Seeking lighting hacks for tiny home office
March 1, 2016 10:06 AM   Subscribe

How can I improve the lighting in my home office? Difficulty: tiny apartment.

Please share your brilliant tiny office lighting hacks.

I have a home office in a tiny apartment. The lighting is pretty bad - one utility lamp pointed at the wall in the opposite corner, and a desk lamp. I think I need to add some ambient light, or add something other than the desk lamp.

Since it's an apartment, I can't install things in the ceiling or walls.

I have (very full) bookshelves to the left and behind me. I currently have a too-bright elbow-joint halogen desk lamp that's not very adjustable. I spend most of my time looking at a large monitor right in front of me.

I do have a big window to my left, which helps a lot during the day.

Could I add some light behind me (or behind and above) to increase the ambient light? Tack some rope lights to the shelves? Add a standing lamp behind me?

Cheaper is better, but I'm open to any and all suggestions.

posted by kristi to Home & Garden (10 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: What I did to remedy crap lighting in my college dorm was to get a couple cheapass clip lights like this, clamp them onto the edges of shelves, and angle them up at the corners of the wall to fill my little space with light. For the price and the amount of space I had to sacrifice to get the lights in there (cheap, essentially none), it was a great solution for me.
posted by phunniemee at 10:20 AM on March 1, 2016 [2 favorites]

Task lights suck for computer work. They create too much contrast between light and dark. Ambient is the way to go and something across the room also sucks other than vaguely lighting up your desk area. My lighting setup is not the best but it's pretty good. I have a "reading light" that is oriented to bounce light off the wall behind my monitor. I also have a fairly low light, diffuse table lamp for my desk area to my left which is usually where I have my reference materials. I also have big windows with venetian blinds that I adjust through the day. They are north-facing though so it's pretty awesome in terms of light control. If you have a southern or western exposure with your window, you might make some kind of diffuser that you can put over your window so that you get the light but it's not flooding your space during work time. The right shade can be great for this as well.

A general rule of thumb for good looking lighting in a room is 3 sources of light. Overhead, centered lighting is generally pretty sucky other than generally lighting the room in the center.
posted by amanda at 10:20 AM on March 1, 2016

You can add significant ambient light with just white or golden (I like to use these) Christmas/fairy lights piled on top of your bookshelves. (especially if the bookshelves are tall enough that it's not immediately apparent that the light is coming from piled up lights. and you don't have an explorer cat to knock them down)

Otherwise, one or two small table lights ON the bookshelves might work.
posted by larthegreat at 10:21 AM on March 1, 2016

Fairy lights with a white cord (less ugly), Available on Amazon/Target/Ikea, and buy an outlet switch to make them easier to turn on. Standalone paper lantern floor lamp. Torchere lamps.
posted by theraflu at 10:29 AM on March 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

Urban Outfitters has some attractive fairy lights in stock right now. Non-seasonal and less harsh than just naked bulbs but they probably won't throw enough light.
posted by srboisvert at 10:38 AM on March 1, 2016

Best answer: I'm a big fan of IKEA's "DIODER" LED light strips. They are $20 each but you can mount them on wood or plaster in narrow places and they cast a nice ambient light. They are also modular, so you can create one long strip or fan out from the central power hub.
posted by theorique at 11:00 AM on March 1, 2016

In my home office I use a floor lamp behind me in a corner to provide ambient lighting by illuminating the ceiling and rear wall. It's a torchiere with a 42-watt CFL (150-watt incandescent equivalent) positioned to make sure it doesn't cast reflections on a monitor. For task lighting I use an Ikea Tertial with a low-wattage LED. I position the reflector such that the only direct illumination is on the desk surface to my left and the rest is ambient light reflected off the wall behind my monitor. Ambient light during the day is provided by a window to my left (south facing) with semi-translucent drapes.
posted by RichardP at 11:01 AM on March 1, 2016

Also, if you have bookshelves behind you, I'd encourage you to consider making a simple cove lighting system to provide ambient lighting. Place LED light strips or fluorescent tube lighting on top of your bookshelves near the wall facing upwards. Place something in front of the lighting to block direct view of the bright bulb and to reflect additional light upward (a piece of wood painted white works well if your ceiling is white).
posted by RichardP at 11:08 AM on March 1, 2016

Best answer: PENDANT LIGHTS ON A CORD WITH COMMAND HOOKS! Hang them with 2lb command hooks instead of the screw hooks on the ceiling like I did. NO damage! I bought this one and then got an LED bulb and cord from Ikea. There's a bunch of styles to choose from and a variety of cords. Total I spent like $35 with the hooks. A couple would make some awesome light. They're great ambient lighting!!

Here's a couple photos of mine in my dining room. (I couldn't screw anything into the bulkhead as it's the air vent inside. I used some string to tie the cord to the command hooks so it wouldn't slide - let me know if you want a photo for reference. With the wire command hooks I linked I could have also used the plastic hooks that came with the kit that keep the cord in place but I wanted a more minimal look.)
posted by Crystalinne at 12:18 PM on March 1, 2016 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: These are all great ideas - thank you all so much!

The command hooks with lightweight pendant lights is brilliant, and I never would have thought of it.

Thank you all!
posted by kristi at 9:56 AM on March 4, 2016

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