Lighting Tips For Off Grid Tiny Houses

August 18, 2016

off grid tiny house

With property price rising steadily globally , many of us do not have the luxury of large living spaces anymore. Smaller, tiny houses are becoming popular, partly because of that reason, and partly because some people choose to live simpler than ever.

However, the limitation of space shouldn't limit our creativity when designing the tiny house. Although complex interior designs and bulky furniture won't be available as an option, there are still many options to be done. Lighting design is one such option, with proper placement and brightness can help making a spacious feeling.

With room partitions also a limited option, lighting will also help differentiate each room, creating a feeling of separation. Before we move on to lighting system designs, however, let's discuss how to maximize daylight utilization on a tiny space.

Maximizing Daylight in a Tiny House

When we discuss lighting design, we often associate it with light bulbs, LED, and any other artificial lighting. We often forgot that daylight is also a huge part of lighting, and should also be utilized in conjunction with artificial lighting design.

Tiny House Talk, a great resource for tiny house architecture and designs, discussed how to maximize daylight in a tiny house in a comprehensive manner with some design examples.

They discussed that daylight utilization should serve two purposes:

  1. An appropriate amount of light, not too much and not too little.
  2. Well-distributed daylight in a room, and in each and every room.

Those two objectives can be achieved through several means such as window design and placement, exterior and interior shading, and using lighter colors of paints.

After we finished designing our daylighting, we move on to the artificial lights. First, we will discuss the types of lighting in a household application.

Types of Household Lighting Application

In our previous articles, we have covered types of lighting like LEDs, fluorescents, halogens, and other types, so we won't went through those classifications again. However, if you need an in-depth guide for such classifications, you can refer to's guide.

Rather, we'll discuss about types of lighting in conjunction with household lighting design, and generally, household lighting can be divided into two categories:

  1. Task Lighting: Lighting dedicated to particular kinds of tasks, for example, reading lights, under-cabinet kitchen lights, etc.
  2. Ambient Light: Lighting not dedicated to a specific purpose, utilized to light a room thoroughly in a diffused manner. For example, hallway lights, bathroom lights, etc.

In general, ambient lights are one-third as bright as task lights. The key to a household lighting, even more so in a tiny space, is harmonization between task and ambient lights so that they filled the purpose both functionally and aesthetically.

How should we arrange task and ambient lightings in a tiny house? Let's move on to the next part.

Lighting Placements and Design Example

Of course, the placement and design will vary depending on many factors, but here is an example that can act as an inspiration and guidance for your design:

1. Kitchen Area

Under-cabinet lighting will be your answer for the limitation of space, check our comprehensive guide for under-cabinet lighting here.

Under-cabinet lighting will serve as a task lighting, and you can accompany it with another task light above the counter or the ceiling. Install an ambient light in the center of the ceiling to provide enough ambiance.

2. Living Room

In a tiny house, the living room space is often compromised, and often without any partition. So, we need to be creative with our lighting to create a sense of separation and build the necessary mood. Using accent lightings can do the trick for ambient lights, so check out a few tips for accent lightings here.

For task lighting, you can install a reading lamp on a wall-mounted shelf, or use a wall sconce to answer the space limitation.

3. Bedroom(s)


If you have a bedside table, a bedside lamp can serve as task lighting. Otherwise, wall-mounted task lighting is also an option. Use valance lighting (a light integrated into your architecture) for ambient lighting purpose, check out a guide for valance lighting from Lighting Research Centre

4. Bathroom

Utilize your mirror to create a better ambiance, put single warm lighting source above or in front of a mirror so that it can illuminate the whole area. If necessary, you can add small LEDs or nightlights for nighttime use.

5. Landscape

If your tiny house has the luxury of outdoor landscape, utilize it to its maximum potential. In general, make sure your front door is well illuminated, either with wall or ceiling fixtures. If you have stairs, make sure it's well lit with small LED strips or dedicated path lights. Check out our guide for landscape lighting here for design ideas.

Remember, that task lights tend to be directional, meaning it's pointed to the task area, while ambient lights, on the other hand, are aimed to be spread and diffused throughout the whole area. Maintain 3:1 brightness, 3 for task lightings and 1 for ambient lightings to create differentiation and separation.

After we went through design ideas for each room, let's move on to the next topic: using smart bulbs.

Integrating Smart Bulbs With Your Mini Home

Fairly new to the industry, smart light bulbs can be a nice addition to your tiny house to increase efficiency, comfort, and functionality.

Newer smart light bulbs can be controlled with a mobile app, making automation and control easier than ever. Should you upgrade to smart bulbs? Here are five notable advantages they have, and you can be the judge whether the upgrade will be worth it:

  1. Dimming Function: With limited space of your tiny house, smart bulb eliminates the need to install additional dimmer switches.
  2. Comfort:Smart bulbs come with many exciting technologies, some even claim to help you sleep better, such as GE's C-sleep bulbs. (aff.) GE claimed that the bulb creates perfect sleep environment by projecting certain colors of light.
  3. Color-changing:With your limited space, this feature also eliminates the need to install multiple bulbs. Some bulbs, like the newest 2nd generation Phillip's Hue(aff.) can even be controlled with your iPhone's SIRI function.
  4. Built-in Speaker:Might or might not be a necessity, depending on your lifestyle. But this can eliminate the need for spacious audio systems in your tiny living room. If you want a speaker-bulb, check out this one by Sony.
  5. Control:As mentioned, one of the greatest features of a smart bulb is their flexibility. Some have sophisticated scheduling features that let you set when and which lights should be on when you're not at home. When you are on vacation, this can be an additional security measure without sacrificing energy efficiency.

Interested in upgrading to smart bulbs? Check out this review for best smart bulbs on the market by The Wire Cutter.

End Words

With limited spatial options you have in a tiny house, lighting design will make a great difference in both functionality and aesthetic. Proper lighting placement and application can create a sense of spaciousness and separation often lacking in a small house.

Upgrading to smart bulbs will improve both comfort and energy efficiency of a smart house, and should be an option to be considered.

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