For interiors, all lighting fits into one of three main categories: ambient, task and accent. Most rooms use a mixture of lighting types and mix the three to create visual interest and meet the functional needs of the space.

Ambient lighting

Ambient lighting

Ambient lighting: flat all-over illumination bright enough to allow people to move about safely and perform simple tasks. It can be achieved by lighting the lower part of the room (direct lighting), or by reflecting light off the ceiling and upper half of the room (indirect lighting), or with recessed ceiling lights.

Task lighting

Task lighting

Task lighting: Lamps light the lower part of the room that makes it possible to read your mail, your book, your Kindle, you or the kids can do  homework. There should be some ambient lighting so the room does not have dark holes, and the kids don’t fall face down on their homework. Yawn . . .

Accent lighting

Accent lighting

Accent lighting: For enhancing artwork, an architectural feature, a sculpture, but If the space is lit only by accent lighting, there will be hot spots and glare. Proper ambient (general) light will soften the lighting so your eyes do not tire.

Uplights - there are wide choices

Uplights – there are wide choices

In addition, reflecting light upward off the ceiling and upper walls tends to give a room a spacious feeling and soften shadows on objects and faces. It can be attained with hanging pendants that direct light upward, wall sconces, or freestanding torchiere-style floor lamps.

Dimmers give you a way to control how much light is dispersed. Just remember the basics, the three ways to light a space. Depending on the mood you want to create, you can vary how you disperse the light. To avoid glare on a shiny surface, such as a glossy magazine, light coming from one or both sides or slightly behind of the work reduces glare. Light will reflect back at you if the light is directly in front of you on the book, etc.

Kitchen ambient lighting

Kitchen ambient lighting

The kitchen is a perfect place to demonstrate the three basics of lighting. The way we live today, most kitchens see us cook, entertain, watch TV, do schoolwork, teach, do your bills, and . . . have a glass of wine. So, you need good flat general overhead illumination, under cabinet lighting for specific tasks, like dicing vegetables or reading a recipe or doing bills. If you were to have art on the walls in the kitchen, as some collectors do, recessed accent lights would enhance the art and add reflected light to the space.

Kitchen task lighting

Kitchen task lighting

Candles as accent lights

Candles as accent lights

Candles add mood to any space, and even the battery operated candles work, they are fun and safe. Now there are remotes for them. Check out Pier One. Remember . . . for all spaces, a combination of strategies works best.

If you have a room that needs light, use the basics to light it up.

What is your favorite type of lighting? What kind of space do you have that would take any of this lighting?

This article includes excerpts or adaptations from Best Practices Guide to Residential Construction, by Steven Bliss, courtesy of Wiley & Sons.

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