Lighting in Layers

Tuesday May 10, 2016

Lighting In Layers:

Home Lighting, Light Fixtures, Lighting Tips

Layering the light in the rooms of your home is a bit like making lasagna. What is the sauce without the noodles? And cheese just makes everything better. Each ingredient—the sauce, noodles, cheese, and meat (or veggies)—is merely acceptable by itself but together, each layer of flavor aids in creating the savory taste of the whole dish. Similarly, lighting in layers can remove unwanted shadows and increase the quality of your home’s lighting. The lighting you chose to brighten your interiors can define and elevate your décor and overall ambience.

Before you light a room you will need to know the three general lighting layers.

Ambient lighting

This layer is the most inclusive layer of light and covers large areas. You set the tone for the level of light you desire with ambient light. When ambient light is involved, the ceiling is the best place to start since the light sources are typically meant to provide overhead lighting. Some examples of light fixtures include semi-flush/flush mount fixtures, chandeliers, and ceiling fans with built-in fixtures.

Task Lighting

 This lighting is just what it implies, direct lighting for detail-based activities, i.e. a task. Cooking, reading, applying makeup, or pursuing your love of building miniatures are all tasks that require adequate, if not specific lighting to accomplish. The light should remove distracting shadows and be glare-free, as well as bright enough to prevent eyestrain. Task lighting is the realm of desk lamps, pendants, work lights, or vanity and under cabinet lighting.

Accent Lighting

This is the fun layer. Where ambient light is broad and mainly comprehensive, the accent layer is small and purposefully selective. A good accent light adds drama and dynamics to the room. You can use fixtures like track lights, recessed can lights, and wall sconces to spotlight or highlight your favorite part of a space like artwork, a fireplace, or your massive sci-fi DVD collection. Other forms of accent lighting include rope light and strip lighting, which can be easily manipulated to fit the more unusual shapes of vanity mirrors, crown molding, stairs, or under shelving.

Next consider your answers to questions about lifestyle, preferences, practicality, and color scheme when planning your light design.


What is the purpose of the room? What activities or tasks do you need to accomplish while you are in there? Are you cooking or watching movies? Doing laundry or doing homework? You need to see clearly if you have any hope of completely that dreaded calculus assignment, or worse, your taxes. But you wouldn’t want that much bright light in the den while watching TV or trying to unwind. Evaluating your daily habits and possible projects will ensure you plan the proper amount of light for your room.


What features do you love about the room and is it something you want to highlight? For example, some people may choose to focus accent lights on their textured walls or built-in bookcase, while others direct visitors’ eyes toward fireplace mantels or family photos. Think about what kinds of light fixtures you do and don’t like.  If you shun chandeliers or find wall sconces to be old-fashioned, then install recessed can lights or modern track lighting instead


 Is this a remodel or a newly constructed room? With new construction, it’s easier to build the light design into the architecture. This idea holds true for major lighting remodels as well. If it becomes a large scale project, you may save yourself a headache by replacing the whole ceiling and the lighting in one project. When remodeling, identify where all the existing wiring and electrical outlets are. Many newly constructed houses already include some recessed lighting, so a remodel could only involve replacing or adding a few key fixtures.

Color Scheme.

What kind of mood do you want to create? Cozy and warm or bright and airy? The color temperature and the lumen output of the bulbs you choose can transform the color of your room from sunny beams of daylight to the intimate glow of the fireplace. Remember that darker colors absorb more light, which means you will need to increase the intensity or number of lights in rooms with darker paint or furniture finishes.


It’s a good idea to install dimmers in every room to control the light levels for special occasions and the time of day. Try warmer, dimmer lights in your bedroom for the optimum snooze-fest and reserve your task lighting for bedside tables and the closet or dressing areas. We can help you come up with a whole lighting design plan that fits you and your lifestyle best!




HGTV, What To Consider in Lighting ProjectsReal Simple, Expert Interior Lighting TipsAmerican Lighting Association, Lighting Your Life



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