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Pro Tip: Lighting in Layers

We’ve all been there. Standing in a fully-furnished and decorated room, only to feel that something’s missing. The atmosphere is lacking. Everything feels… blah


Chances are, the problem lies in the lighting.


Even the most tastefully-designed interiors can fall flat without a thoughtful lighting scheme. And that’s because lighting is actually a critical part of design itself. Aside from providing practical illumination, the right light composition can create focal points, direct movement, and complement color schemes. It’s able to give shape, distinguish specific spaces, and set the perfect mood. 

 Of course, getting lighting that achieves all of this is easier said than done. But it’s very attainable when you understand that layering your lighting is the key. 

 This post serves as a quick and easy guide to layering lighting in a way that enhances interior aesthetics. Read on to learn everything you need to know. 


Know Your Lighting Types

To layer a room’s lighting, you first need to be familiar with the different types of lighting that exist. These will serve as the essential building blocks that you can mix in endless combinations. It’s important to note that a room will often need all three types of lighting listed here to get the best results. 


  1. Ambient Lighting

Ambient lighting serves as the primary light source for a space. It gives overall illumination, and thus is the highest priority when incorporating lighting into a room. 


 Ambient Lighting


Daylight coming in via windows can be a source of ambient lighting, but in the case of artificial sources, the light typically comes from overhead. This means that pieces such as recessed lights, chandeliers, and other ceiling-mounted lights are all common choices for ambient lighting. 


  1. Task Lighting

Task lighting is meant to illuminate a specific area, usually one that is used for certain activities. A kitchen counter, a reading nook, and a desk are all examples of places that would need task lighting. Table lamps, floor lamps, and even certain pendant lights or sconces can be used to provide this type of lighting. 


Task Lighting


 The most important thing to remember about task lighting is that it needs to provide enough light to accommodate whatever would be taking place in its specific zone. This is why not just light intensity, but also placement is so critical for this type. For example, one must be careful that lighting for a countertop area does not get blocked when someone is standing at the counter while preparing food. 


  1. Accent Lighting

Accent lighting is usually decorative in nature. It’s meant to draw attention to a specific thing or space. Therefore, its reach tends to be targeted and relatively small. This type of lighting can be used to draw the eye to a special painting, an interesting architectural feature, or a statement piece of decor. In a more subtle fashion, accent lighting can also be used to define lines and shapes within a room, such as shelves, baseboards, or stairs. Using accent lighting alone is a great way to cultivate an intimate, moody atmosphere, but it often won’t be enough for practical use.


Task Lighting


 The general rule is that accent lighting should be at least 3 times brighter than the ambient light, in order to create an eye-catching contrast. Recessed lights, light strips, and small sconces can all be used to create accent lights. You can also make larger fixtures function as accent lights by choosing the right shades and bulb intensities.


Find the Right Placement

In order to build a well-balanced foundation of illumination, you’ll first have to identify the ideal placement for your lighting. 


Because every room has its own unique layout and quirks, there’s no one right way to compose a good lighting arrangement. You may need to experiment to find what produces the most attractive results. However, there are a few guidelines you can follow when in doubt. Let’s examine each as they relate to specific zones in a room. 


  1. Top

Lighting that comes from above tends to spread out far and wide. This is why the top level of a room should typically be reserved for ambient lighting. However, you can play with the direction of the lighting to get different effects, and even create other types of lighting.


Layer Lighting Top with Ceiling medallion


For example, choosing a ceiling light with shades that direct the light upward will produce a softer ambient light. This arrangement is particularly attractive when your fixture is mounted with a decorative ceiling medallion. With illumination drawing eyes toward the medallion’s ornate details, the piece can serve as a striking focal point. 


  1. Middle

Mid-level lighting generally includes wall-mounted lights and floor lamps, and is best suited for task and accent lighting. Because these lights tend to be placed in or just above our line of sight, you should be mindful of managing light intensity with shades and dimmer bulbs. A comfortable atmosphere can be easily ruined with a lamp that hurts the eyes or causes glares. 


 Mid Level Lighting layer


Using a shaded sconce with adjustable articulation points can allow you to direct light toward the exact place you need it. This is useful for both task and accent applications. Floor lamps can also be placed near chairs or tables to produce task lighting for seated activities. 


  1. Bottom

Many interiors lack bottom-level lighting altogether, but it can be the difference-maker for creating a cozy space. While table lamps can sometimes be set low enough to qualify as bottom-level lighting, this category mainly consists of accent installations, such as skim lighting, staircase lighting or nightlights.


Lower Level Lighting Layer


Lighting the bottom level of a room can establish balance in your lighting scheme, preventing harsh shadows that could be created by having only upper-level fixtures. It can also serve a practical purpose by illuminating dark steps and hallways. 


Your Experts in Tasteful Lighting

Here at the Lucent Lightshop, we’re pretty passionate about lighting. Our love isn’t limited to just designing stunning fixtures, it also encompasses everything about using lighting in an effective and stylish way. 

 If you’re looking for more pro tips on how to select lighting pieces and incorporate them into your interiors, we invite you to follow our blog. You’ll find the knowledge you need to create artful lightscapes that bring out the most in a room.