How to Layer Lighting and Make Your Home Shine

May 25, 2021

How to Layer Lighting and Make Your Home Shine


Lighting has the ability to make or break the look and feel of your home. Without the right lighting, focal points, architectural details, unique textures, and even gorgeous colors can get lost.

The key to a good lighting plan is a layered approach that combines four types of light: Ambient, task, accent and decorative lighting. Here’s how to use all four to make your home shine.

Steps for designing your home lighting plan

Before you look for different types of lighting, it’s essential to create a lighting plan in advance. Here are some steps to take that will guide you for your new light design at home.

  • Set a budget. New light fixtures and accent lighting can add up quickly, so it’s crucial to set a budget before starting your new lighting design. Consider things like how many lights you plan to install, what type you want, and where you plan to purchase them. If you need to hire an electrician, don’t forget to take that into account, too.
  • Choose a style. Lighting comes in a myriad of styles that range from modern to industrial and traditional. Think about which type you most prefer, then try to purchase pieces in the same or similar theme, so everything looks cohesive.
  • Layer your lighting. To create a home lighting plan, you’ll want to use layers for the best look and functionality. The three main types of lighting are ambient, accent, and task lighting. Each form of lighting serves a purpose and has its role in every room. Once all three layers come together, you can finish with some decorative lighting pieces for a nice finishing touch.
  • Pick out a statement piece. One part of your complete lighting plan design should be bolder than the rest if you want it to be a focal point in the room. A decorative chandelier is an excellent way to create a bit of drama in rooms like the dining or living area, for example.
  • Think about functionality. Different rooms require different types of light, so it’s vital to choose lighting that will help make the room as versatile and usable as possible. Consider task lighting ideas like installing several pendants over your kitchen island to make chopping and prepping food easier. A light over the sink or an overhead fixture in a laundry room will make household tasks more manageable.
  • Measure carefully. When installing new lighting at home, it’s important to make sure that each fixture fits appropriately within the allotted space. Make sure overhead lighting is high up enough that you don’t bump your head when you get up from the dining room table, for example. If you’re adding wall light fixtures, make sure they’re evenly spaced apart from each other once installed.
  • Look for energy-saving lights. LED lights are bright, long-lasting, and eco-friendly. Look for new lighting technology and designs that feature energy-efficient options so you can save money every time you turn them on.
  • Try multifunctional options. Some new lighting is mobile, which means you can pick it up and use it throughout the home. Table lamps and floor lamps can also easily be moved. Other options include installing switches that will dim the light, change the lightbulb color, or adjust the lighting temperature to give you more options as you need them.

Ambient lighting

Ambient lighting provides an area with overall illumination. Also known as general lighting, it radiates a comfortable level of brightness without glare and allows you to see and walk around without tripping over things. Ambient lighting can be accomplished with chandeliers, ceiling, or wall-mounted fixtures, as well as recessed or track lights. Having a central source of ambient light in all rooms is fundamental to a good lighting plan.

Design Tip: For recessed lighting, consider the size of your fixtures to determine appropriate spacing. A common rule is that four-inch fixtures should generally be placed at least four feet apart and six-inch fixtures about six feet apart.

A decorative chandelier or hanging foyer fixture can provide powerful illumination while serving as a beautiful focal point for living areas.

Commonly used for task lighting applications, you can also use pendants for ambient lighting with a bit of creativity. Designer Doris Pearlman with Possibilities for Design used Progress Lighting’s Bay Court pendants to create a stunning spectacle that beautifully lights this great room.

Task lighting

Task lighting helps you perform specific tasks, such as reading, grooming, cooking, or playing games. You can create it with pendant lights, low-hanging track lights, and under-cabinet lighting. Task lighting should be free of distracting glare and shadows while bringing the source of light to exactly where you need it.

When determining the best applications for task lighting, consider the function of the room. What activities will you be performing that require direct lighting? The rooms where task lighting is imperative are the kitchen (where you’ll need counter lighting to enhance kitchen safety when using knives and the stovetop) and the bathroom (where you’ll need adequate light to complete everyday tasks, shaving and putting on makeup).

Under-cabinet fixtures are very functional additions for turning your countertops into usable workspaces. Under-cabinet lighting is available in various applications, including LED lights, puck lights, linear lights, and tape lights.

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