Cabins have a reputation for being dark, dimly lit spaces. To a certain degree, low light can add to the coziness of the space. But when it’s too dark to cook or read a book, it’s a problem.
Log cabins tend to be darker places for a couple of reasons. First, the wood itself, with its rich brown color, actually plays a role in absorbing light. Second, many cabins have low ceilings and smaller rooms, which can make casting light throughout the space more challenging.
But a cabin isn’t destined to be a dark, gloomy space. With the right approach to log cabin lighting, you can amplify its ambience.
- Pick a lighter interior finish. The main reason that cabins seem dark is due to the wood walls. Of course, those wood walls are a key factor in the adoration of cabins, but you can minimize the effect by choosing a lighter-colored interior finish, says John Lanner, senior design consultant for Beaver Mountain Log & Cedar Homes in Deposit, New York.
If you’d prefer a darker finish, you’ll need to take that into account in your lighting scheme. “Wood surfaces suck up light much more than painted surfaces, so err on the side of too much light,” suggests Allen Halcomb, president of MossCreek Designs in Moss, Tennessee.
- Choose ambient light. A good lighting plan starts with the selection and placement of ambient sources of light, such as recessed lighting, chandeliers and track lighting.
“Ambient lighting is what you use to create the scene for the architecture of your cabin,” says Halcomb. “Use it to fill in dark spaces and accentuate architectural features. Good ambient lighting creates a mood in the cabin and should be flexible enough to adjust the way the cabin is being used at any given time.”
To add to that adjustability to your ambient log cabin lighting plan, Halcomb recommends placing all lighting on dimmers so you can alter it through the day depending on the mood or light needed.
- Add task lighting. Once you have established ambient log cabin lighting, look toward specific task lights that will direct light onto certain areas throughout the cabin.
“Task lighting to me is very important in designing a cabin because there is nothing worse than trying to prepare a meal in the kitchen or read a book in the loft without proper light,” says Lanner. Under-cabinet lights, and floor or table lamps that fit your style are good options.
- Mix and match lights. When choosing both ambient and task log cabin lighting, the key is variety — not only to light the area properly but also to highlight the unique architectural features of the cabin.
“I like to mix different types of fixtures in rooms based on usage to focus light where needed rather than lighting an entire room from the time you enter it,” says Lanner. “For example, wall sconces on either side of a fireplace or focal-point wall not only light the specific item but also bounce a nice, soft light back into the room. Track lights mounted up on top of tie beams will light the space and also accent the beam work in cathedral ceilings.”
- Don’t skimp on outlets. One way to ensure adequate light in a cabin — even if it’s later in the process — is to install plenty of power sources. “When it comes to outlets, I like to add a few more upfront than I feel are needed because, with log cabins, it’s not always easy adding them down the road,” says Lanner. “Some good places for outlets are on either side of a sitting area, on the floor in larger spaces for floating furniture, or even in an exposed support post. Outlets on top of exposed beams in a cathedral ceiling can be helpful for additional lighting as well as seasonal lights during the holidays.”
- Let natural light work its magic. Of course, not all the light that enters your cabin will be electrical. The other key component in creating a bright, cheery space is the proper placement of windows in the floor plan. “South- and east-facing windows typically bring in most of your natural light, but you may find that your site surroundings block a lot of the natural light until later in the day when the sun is setting in the west,” Lanner explains. “Skylights can be a tremendous help with light in some design situations, but I try to only use them when truly needed because I don’t like to put any more holes in the roof insulation than required.”