Lighting is one of the most important aspects of interior design and yet it is frequently overlooked. Quite rightly, much time, effort and money is spent on putting together the right collection of furniture, fixture and fittings for a room, with the appropriate colours, styles and textures. However, if you only install one or two pendant lights, you may end up losing the overall effect you were trying to achieve. Get it right and everyone in the room will feel comfortable and look good, too.
When it comes to decorating or redecorating a room, lighting in layers is extremely important for avoiding a flat, two-dimensional effect. Interior designers use three layers of lighting for a space: ambient lighting forms the base layer, accent lighting is used for the second layer and task lighting creates the top layer. These three layers form the basis for a lighting design plan. They help to create atmosphere, mood, contrast and, therefore, drama, while providing enough light (without glare) to move safely and comfortably through a room.
Ambient or General Lighting
This is the uniform wash of light that sets the mood for a room. Ambient light includes daylight/moonlight, down lights that provide uniform lighting and some decorative lights such as pendants and chandeliers.
This layer of lighting usually illuminates a space vertically and creates drama in a room by highlighting the contrast between brightness and light – as in the image below. It allows you to highlight the architectural features and artwork in a space. The lighting fixtures for accent lighting tend to be inconspicuous so as to emphasize the feature rather than the light source.
Accent lighting, such as along one side or at the end of a hallway, can also be used to accentuate flow and movement through a space.
This is lighting that helps you to perform a specific job in a particular area of a room without glare and shadows. When considering the design for any room, you should include how you’re going to use it. Will you have a place for reading, working, preparing food or putting on make-up? These areas will need pockets of light to allow you to do the job in hand.
Depending on the type of lighting fixtures you use, you might find that some forms of lighting can be used for two layers. This means that you won’t need a separate lighting fixture for each layer. A pendant in a small living room with a low ceiling, for instance, may provide general lighting and task lighting at the same time. And don’t forget that dimmer switches will give you extra control over the intensity of light and mood throughout the day or night.