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3 Types of Lighting Every Room Should Have

SEPTEMBER 19, 2017
Photo credit: Brittany Ambridge, Design by Susan Hable

A single room often has many different functions—for instance, working, lounging, or dining—so it’s important to have multiple types of lighting in each space. Interior designers generally recommend using three key types of lighting in every room: ambient lighting, task lighting, and accent lighting. Each type of lighting is designed to fill a particular need and should be used for a different application or setting in each room. Following this “layered” approach to lighting design will provide a successful lighting scheme that sets the tone for your room, allows you to perform certain tasks, and helps you move about the space. Read on to learn more about the three primary types of lighting.

Key Types of Lighting

Ambient Lighting

Types of Lighting: Ambient Lighting

Photo credit: Aubrie Pick, Design by Decorist

Sometimes referred to as “general” lighting, ambient lighting is one of the most essential types of lighting. These lights illuminate the entire room so that you and your guests can move quickly and safely throughout the space when it is otherwise naturally dark. Recessed lighting (“can” lighting), down-lights, chandeliers, ceiling-mounted fixtures, floor lamps, track lighting, and table lamps are all common types of ambient lighting.

It’s important to avoid overdoing it with ceiling fixtures and recessed lighting, as using too many can make a room feel clinical or like an airport runway. One interior design trick of the trade is to use dimmers. Dimmers allow you to control the brightness of the room as the natural light changes throughout the day.

Task Lighting

Types of Lighting: Task Lighting

Photo credit: Amy Bartlam

When you’re cooking in the kitchen, working at your desk, or enjoying a book in your favorite chair, task lighting is one of three types of lighting you’ll be glad to have. Task lighting is concentrated and illuminates a particular focal point to help you perform certain tasks, such as writing or reading.

Common types of task lights include directional recessed fixtures or down-lights (which you can aim at a certain point), pendant lighting, or portable and desk lamps. If you search the term “task lamp,” in Google, you will likely find desk lamps with articulating arms which you can reposition as necessary. Task lighting may also include under-cabinet lighting for your kitchen or workspaces. Interior designers recommend isolating the switches for task lighting from a room’s overall switch so you can turn task lighting on only when you need it.

Accent Lighting

Types of Lighting: Accent Lighting

Photo credit: Brittany Ambridge, Design by Alexa Hampton

One of the other primary types of lighting is accent lighting. Unlike ambient lighting and task lighting, which have more utilitarian purposes, accent lighting is used for creating atmosphere. These lights can be used to highlight artwork, an architectural feature, a plant, textiles, or a collection of objects. Accent lights are often used to draw attention to something special that you want to be exalted. Common types of accent lighting include decorative sconces and wall-mounted fixtures, picture lights, candlelight, directional recessed fixtures or down-lights, and track lights.

When you use multiple accent lights throughout a room, it keeps the eye moving around and can give your space the impression of being larger than it is. Interior designers use accent lighting as the finishing touch that can give a room a layered, moody, and romantic or theatrical effect.

Wondering what types of lighting you might need in your home? Visit our Design Bar for free expert design advice, or explore our design services for complete online interior design.

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