Interior lighting is a major aspect of your home’s visual design. Aside from its obvious practical purposes, proper lighting enhances the aesthetic appeal of each space in your home. Within your interior design, light serves three separate functions: general illumination, task lighting, and accenting.
In this piece, we’ll talk about the ways these different types of interior lighting are used in the home.
The primary purpose of general ambient lighting is to illuminate a room, but it also serves to complement the colors and layout of a space. The color and brightness can make a space feel warmer or cooler, and it can even affect how spacious a room feels.
The basic principle of general lighting is for it to be bright enough to illuminate a room, but not so bright that it causes glare or draws attention to itself. It should feel as natural and nondescript as possible. Fixtures commonly used for general ambient lighting include:
- Flush ceiling lights
- Track lights
- Floor lamps and torchieres
- Recessed lights
- Chandeliers (great for taller ceilings)
- Shaded table lamps
Hanging chandeliers and recessed lights are often used to illuminate the main space in a room, while table and floor lamps can extend lighting to corners or other hard-to-reach spots. In addition, don’t discount the power of natural light. In nearly any space, natural lighting is preferred since it tends to open up a room and show off colors better than man-made fixtures.
More utilitarian in use, task lights illuminate areas where specific functions occur. For example, under-cabinet lighting illuminates countertops for cooking, and table lamps in a living room or bedroom make it easier to read. Another obvious application is in a home office where you need a small, concentrated light to help with paperwork.
Task lights are typically brighter and more focused than general interior lighting fixtures, and they add to the overall
functionality of your home. Some of the fixtures you’d use for task lighting are:
- Desk lamps
- Swinging arm lamps
- Vanity lights
- Under cabinet lighting
- Pendant lights, which are excellent for kitchen islands or play areas
- Table lamps
- Downward-facing wall sconces (where other lighting options aren’t practical)
Placement for these lights is key since they need to shine in areas where you’d need better lighting. That said, they shouldn’t detract from a room’s overall aesthetic, so place them wisely.
A room with interesting design features—such as paintings, unique wall textures, potted plants, etc.—benefits greatly from accent lighting. Accent lights draw the eye to important features in your home, highlighting them with a concentrated glow. They add a highly sophisticated vibe to a room, and it’s for this reason that they’re often used in art museums and historical buildings.
Just as accent lights highlight attractive design features, they also help hide areas where you may not want people looking. Dull or drab areas of a room can be shadowed out while the lights keep people’s attention on the parts you want them to see.
Fixtures that work great for accent lighting include the following:
- Recessed lights for uplighting or downlighting
- Track lights
- Wall sconces
- Picture lighting, which gives direct downlighting onto art pieces
- Cove lights
The function of these lights is purely aesthetic, so it’s important to use just enough to get the desired effect. If you use too many or position them poorly, they may overpower the ambient lighting in the space.
Getting the Right Look from Interior Lighting
Ultimately, interior lighting works by layering these types of light. When used well, they can complement each other and the overall design of a space.
When you need to figure out how to improve the interior lighting in a room, try following these steps:
- Start with colors: Determine which color lights will best complement the color scheme in the room. Home improvement stores will often have showcase areas that demonstrate how various types of bulbs will look shining on different colors.
- Central fixtures: Next, figure out where you need your primary ambient light source. In larger rooms with high ceilings, a chandelier works well. For lower ceilings, recessed lighting may be the way to go.
- Get the corners: Floor or table lamps can help illuminate dead spots that your central fixture leaves unlit.
- Task areas: Determine where you’re likely to perform tasks that require focused lighting. If you like reading on that one sofa in the living room, try placing a table with an easy-to-reach shaded lamp nearby.
- Accents: If you want to show off that one painting on your wall, try picture lights set just above it. For that statue in the corner, a recessed light in the ceiling just above it may do the trick. Track lights or a loose series of sconces can cast some appealing illumination on interesting wall textures.
In some cases where you want to make sure the interior design is just right, it may be worthwhile to hire a professional to help you. This can help improve the value of your home while making any given space more relaxing and enjoyable.
One thing to keep in mind when installing interior lighting in your home is the potential need for electrical work. Getting everything wired properly is best done by a professional, and your electrical system can be covered by a home warranty. When you do any work on your home, it’s beneficial to check what’s covered.