Layered Lighting 101: How to properly light a room for both style and function

Layered Lighting 101 Article

Lighting has the ability to make or break the look and feel of your home. Without the right lighting – focal points, architectural details, unique textures and even colors can be lost, overlooked or nullified. The key to a good lighting plan is a layered approach that combines three types of light: Ambient, task and accent lighting. Certain fixtures lend themselves to each category, and just the right combination can bring your home to life.

Ambient lighting provides an area with overall illumination. Also known as general lighting, it radiates a comfortable level of brightness without glare and allows you to see and walk about safely. Ambient lighting can be accomplished with chandeliers, ceiling or wall-mounted fixtures, as well as recessed or track lights. Having a central source of ambient light in all rooms is fundamental to a good lighting plan.

Recessed Lighting by Progress Lighting

Design Tip: For recessed lighting, consider the size of your fixtures to determine appropriate spacing. A common rule is that four-inch fixtures should generally be placed at least four feet apart and six-inch fixtures about six feet apart.

Task lighting helps you perform specific tasks, such as reading, grooming, cooking, or playing games. It can be provided by direct pendant lighting, low-hanging track lights and under cabinet lighting. Task lighting should be free of distracting glare and shadows, while bringing the source of light to exactly where you need it.

When determining the best applications for task lighting, consider the function of the room – what activities will you be performing that require direct lighting? The rooms where task lighting is imperative are the kitchen (such as above counter lighting to enhance kitchen safety when using knives, stovetop, etc.), and the bathroom (where you need adequate light to complete everyday grooming tasks such as shaving or putting on make-up).

Madison by Progress Lighting

Design Tip: Under cabinet fixtures are very functional additions for turning your counter tops into usable workspaces. Under cabinet lighting is available in a variety of options for different applications – including LED, puck lights, linear lights and tape lights.

Accent lighting adds drama to a room by creating visual interest. As part of an interior design scheme, it is used to draw the eye to key features such as houseplants, paintings, sculptures and other focal points of a room. Accent lighting can also be used for exterior applications to highlight the texture of a brick wall, window treatments or outdoor landscaping.

To be effective, accent lighting requires at least three times as much light on the focal point as the general lighting surrounding it. Accent lighting is usually provided by recessed and track lighting or wall-mounted picture lights.

Clayton by Progress Lighting

Design Tip: One of the most versatile fixtures, pendants, can be used for accent applications, especially to highlight favorite pieces on tables and shelves. Select a pendant style that reflects your decor. Modern pendants made of glass exude sleekness, while a shaded mini-pendant offers a more classic look.

Depending on the application, the same fixture style can be a fit for all three categories of lighting. Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box and move away from traditional molds when it comes to creating a layered lighting plan. Try a chandelier in the bathroom, pendants in the living room or a recessed fixture in the shower. The most important thing is that you love the layout and design of your home and are able to perform everyday tasks with simplicity and ease.

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