One of the most overlooked aspects of interior design is lighting. When people are unhappy with a room or want to modernize it, they will invest in the floors, walls, windows, and furniture, but rarely do they think about the way we actually view the room. What’s the point of pouring thousands of dollars into a new room if you can’t make out it’s finer points?
Let me give you a quick rundown of the lighting styles that professional interior decorators have been using for years.
There are three key styles, that when used in tandem, can make any room stand out in ways you’ve never seen before. Ambient, task, and accent lighting are a must, and knowing how to layer them is key to a well lit room.
Ambient lighting is the most important, and likely the one that you are already using in every room of your home. It is the large overhead light in the center of the room. It can take on different forms, such as ceiling or wall-mounted fixtures, chandeliers, ceiling fans, or even the lights from your Christmas tree or candles.
However, just because it is already present in a room doesn’t mean that it’s doing its job correctly. Because it is so important in function, it is important to ensure that it fits the room. After all, this is the foundation that all the other lights build upon.
You want to make sure that the lighting is a comfortable level of brightness for the room. Now, this will change based on the room. You want your kitchen to be a lot brighter than you would your bedrooms or living room (depending on the style and goal of each room). As a quick guide, avoid large shadows (especially in corners) and make sure that your lighting is not so bright that it creates glare on your surfaces.
Pro Tip: For recessed or track lighting, consider the size of the fixture to determine the appropriate distance to space them apart. A good rule of thumb is one foot apart per 1 inch of the fixture. IE: four-inch fixtures should be placed four feet apart.
Task lighting is what it sounds like, lighting designed for a specific task. This could be anything from reading, to cooking, to putting on makeup. The idea here is to blend the high function of specific lighting into the elements of a given room. When it’s done right, task lighting won’t jump out at you, but will show off the desired use behind each room.
This can be achieved with track lighting, lamps, pendant lighting, or small fixtures embedded into cabinets- It really just depends on what the room needs.So for instance, in a kitchen, it’s great to have small unseen lights underneath your cabinets to light up your countertops for better sight when preparing food. Another example is having a small spotlight, or track lighting, on the counter in a bathroom to give you extra light when applying makeup. The goal is to install your fixtures in a way that complements the room.
Task lighting is all about function, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun with it! When done right, it looks great.
Pro tip: Under cabinet lighting is an amazing way to open up your kitchen space, making it safer and more interesting aesthetically. Some good examples of lights to use include LED, puck lights, linear lights and tape lights.
Accent lighting is the third leg that your room’s lighting stands on. It adds the drama or the punctuation to your room. You can use accent lighting to highlight points of interest and draw attention.
Accent lighting can be used to highlight anything, from sculptures to houseplants. It can even be used to highlight your wall’s unique texture or the furniture in the room. It’s all about showing off what is interesting or unique about a certain room.
A good rule of thumb is that the accent lighting should be at least three times as bright as the lights surrounding it. Recessed and track lighting are the two most common examples of this, but wall mounted picture lights and pendant lights work as well.
Pro tip: Accent lighting is by far the most versatile, and one you really need to plan when trying for a certain result. Play around with lighting from above with a pendant light that matches the room’s design, or even light a sculpture from the base up and embellish the bold shadow that it casts on the wall.
I hope this has all been informative and illuminated (ha!) the importance of an often overlooked element of interior design. Remember, these are all suggestions and you shouldn’t be afraid to think outside the box and play around with these ideas to achieve your desired look. If it looks good, then it probably is.
I can’t wait to see all of your new, beautifully lit rooms flooding my inbox. And as always, if you have any questions or comments you can leave them below. Thanks for reading!
Author: Ian Mankins