Attic Illumination: Top Tips for Lighting from the Top Down

Hey friends! It’s Angela from Home Décor Chat. I’m coming to you from my 1910s bungalow attic and am excited to share my tips and tricks for lighting this often-forgotten space.

Proper attic lighting is essential for function and transforming a dark, dusty room into a usable – and stylish – part of your home. My goal with this post is to walk you through lighting your attic from top to bottom, whether you’re using it for storage, an office, a guest room, or something else.

Grab a cozy blanket and your favorite warm beverage, friends, because we’re heading upstairs!

Understanding Your Attic Space

Let’s start by assessing your attic’s purpose and lighting needs. The form should follow function, right?

What’s Your Attic For?

How you plan to use your attic will inform your desired lighting. Here are some standard attic functions:

Storage Space

My attic fits this bill. It’s mostly filled with holiday decor, childhood memorabilia, old furniture, and, let’s be honest – some stuff I should probably just throw away or donate.

How to light your attic

You’ll want enough light for storage attics to navigate boxes and locate items when needed, but you likely don’t need super-bright lighting. Task lighting, like pendant lights over storage units or removable cabinet lighting, may be all you need.

Home Office

Lighting becomes critical if you want to create a functional home office in your attic. Consider overhead lighting and task lighting over your workspace.

Position lighting to avoid glare on your computer screen or work area. And don’t forget about ambiance – a dimmer switch can help you quickly adjust from work mode to relaxation mode.

Guest Room

Lighting must set the right mood when you use your attic as a guest room or children’s playroom. Overhead lighting provides general illumination, but table and floor lamps create a cozier vibe.

Play with different lamp shades and smart bulbs to make the space multifunctional. Opt for bright white light during the day and warmer hues in the evening to say, “Welcome home!”

Lighting Needs Assessment

Now that you know how your attic will be used, let’s talk specifics on what kind of lighting you’ll need:

Natural vs. Artificial Light

Do you have attic windows or an option to add skylights? Leverage what Mother Nature gave you!

Natural light not only saves energy but creates a beautiful ambiance. If your attic lacks natural light, we’ll discuss artificial lighting options soon.

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Task, Ambient, and Accent Lighting

Similar to the rest of your home, you’ll want to incorporate different lighting for specific needs:

  • Task lighting illuminates a particular area or activity. Think workbench lighting, reading nooks, etc.
  • Ambient lighting provides overall illumination for the entire room. Overhead lighting is typical.

Accent lighting spotlights a specific object or area, like artwork or an architectural detail.

The Right Lighting For Your Attic Can Save You Money

Lighting Controls

Look for opportunities to install dimmers, intelligent switches, or motion sensors. These controls allow you to customize the light to your needs and save energy.

Safety Considerations

Attics can present tricky electrical and lighting installation challenges. We’ll discuss safety and codes later.

Now it’s time for the fun part – picking out lighting fixtures! Let’s explore both natural and artificial options to illuminate your attic.

Natural Lighting Options

Natural light saves money on your electricity bill and instantly makes a space more open and inviting. Here are some ways to maximize natural light in your attic:


Skylights are likely the first thing that comes to mind, and for good reason! They are a direct pipeline for sunlight to come streaming in.

There are several types of skylights to consider:

  • Fixed skylights are stationary and cannot be opened. They provide constant light.
  • Ventilating skylights open manually or automatically to let in fresh air.
  • Tubular skylights use reflective tubes to funnel light from the roof to the ceiling. They’re a great option if you have limited access to the top.

Pro tip: Install your skylights on the north-facing side to avoid overheating your attic in the summer. And make sure they are double-paned for insulation.

Attic Windows

Depending on your home’s architecture, you may already have attic windows or the option to add more.

Some things to consider when it comes to attic windows:

  • Traditional double-hung and awning windows allow both light and ventilation.
  • Dormer windows add architectural detail while letting in ample light.
  • Consider enlarging or replacing your attic windows with egress windows if your attic windows are small.

Ensure your windows have coverings like curtains or blinds to control light when needed.

Solar Tubes

Solar tubes, or sun tunnels, are a great alternative to skylights or attic windows for natural lighting.

Here’s how they work:

A round, frosted glass dome on the roof allows light to enter. The light travels down a highly reflective tube extending into your attic. The tube has a diffuser at the end to distribute sunlight evenly.

Shed Some Light on Attic Lighting

Solar tubes are an intelligent pick because:

  • They channel natural light from the roof to the attic, even in spaces with limited roof access.
  • Energy efficient – no electricity required!
  • Cost-effective since they don’t require significant remodeling.

Let the sunshine in with solar tubes!

Okay, we’ve covered all the natural lighting possibilities. Most attics also need artificial lighting, so let’s shift gears and talk fixtures!

Artificial Lighting Options

While natural light is ideal, chances are your attic will still require some artificial lighting as well. Here are the main types of electric lighting to consider:

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Overhead Ceiling Lights

Ceiling-mounted fixtures provide overall ambient lighting, a must for attics used as living spaces.

