What is Task Lighting and How to Use It

Have you ever settled into your favorite chair and realized that you were straining to see? Or started cooking a meal are realized shadows were blocking the light on your cutting board? Both activities require bright, functional, focused light, otherwise known as task lighting.

Many are unsure about what task lighting is and its purpose, so they have difficulty choosing the proper lighting for each room in their home. By learning more about the purpose and types of task lighting and answering the question “what is task lighting,” you’ll be able to illuminate your home with the lighting where it needs it the most.

What Is Task Lighting?

Task lighting is used to offer direct lighting specifically for reading, cooking, writing, sewing, or other detail work. It adds visibility to a small area with light that illuminates small details, reduces strain on the eyes, and avoids distracting shadows.

Areas that may need task lighting include:

  • Chair or sofa (reading)
  • Home office
  • Kitchen island
  • Undercabinet
  • Bathroom or powder room vanity
  • Cooking surface

Kelly Wearstler Cleo 60 Inch Reading Lamp by Visual Comfort Signature Collection

Reimagining traditional task lighting, the Kelly Wearstler Cleo 60 Inch Reading Lamp by Visual Comfort Signature Collection is the perfect blend of style and functionality. It adds a touch of elegance to this cozy, comfy space.

Types of Task Lighting

There are a variety of ways to add task lighting to your home. Some merely require a light to be placed by a chair or sofa and plugging it in. Others may need wiring to be installed. These days, the definition of what is a task light has shifted beyond the traditional desk lamp to include:

Lamps: Lamps are an easy, portable way to add task lighting to bedrooms, desks, craft areas, or reading nooks. Floor lamps illuminate chairs, sofas, or corners, while desk lamps and bedside lamps put light exactly where needed.


AERIN Sommerard 36 Inch Reading Lamp by Visual Comfort Signature Collection

A snug, coordinated corner features the retro-inspired AERIN Sommerard 36 Inch Reading Lamp by Visual Comfort Signature Collection in hand-rubbed antique brass finish on the stand and an antique brass shade. Its sleek silhouette fits perfectly with the plush daybed and luxe pillows.

Wall Lighting: Available as small, thin lights that resemble wall-mounted book lights and in large, lamp-like styles, these fixtures offer decorative and accessible task lighting.


Mitzi Lupe 12 Inch Wall Sconce

Good things come in threes, as evidenced by this trio of Mitzi Lupe 12 Inch Wall Sconces. These mid-century-influenced wall lights feature a perforated shade, bringing a contemporary look and feel to this kitchen. The bias cut highlights the area below, and its bowtie swivel key makes them as functional as they are lovely.

Pendant Lights: This decorative lighting is suspended from the ceiling and often used over kitchen islands. They come in large and small sizes and as multi-pendant configurations. They are increasingly being used next to bedsides for a designer look.

Under Cabinet and Task Lighting: Cabinets can create pockets of darkness in the kitchen right where some lighting is needed. Available as small, round lights (puck lighting) or long strips, this lighting illuminates work surfaces and leaves valuable workspaces clear.


Monza 24 Inch LED Large Pendant by Kuzco Lighting/Line 26 Inch LED Light Bar by WAC Lighting

By their very nature, kitchens are big spaces requiring many types of task lighting. The gorgeous Monza 24 Inch LED Large Pendants by Kuzco Lighting provide task lighting over the kitchen island, while the Line 26 Inch LED Light Bar by WAC Lighting bright light over work areas. With this combination, the room is beautifully lit with task lighting in the right places.

Why Is Special Lighting Required for Tasks?

For starters, workspaces need good lighting. Poor lighting – too bright, too dim, or too harsh – often leads to headaches caused by eyestrain and makes it harder to focus on the required tasks. Moreover, it is more efficient to have directed lighting for tasks than to try to make the entire room brighter. Task lighting gives you the right amount of lighting right where it is needed. With task lighting, workspaces can be illuminated with the amount of light required for whatever task takes place in that area.

@interiorsolutionsbymary, photography by @theenglishden

Savoy House Monroe 24 Inch Wall Sconce

Excellent lighting is paramount by the vanity, making precision tasks such as shaving and applying makeup easier. The Savoy House Monroe 24 Inch Wall Sconces add stylish task lighting to this bathroom. The long, sleek body, classic silhouette, and white fabric shade are a surprising twist for bathroom task lighting.


Padma Wall Swing Lamp by Arteriors Home

The Padma Wall Swing Lamp by Arteriors Home brings an out-of-the-box surprise to task lighting. Mounted by the bedside, it leaves plenty of space on the bedside table for decorative items, while the articulated arm lets you aim the lighting wherever you need it. The woven wicker shade and antique brass finish create a fun textural mix.

What Should I Look for to Get a Good Task Light These Days?

When selecting task lighting, keep in mind its intended use. Consider what all task lighting has in common: they direct focused light downward to illuminate a specific area. Many tasks performed on a regular basis involve looking down, but not all task lighting needs to point downward all the time. It may need to be adjusted frequently, depending on other activities that take place in the space. From modern to vintage-inspired, task lamps now come in a wide range of styles and sizes, so be sure to take that into consideration when choosing task lighting.

@daniellerosedesignco, photography by @raquellangworthy.photo

Hinkley Lighting Somerset 11 Inch Mini Pendant

Chic and elegant, Hinkley Lighting Somerset 11 Inch Mini Pendant exudes precise, quiet sophistication that contrasts beautifully with this room’s natural textures and patterns. A subtle fusion of modern sensibility with vintage appeal, etched opal glass floats gently inside a metal yoke and ring while metal knobs add an industrial edge.


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