So you're ready to overhaul your home and add some wow factor with lighting. It might help to know a few of the basics so you can get it right the first time. We recently released an article that highlights a dozen ways to improve your lighting (read it here…), but getting down more to the basics, this article is about the 4 main purposes for lights in any room, why you need them, and how to use them.
We're sure you will have heard these 4 terms before, but maybe not a simple explanation of what they are and how to harness them. The 4 main types of lighting for a home are; ambient, task, accent, and decorative. Getting an understanding of what each of them are and how to utilise them, will give you a head start in designing your lighting to compliment your spaces.
The primary lighting for any room is ambient lighting,
and it's what we've had in our rooms since lighting and electricity were invented. If you remember being a kid and each room in the house had 1 light bulb in the middle of the ceiling, then this is ambient lighting.
The purpose of ambient lighting is to, well, light the room when it's dark. We generally want to cover the most space we can and essentially, remove the darkness from the room. How we do this and how we blend ambient with the other lighting types will determine how amazing the results are.
In this day and age, ambient lighting will predominantly be generated by downlights. For practicality, looks, and value, they are hard to beat and definitely the fitting of choice. The most important thing to note about our ambient downlights, is that they should nearly always be connected to a dimmer in the wall rather than just an on/off switch. Some of the best lighting effects we can achieve in a room requires the ambient light to be dimmed right down in a balance with the other lighting types.
So for ambient lighting in your Kitchen, Living room, Family room, Bedrooms, and hallways, you should consider LED downlights connected to a dimmer. Not all downlights are designed for dimmers and even plenty of the ones that suggest they are, perform badly. To ensure you get a great downlight that dims beautifully, have a look at our range here… An alternative to downlights for rooms such as bathrooms, laundries, utility rooms, and garages, is panel lights. These essentially replace the old 'fluoro' tubes and give great and broad ambient light.
Whether it's downlights, panel lights, or pendants, once you have your ambient light for a room sorted, move on to Task Lighting.
Task light is relatively easily defined as lighting an area where we are performing a task. The most obvious is lights over the kitchen bench while we are preparing a sandwich for example. Here we are concentrating on lighting the area we are working in, without concern for lighting the rest of the room. Task lighting will nearly always be used in conjunction with ambient lighting.
Bathroom vanity, coffee table, garage workbench, dining table, bedside table, and reading chair are all standard areas you might install some task lighting. The type of light fittings most commonly used for task lighting are downlights, spotlights (track lights), and pendants. Typically with ambient lights we want as wide a beam angle as we can get, such as 120', but with task lighting we want to have a narrower beam, maybe 60', or even 30'.
When combined with ambient lighting, it's a fantastic effect to have the dynamic between dimmed down or 'muted' ambient lights, with strong or bright task lighting. It can be like a spotlight highlighting the area of your task, amongst the dull glow in the rest of the room. Another compelling lighting effect for a room is the contrast of light and shadow. This can't be achieved with ambient light but it looks amazing if you use your task lighting in conjunction with accent lighting. Imagine you are having your Tuesday night card game with friends at the dining table. The light over the table is warm and narrow, so everything around the table is dark and in shadow. Then for some contrast, you have your accent lighting on headlining your most prized possessions, maybe it's a family canvass on the wall, or a sculpture on a shelf. Overall the room is mixed with dark shadow, highlighted accents, and task lighting focused on the table where you have congregated. Subtle yet impressive.
Accent Lighting is where we move the needle from functional over to aesthetic. This is how we really introduce Wow by combining Accent Lighting with Ambient and Task. What we are doing here is highlighting any special features of the room, a feature wall, or some tricked up architecture. We are focusing light on the main 'features' of the room the way an art gallery lights each piece of art.
It can be a spotlight on a canvass or photo frame, a downlight over a sculpture, a koffer light around a dropped ceiling, or and uplight on a shelf of trinkets. All of these are designed to show off the best features of a room, and make the room more inviting.
When you use accent lighting in combination with ambient and task, you will have an array of lighting moods and scenes in your decorating arsenal. However one of the best effects with accent lighting is when its used on its own in an unoccupied room. Nothing looks nicer than when you look into an adjacent room or walk past a room and see mostly shadows with some beautiful room features highlighted with well-placed accent lighting.
Take your lighting beyond functional and into deliberate design with accent lighting in combination with ambient and task lighting. Then, top it off with decorative lighting.
Decorative lighting is like accent lighting except the light itself is the piece of art, or feature that we want to highlight. So many light fitting manufacturers are employing serious designers in order to make lights that also make a statement. In some cases the light that is produced is the feature, but in others, the fitting itself is. The advantage of a fitting that is the feature is that it doesn't have to be dark for it to look great.
So whether it's pendants over the kitchen bench, a floor lamp in the Living room, or a wall light in the entry, you can make an impact in your space with a decorative light fitting.
Put these 4 types of lights together in a clever design and your home will be a talking point. Run these lights from a lighting control system and you will win at home decorating. Learn more about Lighting Control here... and how it will change your life.