Lighting Tips:

  • Choose centrally located, general-purpose fixtures to light the entire attic.
  • For more extensive attics, install multiple overhead lights.
  • Pick flush or semi-flush mounts that fit tightly to the ceiling.
  • Go for energy-efficient LED bulbs, which last longer and produce less heat.

Overhead lighting delivers necessary general illumination but usually shouldn’t be the only light source. Let’s look at other options.

Task Lighting

Task lights target specific work areas or activities taking place in your attic. They eliminate shadows so you can see what you’re doing.

Task Lighting Ideas:

Some ideas for task lighting:

  • Swing arm wall lamps next to attic reading nooks or seating areas.
  • Desk or clamp lights for home office workspaces.
  • Cabinet lighting inside storage units to find items quickly.
  • Removable pendant lights over workbenches or craft zones.
  • Floor lamps after furniture like couches.

I’m a massive fan of using lamps as task lighting. They cast a warm, focused glow that is perfect for attic activities. Plus, you can quickly move adjustable lamps anywhere you need light.

Lamps are flexible, allowing your attic’s purpose to change over time. And if you ask me, they’re much more fun than boring overhead lights!

How Skylights Can Improve Attic Lighting

Accent and Decorative Lighting

Accent lighting draws attention to specific areas or objects in your attic, such as architectural details, artwork, collections, etc.

Meanwhile, decorative lighting simply adds visual interest and personality.

Accent + Decor Lighting Ideas:

  • Track lighting to spotlight wall art or display shelves.
  • LED strip lighting under eaves, edges of the roofline, and other architectural details. So chic!
  • String lights, stretched across the ceiling or surrounding attic windows, create a fun, live-in vibe in my attic.
  • Table lamps with interesting lampshades or smart bulbs that change color.
  • Vintage floor lamps, sconces, and chandeliers if you have the attic height.

[Image of string lights surrounding attic window]

Have fun with accent and decorative lighting! Don’t be afraid to embrace your style.

Next, let’s chat about the placement of your new fixtures for optimal illumination.

Smart Lighting Layouts

With so many lighting options, where do you start? Follow these tips when designing your attic lighting layout:

Position for Even Distribution

Strive to eliminate shadows and dark corners with clever fixture placement.

Spread overhead ceiling lights evenly. Height is critical, too – lights mounted closer to the ceiling cast a more expansive glow.

Use ample task lighting in seating areas, workstations, storage zones, and anywhere you need visibility.

Layer the Lighting

Combining several different light sources creates ideal visibility.

Relying solely on an overhead fixture leaves the attic dark and gloomy. Instead, layer ambient, task, and accent lighting.

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Natural light in your attic

Focus on Flexibility

Your attic’s purpose may change over time.

Prioritize adjustable and portable lighting, such as swing arms, floor lamps, and table lamps. These make rearranging a breeze.

Smart switches, dimmers, and app-controlled bulbs allow you to tweak the light as needed.

Mind the Layout

Position fixtures with attic architecture and features in mind.

Mount ceiling lights centrally to avoid blocking light by joists, ductwork, etc.

Highlight architectural details like exposed rafters with accent lighting.

You have a vision for attic lighting nirvana – but wait! Before you proceed, consider these essential factors.

Safety First!

Attics can present hazards when it comes to electrical and lighting installation. Follow these guidelines to ensure safety:

Hire a Professional

Unless you’re a trained electrician, I strongly advise hiring a pro to install new wiring and fixtures. Safety should be the number one priority.

While basic installations like plug-in lamps may be DIY-friendly, anything hardwired should be left to the experts. Don’t take risks with electricity!

Follow Building Codes

Your lighting installation MUST comply with local building codes and electrical safety standards. Improper wiring can put your home at risk.

A licensed electrician will ensure your attic meets National Electrical Code requirements. If you’re a DIYer, make sure to do diligent research beforehand.

Skylight in your attic

Use Caution During Installation

Exercise extreme care when working in your attic, especially around electrical components. Before you begin, turn off the power at the breaker box.

Be aware of hazards such as exposed nails, insulation particles, and tricky attic conditions. Wear gloves, goggles, and a mask.

Take your time, and don’t take risks!

Let There Be Light!

We covered a lot of ground in this article about attic lighting options. Thanks for sticking with me!

To wrap it up, here are my essential tips:

  • Evaluate how you use your attic, then pick lighting tailored to function.
  • Maximize natural light with skylights, windows, and solar tubes.
  • Layer in ambient, task, and accent lighting for maximum visibility.
  • Mind safety and building codes, especially when wiring new fixtures.
  • Have fun choosing unique fixtures that showcase your style!

I hope this post illuminated the subject of attic lighting for you. Don’t let your attic languish in the dark – you can create a bright, beautiful, usable space.

If you’re looking for a way to add some extra light to your attic, then you should try out the “from the top-down” approach. This approach involves installing a light at the top of your attic, which will shine down onto the rest of the space. This lighting is a great way to add extra light without adding different windows or openings.