Good lighting is one thing most interior designers agree on. You can have the most beautifully designed room with all the right furniture, colors and accessories but if the lighting isn’t right it will never look or feel good. There is more to lighting for residential interiors than just a couple of lamps and some ceiling cans. Good lighting requires careful thought and appropriate selections. If you understand and utilize the types of lighting you will be well on your way to creating a wonderful environment.
The three lighting categories:
1. Task lighting, which is light for specific functions that depend on good vision.
2. General or ambient lighting is the lighting required to move through a space or to see people and objects. This is not as bright as task lighting.
3. Accent lighting is the focused use of light to bring attention to an object or area. Art or picture lights are accent lighting. This is often used to highlight an architectural feature and commonly used in outdoor lighting (certain trees, water features, or wall washing effects). Accent lighting is used to make a space more interesting and active.
A room with good lighting makes use of all three categories. There are times when one light source does double duty such as in a small entryway where a ceiling fixture is used to wash light over a specific wall to highlight it and is also enough to all allow people to comfortably move through the space. In this scenario more light isn’t needed. It is important to consider your environment so that your lighting selections are necessary but not redundant.
What do you do in a family room? People read and play games, watch TV and have conversations. What lighting do you need? In my family room there is floor or table lamps with 3-way bulbs next to the places people sit to read (task lighting). I have two wall sconces switched at the exit and entry points of the room for general lighting. When the sconces are dimmed, they also highlight texture on their respective walls (accent lighting). For fun there is also a fiber optic installation on the ceiling which can change colors (accent lighting).
Before you purchase any lighting it is important that you think about the tasks you complete in your space, how you move through the space and any items or areas you want to focus attention onto. Now you can use lighting properly to achieve the functionality you need as well as the level of beauty or visual interest you want. You do not have to have a big budget and an interior designer to achieve good lighting. If you cover the three categories above when lighting your rooms you will be on your way to a well designed home that functions and is visually appealing.
About the Author
Lisa M. Smith is an interior designer and owner of Interior Design Factory, Ltd. She specializes in creating beautiful and inviting residential interiors that are timeless and look collected, not like a showroom.