UNPEELING THE LAYERS:
3 LAYERS OF LIGHTING IN DESIGN
Interior lighting is one of the most important facets of home design. You only notice the lighting in a room if it is too dim or too bright, but when it is just right it goes “unseen.” No matter how carefully you have chosen and arranged the perfect furniture and materials, you will never have a well-designed space until you correctly implement the three layers of lighting.
The first layer is ambient light, a substitute for natural light. Ambient lighting is the base upon which you should build, the illumination that keeps you from tripping over the furniture that was so hard to decide on. Ceiling fixtures and recessed lighting are the most abundant sources of this general lighting. The next two layers are your chance to add dimension and drama to that fabulous wing chair you chose!
Task lighting is, just as it sounds, the lighting you need to perform certain tasks. The most common tasks performed in the home are reading, applying makeup, and cooking. I prefer to walk through the floor plan of each room and make a list of which tasks will be performed in each space. By creating these lists I can choose the correct lighting for each area. Some examples of fixtures in this category are lamps, pendant lights, vanity lights, and directed track or recessed lights.
The final layer — my favorite — is accent lighting. Accent lighting has the ability to provide mood and atmospheric influence as well as highlighting architectural detail and important artifacts. The most common accent fixtures are picture lights, up lights, candlelight, and wall sconces. It is not uncommon to have fixtures in the other two categories double as accent lighting, such as directed track lights or under counter lights.
To truly allow your lighting scheme to go “unnoticed” you have to understand that the function and mood of a type of lighting and that of a room need to go hand in hand. Take a home office for example. Here you need soft ambient lighting with strategically placed reading lamps and a soft accent, such as the shelf lighting used in the home office pictured below. A kitchen, on the other hand, requires bright ambient light and strong task lighting at multiple work stations, such as cutting or washing.
Below are some examples of how to use a combination of all three layers to create a harmonious and well-designed space.