How to light a loft

urban lofts image by Daniel Gillies from

Lofts are increasingly popular in urban-style living, but they offer unique challenges in lighting and design. Industrial-style ceilings and open floor plans can make lighting difficult. To get the best possible light across all areas and rooms of a loft, use a variety of fixtures and technologies.

Though some fixtures require a professional, many styles of light are simple enough to do yourself.

The get overall light, ceiling fixtures are necessary (especially since the ceilings are too high to bounce light from floor lamps), but lofts are generally not wired for standard fixtures. Decorative hi-bay fixtures hung from jack chain are a great alternative. They are available in different technologies--such as fluorescent and LED, among others--but linear fluorescents are the most cost effective and easiest to maintain.

Use 4-foot T8 bulbs in fixtures with a diffused or coated lens to imitate a ceiling. Setting them at a consistent height throughout the loft, usually about 10 feet from the ground, creates the illusion of a ceiling while still exposing the pipes and industrial-style ceiling of the loft. The fixtures must be installed by a professional, so contact an electrician for the job. The electrician will most likely be able to get a good deal on the fixtures through their wholesaler, as well.

To enhance areas like kitchens and bathrooms without adding bulk, attach under-cabinet strip fixtures or recessed puck light fixtures in either fluorescent or LED. Strip fixtures designed for under-cabinet areas often don't require special wiring, so they can be easily installed by drilling directly to the bottom of the cabinets/counters or by following any special instructions on the manufacturer's website.

Recessed puck lights require new wiring, usually high-voltage, and can only be done by a certified electrician. Again, the electrician may be able to score a better deal on the fixtures through his wholesaler, evening out the cost of the installation.

living room image by AGITA LEIMANE from

Lighting small rooms or corners is best done through table lamps in a loft. Again, there are no walls to bounce light off of, so lighting the area is more difficult and requires more lamps. A lamp on end tables, nightstands and desks significantly increases the visibility in the room, and lamps offer an opportunity to add or accentuate the decor in a space. Incandescent bulbs are the most popular and are inexpensive, but fluorescent bulbs offer more colour choices and are vastly more energy efficient. They also last longer, meaning less replacements and maintenance.

Lichtstrahl image by MIR from

Art or accent lights are easy to find and install and are great to highlight decor or draw the eye to the main focus of the space. They can generally be hung with a good sticky surface like 3M attachments or with small screws. They are bright and hot, so make sure not to hang them too close to anything that may be damaged by heat.