The Importance of Layering Lighting in a Room

bedside table lamps as a lighting layer

Last week, I was talking with a client about about the design plan for her living room, and she asked a great question: if I have plenty of overhead/recessed lighting, why would I need table and floor lamps? I thought that was a great question, and since I'll bet she's not the only one wondering about that, I figured I'd address it in a blog post!

Practically speaking, lighting is essential for any room to function well, but a well-lit room takes things a step further - it sets the entire mood and style of a space. Think about how you feel walking into your standard corporate office with its extra bright overhead lights versus a hotel lobby that combines chandeliers, table lamps, and other accent lighting. There's a big difference, right?

Let's think about what this might look like in your home. 

When you vary the types of lighting in your home, it creates a comfortable, visually balanced space that feels warm and inviting. When you incorporate those different types all in one space, it also makes your room more versatile. If you have all recessed lighting, for example, it can feel too harsh, but if you only have task lighting, it may seem too dim - maybe even downright depressing. 

Ideally, rooms will have a mix of ambient, accent and task lighting. With all three, you'll be able to maximize the space's versatility, and you're guaranteed to have enough light. And, if you want bonus points, adding dimmers to some of your lights will give you even more flexibility. 

So, what are these different types of lighting, you might be asking?

Ambient lighting is a fancy word for general light. It's what I like to call "flip the switch" lighting - in other words, when you walk into a room and flip the first switch you find, it should light up the majority of the room without adding harsh glare. Chandeliers, pendants, recessed lighting and some wall sconces typically fall into this category. In a small room, a table or floor lamp can be bright enough to be classified as the ambient light source.

Accent lighting does exactly what it sounds like - it highlights certain parts of the room and makes them into a focal point. It can be used to highlight things like paintings, fireplaces, or other architectural features. These should be brighter than the ambient lighting in the room, but since they're focused on a particular object and aren't the main source of light, they don't appear harsh. Examples of accent lighting are track lights, spotlights and some wall sconces.

Task lighting brightens particular spaces for specific tasks such as reading, cooking, or applying makeup. They help prevent eye strain and can be used to softly light a room when you don't want to use overhead lights. Examples of task lighting are table, floor and desk lamps, pendant lighting, and under-cabinet lights.

If you're putting together a lighting plan for your home, think about how a space will be used and what lights will be most effective at accomplishing necessary tasks. It's usually easiest to start with the ambient lighting and then focus on accent and task lighting. Start general and work your way to specific needs. 

I could go on and on about lighting, but I think I'll stop there for today! I hope this information helped you understand the importance of layering lighting in a room. If you need help with this in your home, hit me up! I'd be more than happy to work with you on your specific lighting needs! 

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