Lighting. Illumination. Radiance. The light that permeates a space has the power to define that space as well as set the mood. There are some basic types of lighting you should know about when decorating your home, which include natural lighting, ambient lighting, task lighting, accent lighting, directional lighting, and mood lighting. Each of these is unique and will add a different character to your space. We’ll be doing an overview here to give you working knowledge of the types of lighting available for home decor.
The house is filled with sunlight! Which is beneficial for many reasons. First, a healthy dose of sunlight every day is good for our physical and emotional health. Sunlight also assists in the regulation our circadian rhythms. It is easy to care for indoor plants in a home that takes advantage of natural light. Additionally, sunlight reduces the need for us to turn on overhead lights, which saves energy and cuts the electric bill. Let’s discuss some ways to naturally light your home with this free and essential element.
Windows are the easiest way to allow light in. In the Northern hemisphere, you can add a south-facing window, which allows a steady stream of incandescent light throughout the day. This use of sunlight will also warm your home during the winter.
Conversely, a north-facing window will permit soft, indirect light that will prevent the sun from heating your home too much. This is advantageous for a summer home.
East- and west-facing windows often cause too much glare during the morning and afternoon, respectively, which makes the light harder to control. It can also cause the house to get too warm or cold from the sun’s rays or lack thereof.
If you do have an east- or west-facing window, or a window on only one side of the room, the light can be complimented with higher lights on the other side of the room. Oftentimes, the dark shadows cast from the sunlight coming in one window will cause a room to feel compressed and uneven. You can also “follow the sun,” and move from an east-facing room in the morning to a west-facing room in the afternoon.
If your home has high ceilings, you can add dormers to your house in order to admit sunlight throughout the day.
Ambient lighting is simply the light that fills the room. This lighting is subtle and blends into the room. Natural lighting, light among the fixtures, lamps, and chandeliers all provide ambient, or general, lighting.
In this picture, we see a chandelier lighting the space, as well as a number of recessed ceiling lights and lamps:
Task lighting is lighting intended for performing tasks, such as reading, studying, preparing and cooking food, applying makeup, reading music, creating arts and crafts, and performing other meticulous tasks.
Cutting up vegetables, preparing food, and cooking require a number of task lights, which are generally placed under the cabinets to brighten the counter space.
Including task lighting in a study or library is crucial for reading and focusing:
Task lighting is used for various reasons in the bathroom, like for putting on makeup in front of the vanity:
Accent lighting has a wide range of variation and selection. It generally has one of two purposes.
One purpose is to accent an object in the room, such as a painting or sculpture, and though it can be dramatic, this type of light wants your attention on the object, not the light itself.
A second purpose of accent lighting is to make the light itself the subject of interest, rather than another object. The light can be a fashionable accent, such as this intriguing chandelier that casts uncanny shadows of a forest throughout the entire room:
Directional lighting actually belongs to a number of categories, including task and accent lighting. It can be used to accent décor and furniture, as seen in this photo, where the accent wall lights are interacting with the directional lighting of the lamps on the bookshelf:
A great option for mood lighting is simply dimming the lights down, or turning off the overhead lights and leaving the lamps and decorative lights on. Dim lighting will give a room more intimacy, which is why the lights are often turned down for a romantic evening. However, intimacy and quiet moods exist in other settings and rooms, such as this warm, quiet library:
Perhaps you do want to dim the lights for a romantic evening. If you have a fireplace, real or imitation, light it, and then dim the lights, or turn off the overhead lights. A room’s mood changes entirely with the soft glow of a fireplace:
An inexpensive way to add color and accent to your home is with LED rope lights. Simply apply them to the backside or underside of your furniture:
Finally, it doesn’t have to be Christmas to add twinkle lights to your wall or ceiling:
Test Your Knowledge
Now, let’s take a quiz. If you were paying attention, you should be confident identifying the types of lighting in this room. Take a moment to see how many lighting types you can find.
Well, how did you do? There’s a lot of lighting going on in this room. There’s ambient lighting provided by the ceiling lights above the dining room table that is also a form of accent lighting.
Did you catch the task lighting underneath the cabinets, above the kitchen counter? They provide the lighting for cooking and preparing food, but there is also a degree of directional lighting to them.
How about the mood lighting? There’s a fireplace, but more notably, this designer has incorporated LED rope lights to enhance the ceiling.
Finally, the mirrors provide a means of reflecting the light to make the room brighter, and they also make the room appear bigger. It could be argued that they supply accent lighting, since they reflect the hanging lights, but if they reflect sunlight during the day, the light would be considered natural.
Have a friend who’s obsessed with twinkle lights and setting the right mood for a room? Be sure to share this article with them, and then you can enjoy discussing the lighting in your own homes.