Often great design is not made up of continually adding architectural details over and over. Often times the best design is accomplished when you stop adding details and you simply let the space and the materials speak for themselves. To add detail gently and elegantly you can simply add lighting at different levels. Here are a few great tips for adding levels of lighting design:

When considering lighting in a space we need to make sure 1) it  provides ambient illumination for orientation and general tasks in the space, 2) task illumination for local, more demanding tasks, and 3) accent illumination to highlight special objects of interest or set moods.

Ambient lighting is our fist layer of light. This is the main lighting we use to light up a room as we walk in.

Among the fixtures that provide ambient lighting are:

  • Chandeliers and other ceiling fixtures
  • Light kits on ceiling fans
  • Track lighting
  • Recessed ceiling lights
  • Torchieres
  • Wall sconces providing enough light to do more than spotlight an area

Task lighting is just what it sounds like: it’s the light you need to perform tasks―reading, studying, cooking, applying makeup, etc. make sure you understand what tasks you may need to do in each space as you make a plan.

Task lighting fixtures include:

  • Table lamps
  • Desk lamps
  • Swing arm lamps
  • Under counter lights
  • Pendant lights
  • Directed track or recessed lights
  • Vanity lights
  • Adjustable floor lamps


Accent lighting is my favorite. It provides atmosphere and influences mood, accent lighting is used to highlight architectural features and important objects, and to draw attention away from the things that aren’t as pleasing. Even though accent lighting can disguise decorating blunders, it’s the most often-forgotten of the three types of lighting.

Some examples of accent lighting are:

  • Can lights and uplights
  • Picture lights
  • Candlelight
  • Directed track or recessed lights
  • Niche lighting
  • Chandeliers with dimmer switches
  • Wall sconces
  • Lighting inside glass or wire door cabinets
  • Light bridges on media furniture
  • Notice that chandeliers and wall sconces can double as accent lighting, especially when you install dimmer switches. Track and recessed lighting can function as any of the three layers of lighting, depending on how you direct them.

    When you plan your accent lighting, ask yourself how you want each room to feel, and which elements you want to highlight or hide. Consider the location of paintings or particularly beautiful pieces of furniture that you want to feature. Now is your chance to think of your home as a work of art, and to light it appropriately.