Some of you may know that I teach Lighting Design Techniques to Interior Designers at Moore College of Art. This class is very special to me because Light is truly a designer’s medium. It is one of the most powerful tools we have to affect how we perceive our environment.
As with designing anything, lighting design is not nearly as spontaneous as one would believe. It takes time to enhance our Interiors with light. One of the beauties of design is that there is no wrong answer. That being said, to truly get a feel for the importance of light integration, we need to visualize how powerful light is at changing a space. I teach my students in Lighting Techniques the importance of articulating the reasons why we add light to a space. It’s not about lighting air.
Have you ever been inside a department store dressing room or a dim restaurant bathroom and wondered why the reflection you’re looking at seems less than appealing? It may be because these locations tend to lack multiple layers of lighting, causing unflattering shadows instead of even washes of light.
A basic way to look at lighting is to think about always having three distinct layers. Ambient Lighting, Accent Lighting and Task Lighting. While having all three layers of lighting in public restrooms and dressing rooms isn’t always considered a priority, it should be when it comes to your own home and any other area where a balanced and comfortable ambiance is desired.
So that you can get a good idea of how to use ambient, accent, and task lighting in your own home, we’ll break each of these layers down by explaining their function and what kind of light source or fixtures can be used to create them:
1. Ambient Lighting
The ambient lighting layer could also be referred to as the “general lighting” layer. Ambient lighting should give your room overall illumination that provides an adequate visual of the entire area. Typically, ambient lighting is created by ceiling light fixtures such as recessed fixtures, troffers and panels commonly used in commercial lighting, or large overhead fixtures like pendants or chandeliers. This type of general lighting is typically uniform and, dare we say, boring. That’s why the next two layers of light are crucial in lighting design.
2. Accent Lighting
The second layer of light is known as the accent lighting layer. This layer can also be referred to as the “decorative” layer because it allows you to highlight points of interest in your interiors such as architecture, artwork, or anything other features that can’t be made more prominent just with ambient lighting. Types of fixtures typically used for accent lighting include wall sconces, track lighting, uplighting, and even led tape lighting installed in coves and under counters for toe-kick lighting.
3. Task Lighting
As you might have guessed, task lighting, the final layer of lighting design, provides illumination for specific tasks performed in an area. When choosing light for this particular layer, you should first evaluate what is done in that designated area. For example, if you typically read in your favorite chair near the bookshelf, you may want a floor lamp or swing arm sconce for better reading light. Commonly used task lights are table and floor lamps, desk lamps, under cabinet lighting, bathroom vanity lighting, and pendant lighting above smaller areas such as a kitchen island, the one shown in the picture to the right
Now that we've explained the three layers of lighting design, here are some interiors we believe have successfully implemented layered lighting.
Tina Delia, a native of Ocean County, NJ, current resident of Philadelphia, is the Founder and Principal Interior Designer of Delia Designs. For the past nine years, Tina has been steadfast in her vision and continues to develop herself personally and professionally. She is dedicated to excellence and insistence on forward thinking design. At the forefront of her designs is the idea that our spaces have the ability to transform our lives. She is looking to move us, inspire us to see, think and create freely. After all, it's not only about creating beautiful spaces.