Northern Light

Indirect lighting is inspired by the north-facing windows favored by artists for centuries.


SOME OF THE WORLD’S OLD MASTERS SWORE by north-facing windows when they painted. For those artists in the northern hemisphere, north light was a soft, indirect light that stayed constant all day long. With the sun shining up from the south as it traversed the sky, north light never cast strong glare effects. To this day, north light devotees and their famous paintings illuminate our most prized galleries.

Northern light is effectively reflected light. It’s a gentle and comfortable light for human eyes. Making your space like a work of art with indirect lighting is the focus of this brief overview.

direct versus indirect

Direct light has many uses, especially for task lighting. Most task lighting is accomplished with direct downlighting. But using only direct lighting in a space will almost always result in glare issues. And perhaps worse, just relying on downlighting creates a cave effect. That’s the result of using recessed or flat panel downlights that don’t distribute the light onto the ceiling itself. You end up with shadows at the corners of the ceiling and walls.

Now, dark ceiling effects can make for an interesting ambiance, but more often than not comes across as gloomy and dark. And so last century. Indirect light seeks to avoid these types of situations by delivering a brighter and more even illumination.

And since indirect lighting is a gentler light source for our eyes, it is particularly effective in delivering a unique ambiance in any given space, at any given time of the day. This is what makes indirect light ideal for general illumination. When you want additional light or you want to create a more dramatic presentation, task lighting and point sources come into play to compliment the indirect light sources.

Indirect lighting heightens the light level of an entire space, without focusing it on any one element. The entire place feels brighter without the spotlight effect of direct lighting.

indirect lighting sources

Indirect light sources come in all sizes, shapes and flavors. From backlight fixtures to masked light fixtures to angled skylights (that face north!), there are lots of options to explore.

Cove lighting is cool and you can create a false ceiling to capture that light. Under cabinet lighting is typically found in kitchens and bathrooms, but let your imagination run wild when you explore any given space.

One other popular bath and bedroom indirect lighting option is installing backlit mirrors. And no home is complete without pathway and/or stairway lighting.

final thoughts

Indirect lighting gives any space a glamorous yet elegant look. It’s important to work with a lighting designer who can study the distances and angles of a space to ensure that you hide the light source, but let that indirect light illuminate the desired space.

May 2020 News