one color temperature while other rooms might look better with a different one. So, this article will cover what color temperature is and how you can use it to design your home.
What Is Color Temperature?
Light bulbs are made at different color temperatures, which can influence how they look. “Color temperature” is a way to describe how the light coming from a light bulb appears on a scale from dark orange to blue. You can know what to expect from a light bulb simply by looking at the value of the color temperature.
Color Temperature Values
Color temperature is measured in kelvins (K). The scale usually goes from 1000K to 10000K, with the light on each end appearing drastically different.
On the lower end of the scale, the color is dim, making it closer to orange or red. On the higher end, the light has a blue tint. In between the two, it’s as close to white as possible. Here’s how the values are broken down:
- Less than 2000K: Dim orange or red light, similar to a candle’s light
- 2000K to 3000K: Warm yellow light
- 3100K to 4500K: Bright white light
- 4600K to 6500K: Bright white light with hints of blue
- Over 6500K: Light blue light
The sun is a perfect example of the color temperature scale because it goes through all values throughout the day. In the middle of the day is when it’s at its highest value, which is usually a bright white color with a blue tint. When the sun is rising, it starts at a low value, making it look orange or red. Then, as it rises, it gets higher on the scale until it reaches its midday color. The opposite happens when it sets and returns to its lowest value.
Tips for Using Color Temperature in Interior Lighting
Many people are quick to assume that choosing a value in the middle of the scale is perfect for every room. While white light is a good neutral color, it might not always suit the vibes and decorations of a room. In fact, a warm yellow light is often better in a home setting. Below are some tips to help you use color temperatures effectively.
Consider the Room’s Purpose
A room’s purpose can determine how high or low your want the light’s color temperature to be. If the room is meant for relaxing, such as in a bedroom or living room, you’ll want a lower color temperature. On the other hand, if a room is used for activities that require focusing on small details, such as working in an office or cooking in the kitchen, you’ll need the color temperature to be a bit higher. In multi-purpose rooms, you should consider adding a dimmer.
Look at the Room’s Color Scheme
In most cases, you’ll want the color scheme of your home to match the type of light you select. If the colors of your walls and furniture are warm, cool lighting could tone it down or make it look sickly. The same goes for warm lighting in an otherwise cool room. So, rooms that focus on grays, blacks, blues, and greens should use a cooler color temperature, which will be a higher number on the scale, while rooms focusing on browns, tans, reds, and oranges should use a warmer color temperature, which will be a lower value.
Use More Than One Color Temperature if Needed
Mixing lighting temperatures in one room could work if you do it carefully. You won’t want to make one light a different color temperature in a row of lights, but different areas of a room might require different colors. For example, if you have a kitchen and dining room attached to each other, you can put brighter lights by the counters where the cooking is happening and lights with lower color temperatures by the dining room table. Thus, if any room has two purposes, you can have different color temperatures in different areas.
How Do You Want Guests to Feel?
Color temperature can set a certain mood in a room. If you want people to feel calm and relaxed when they enter a room, then a lower color temperature will help achieve that. If you want people to be focused and productive in a certain room, you’ll want to choose higher color temperatures. However, the mood of the room should exist in the colors of the walls, furniture, and artwork too rather than just the lights. Otherwise, the room may be overwhelming if the lighting doesn’t match the rest of the design.
Think About the Other Aspects of Light
Kelvins aren’t the only aspect that can influence how light bulbs appear. A light bulb’s intensity and color rendering index (CRI) can be just as important as color temperature.
In a home, 100 to 300 lux is the standard light intensity for a room that you’re passing through or relaxing in. However, in a room where focused tasks are performed, you’ll want the intensity to be a bit higher, at least 500 to 800 lux. Then, 80 CRI is the standard for most lights sold.
If you don’t want to blindly choose lighting based on values, your best option is to visit a lighting showroom to see how lights of different color temperatures, intensities, and CRIs compare. It can help you visualize how those lights will look in your home.
Best Color Temperature for Various Rooms
2700K is the standard temperature for light bulbs, so many people turn to that value when they can’t decide. Yet, the ideal temperature can vary based on the type of room involved.
You might notice that none of the color temperatures below exceed 5000K, even though color temperature values can reach double that. That’s because higher values are often too bright to feel relaxed in your home. Values over 5000K are usually used at businesses like hospitals, where the employees need to see everything they’re doing.
Bedrooms are meant to be the most relaxing and calming areas of a home, so a bright blue bulb or a dim orange one could distract you from a peaceful state. Thus, most bedrooms use lights that are on the lower-middle side of the color temperature spectrum to prevent them from being blinding. 2700K to 3000K is typical for bedrooms.
Most living rooms use lighting that’s 2700K to 3000K, just like the bedroom. Living spaces and dens are other spots for relaxing, but often in a more social environment. Those color temperatures can be inviting while still having a calming vibe. However, if you’re able, you should consider adding a dimmer so you can adjust the brightness of your living room if you start watching a movie after socializing or vice versa.
Bathroom lighting tends to be a matter of preference and grooming habits, but most bathrooms are closer to the middle of the scale, typically from 3000K to 4000K. That way, the lights will be bright enough for you to see what you’re doing without being obnoxiously blue. If you regularly apply makeup in front of the bathroom mirror, higher kelvin values will be essential for viewing the colors and shapes of the makeup. However, if you spend minimal time in your bathroom when you’re getting ready, you may be able to settle for a lower color temperature.
Kitchens need brighter lights like the bathroom so you can see what you’re doing. You need the lights to be bright enough to read recipes and see all the ingredients in front of you. Cooking and cleaning are typically the only activities completed in the kitchen, so the lights don’t need to offer any relaxation. 3000K to 4000K are ideal for helping you stay focused when working in the kitchen.
Even though the kitchen needs to be bright, the dining room can be a bit easier on the eyes. You’ll want the lighting to be calming while still allowing you to see the food clearly. 2700K to 3000K works well for most dining spaces. If your dining room is part of your kitchen, you may want to choose a slightly higher value. The same is true if you do other activities at the kitchen table, such as playing board games or doing crafts. If you’re having a hard time choosing the right color temperature for your dining room, you could consider installing a dimmer.
The color temperature of an office space can vary based on the type of work being completed, but generally, it’ll need to be higher than the average room in your home. Brighter lights will help you stay alert and focused. If you’re working with tools, it’ll help you clearly see the project in front of you. Color temperatures in work spaces can range from 3000K to 5000K, but it all depends on your preferences and needs.
Lighting Is a Key Part of Interior Design
When it comes to interior design, people are quick to consider interior and exterior paint colors for their homes. However, the color temperature of lighting can be just as essential when designing your space. Each room should use a color temperature that fits the room’s purpose and overall aesthetic.
Follow the tips in this article to decide on the best color temperature for your home’s lighting. When in doubt, 2700K to 3000K are standard values for most light bulbs in homes.