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A guide to layering light effectively

Good lighting design and layering of light can make a significant difference to a room. It allows you to set a particular mood or feel and create a comfortable atmosphere. Bars and restaurants often use light layering to improve on a space and create a certain ambience. It is equally important in residential spaces and can be done relatively easily, often with much greater effect than expensive redecorations.

In domestic spaces, light layering allows you to soften edges and provides flexibility on how you emphasise different elements of a room for different activities and occasions, such as reading or entertaining.

Effectively layering light - Example of task lighting

Three key types of lighting

There are ultimately three different types of lighting at your disposal, each of which make a great impact. These are accent, ambient and task lighting. The use of each method is never an exact science and will require some thought as to how it will work in your unique space.

Ambient lighting

This refers to the basic lighting that will provide general illumination for a room. This is usually the main light switch and often comes in the form of pendant lighting. It may not necessarily be a single source but should comfortably light the room in such a way that gives a blank canvas to which you can add other lighting. Ideally, ambient lighting should not be too bright to ensure that accent and task lighting can still be used without making the room too bright. This will help provide noticeable layers of light.

Accent lighting

Accent lighting is used to focus and highlight certain features of your room. This could include pictures or certain pieces of furniture. To achieve this, it is best to use directional light that can be provided by wall fixtures or well placed lamps.

Ultimately, you are aiming to highlight parts of the room that you want people to see. In order to stand out and direct people’s eyes to focus areas, accent lighting should be brighter than ambient lighting but have a much smaller and directional spread.

Task lighting

Task lighting is the functional light that allows you to clearly see what you are working on without having overly bright ambient lighting. This involves lighting areas around seating to provide light for reading or working on computers. It generally comes in the form of desk or table lamps. Strategically placed pendant or directional lighting can also be used for task lighting. Task lighting can also be cleverly combined with accent lighting to focus on certain features.

Key tips

  • Always use the same temperature of light across all lighting types. Doing this will ensure your accent and task lighting blend nicely with your ambient lighting.
  • Don’t forget to work with the natural light that is coming into the room. Ensure that any lighting you install compliments or takes advantage of this.
  • Don’t skimp on the bulbs. Go for a better quality bulb that is going to last and can be left on without blowing out your power bill. It is also very important to chose a bulb temperature that works for you and your space.

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