Lighting for your nursery: An interview with architectural lighting expert Muge Birgen September 11 2013, 0 Comments
I had the great privilege to interview friend and architectural lighting expert, Muge Birgen, to get great tips on lighting the nursery or kid's rooms. This is such a wealth of information that is guaranteed to take any confusion out of how to best light your child's nursery or room.
How long have you practiced as an architectural lighting professional?
I am a lighting designer with eight years of experience. I have been working in the design and implementation of diverse interior and exterior architectural lighting projects such as corporate offices, hotels, restaurants, residential, retail stores, landscape and site lighting.
What is it about architectural lighting that especially drove you to be specialized in it?
I have always been fascinated by the magical nocturnal image of illuminated architecture.
Light is invisible until it strikes an object or surface. It is the fourth dimension of architecture and it helps make good architecture even better through the right design. Good lighting design aims to create perceptual conditions, which allow us to live and work effectively and orient ourselves safely while promoting a feeling of well-being in a particular environment.
Lighting design practice integrates the art and science, which combines the knowledge of physics, optics, ergonomics, environmental issues, vision and design. They are all essential to create great lighting solutions. Having an educational background in industrial design, I just wanted to be part of this profession.
Why is lighting important in designing a baby or a kid's room?
Every room needs special lighting...
Light makes objects visible and influences the mood of a room. By using different levels of luminance, different parts of a room can be placed in a visual hierarchy.
Babies and kids have slightly different lighting needs from adults. A child's room has multiple functions and is much more than a place to sleep: It's a playroom, a reading and homework space, a changing room and even more. Just like other rooms in your home, your child’s room needs to have layers of light to accommodate all those activities.
Are there special tips as to how one should go about selecting fixtures for the room?
Different activities need different light levels and the ideal baby nursery should include a variety of adjustable lighting. Multiple sources create a cozier effect and make it easier to adjust light levels.
Since the ability to adjust light levels is a necessity, it is highly recommended installing a dimmer switch. Dimmers work wonders and provide flexibility. They let you have bright light for changing the baby or cleaning the nursery. Also, you can turn the lights low when you want to settle your little one for sleep or encourage relaxation and rest. Low light is also needed for frequent nighttime parental visits to feed, change and soothe a restless baby.
Ambient lighting, e.g. through recessed down-lights, pendants or through wall mounted fixtures, fills the whole room and enables users to find their bearings and provides them with a feeling of safety. They are the safest to use in a child’s room, no cords or plugs to worry about but, must be securely fastened and properly shaded to protect the bulbs from breakage. Wall mounted fixtures can be directed up or down creating soft ambient light or a dramatic accent. These light fixtures offer great flexibility, especially when placed on different circuits and put on a dimmer switch offering just the right amount of light that’s essential to the room’s purpose of providing a haven for your child.
It's also a good idea to purchase a small accent lamp for a cozy, story-time glow.The most important thing to remember is that the scheme should change, as they get older. And as your child grows, the lighting needs will change too.
Let's talk about safety. What are some of the things we need to keep in mind for safe practices of lighting a child's nursery or room?
Safety takes center stage:
- Never place lighting fixtures directly above the crib on the ceiling or wall.
- Nightlights sound terrific in principle, but in practice they may be more trouble than they are worth. Studies done in the last several years suggest that there may be a correlation between a dim light in baby’s room and vision deficiencies in adults. Also, light at night messes with their natural rhythms and cycles and can disrupt sleep. Plus, they can become a habit that can be hard to break when older. Sleeping in the dark is the best. If you prefer to use one, keep nightlights out of your baby's direct eye level or in the hallway.
- Keep all lamps and other cords out of the reach of your baby, who will soon be a curious toddler. Don't leave any cords trailing across the room to prevent tripping hazards for adults and your moving baby.
- Cover any electric outlets with plastic fasteners as a safety precaution.
- For lamps that may be in reach to a curious toddler, you want to choose for globes that remain cool to the touch.
- Lamps should bear the UL seal indicating they have been tested and proven to be safe.
- Do not use halogen lamps in a child’s room. They get extremely hot and are far too bright for a nursery.
- The screw-in CFLs can be used to replace incandescent lamps in standard lamp sockets used for ambient lighting, which is not connected to dimmers. CFLs use about 75% less energy than incandescent bulbs and last about 7-10 times longer. You can replace 60W incandescent bulbs with 13-15W CFLs. Today's fluorescent and CFL options can produce a warmer color. If you like “warm” light, look for a color temperature of around 2700K and a high CRI 80+ (Color Rendering Index: tells you how accurately colors appear under the bulb's light).
What would be the difference in lighting for infant nursery vs an older kid’s room?
As your baby grows and activities vary, there will be some addition to the lighting design of the room.
Ambient lighting is great for overall illumination of the room, but not for reading or doing homework thus task lighting, which brightens a specific area, is important. It can be provided by recessed and track lighting, by portable floor and desk lamps.
You will need bright light for your task lighting. For reading at a desk, the lamp must be at eye level and LEDs could be an energy efficient option. For reading in a chair, the light should come over the shoulder and the bottom of the shade should be about even with the cheekbone.
Next to the bed, table lamps provide plenty of light for reading, or you can install swing-arm wall lamps to free up the space on your end tables.
If your child has a computer or television in their room, don't let them watch it in total darkness. It's better for their eyes to use low-level light, either from a dimmed light or from a table lamp with the beam directed at the ceiling.
Leave room for children's ideas and personalities to shine as they grow and avoid too much perfection. The room will look better!
Muge Birgen, LEED Green Associate | Lighting Designer
Muge Birgen was born and raised in Istanbul, Turkey. She has studied industrial design at Middle East Technical University Ankara, Turkey. She was interested in lighting design and decided to attend a summer workshop at Domus Academy in Milan, Italy in her third year of industrial design course. Her background includes 8 years of experience working for leading lighting manufacturers in Turkey and for notable lighting designers in the United States. As a lighting designer, she offers lighting design and application assistance to architects, interior designers, and engineers. Her responsibilities include all aspects of the design process, such as research and comparison of potential solutions, presentation and documentation including calculations, lighting layouts, specifications and design development through the project completion. Her project experience includes large and small-scale commercial projects, residences, offices, retail stores, restaurants, hotels, exterior landscapes and site lighting.