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Lighting at a Glance

Understanding the different types of light is the first step to brightening your home.

Living room with a floor and table lamp.

Layers of Light

There are three layers of light: ambient, task and accent. The size of your room and room type will determine which types you need, but in general you want at least two to properly light a room. Sometimes simply adding a layer of light can dramatically increase your home’s quality of light.

Home Lighting Tips

Ambient lighting or general lighting is needed in every room. It provides a comfortable overall level of light. Ambient light sources are typically overhead lighting, and as a general rule it’s the best place to start when lighting a room.

Ambient light sources to consider for your lighting plan: ceiling fans, chandeliers, flush-mount/semi-flush-mount ceiling fixtures, pendants, recessed lighting, torchiere lamps, track lighting, vanity lighting and wall sconces.

Task lighting is just that – lighting that allows you to perform a task. It supplies the intense, direct light needed for detailed work – reading, cooking, prep, applying make-up – in places like the kitchen, office and bath.

Task light sources to consider for your lighting plan: desk lamps, island or mini pendants, track lighting, under-cabinet lighting, vanity lighting and work lamps.

Accent lighting allows you to spotlight interesting features in your home decor, such as a painting or a mantel. It also serves as a secondary light source to augment ambient lighting in a room. Ambient lighting mainly provides overhead lighting, and accent lighting helps fill in the rest of the room where ambient light can’t reach.

Accent lighting sources to consider for your lighting plan: recessed lighting, track lighting and wall sconces.


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Lighting Types

Chart of how to light your home.

Light Bulbs

Don’t forget light bulbs. Things like color temperature, lumens and wattage all play a factor in your room’s quality of light. Light emitting diodes (LEDs) and compact fluorescents (CFLs) help lower energy costs. Both have a lower wattage but provide the same light output as higher wattage incandescent bulbs. LEDs are also cool to the touch. In general, look for a warm white color temperature for living rooms and bedrooms, bright white color temperature for kitchens and workspaces, and daylight color temperature for reading nooks and studies. For more information on light bulbs, check out the Light Bulb Buying Guide.

Caution

Never exceed the maximum wattage recommended for your light fixture.