Want More Functional Lighting in Your Home?

Everyone obviously needs lighting in their home, but most of us take a scattershot approach to it, putting lamps randomly in various places in our various rooms, or using the ceiling light as the only source of illumination.

Home design expert Sherry Tyra shot this video to demonstrate that lighting is a key component in establishing style and ambiance in your home, and that you can use it to create atmosphere and drama.

To do that, you have to go beyond standard light fixtures.

Ambient lighting

Ambient lighting is what provides an area with overall illumination; some people call it general lighting. Ambient lighting is what enables you to see in a room once there’s no natural light in it (once the sun has gone down or on a particularly dark day). This is the most functional lighting you can use. If you have a particularly dark room that needs a lot of ambient light, then your first go-to solution is recessed lighting. Recessed lighting is the best way to provide lighting in a room that needs a lot of light but doesn’t have a lot of other options (the opportunity to place lamps on furniture, etc.). Ambient lighting can also work in tandem with other kinds of lighting, providing a complement to decorative lighting that you’ve put in the room for reasons of style.

Task lighting

Task lighting lights a certain area of the room and helps you perform specific tasks (tasks like reading, putting on makeup, preparing and cooking food, doing homework, working on hobbies, playing games, doing work like writing, homework, or other desk-associated tasks. Recessed and track lighting can provide good task lighting, as can pendant lighting and under-cabinet lighting.

Other options for task lighting include portable floor and desk lamps. Concerns around task lighting: it shouldn’t have any distracting glare or cast shadows that will interfere in the job; and task lighting should be bright enough to prevent strain on your eyes.

Under-cabinet lighting in a kitchen is an extremely popular way to provide task lighting for preparing food, and it also can act as decorative lighting, providing a sense of drama.

Accent lighting

What accent lighting does is add drama to a room; it does this by creating visual interest. You want your accent lighting to work with the rest of your room design, to harmonize with it as part of an interior design scheme. Its chief use is to draw attention to certain objects in the room, such as plants, paintings, sculptures, tapestries,  or in fact anything that you want to have featured. If you have an exposed brick wall or an exposed stone wall, accent lighting can call attention to its texture.

To really work effectively, you need to give accent lighting at least three times as much light on the focal point as the general (ambient) lighting that’s elsewhere in the room. Recessed and/or track lighting, as well as wall-mounted picture lights.  Accent lighting lets you create mood or atmosphere in a room that’s not there without the lighting. And remember that adding a dimmer to any accent lighting can change the mood.

Decorative lighting

Decorative lighting is there to bring something unexpected into your room that will work with your ambient and accent lighting to create the mood and atmosphere you’re looking for. When they’re well chosen, chandeliers and lamps can provide light and make a statement in any room. Other decorative lighting includes up-lights and can lights; if you put one behind a plant you can get some dramatic lighting.

Finally, the most basic and essential decorative lighting is the most traditional as well: candlelight. LED candles can give you a sense of candlelight without risking anything catching fire.