When developing a lighting plan for any room in your home, it is important to consider the three basic types of light – ambient, task and accent. The best lighting plans combine all three types to light an area according to function and style.
Ambient lighting, or general lighting, provides an area with overall illumination. Ambient lighting radiates a comfortable level of brightness without glare and allows you to see and walk about safely.
Various types of fixtures can provide overall illumination to a room, including chandeliers, ceiling fans with light kits, wall-mounted fixtures, and recessed or track lights. Having a central source of ambient light in all rooms is fundamental to a good lighting plan.
Task lighting is exactly as it sounds, it is incorporated to help you perform specific tasks, such as reading, grooming, preparing and cooking food, doing homework, working on hobbies, etc. Task lighting can come from recessed and track lighting, pendants, undercabinet lighting, as well as portable floor and desk lamps.
Task lighting should be free of distracting glare and shadows and should be bright enough to prevent eye strain. As with all lighting in the home, it is best to put task light sources on dimmers, so that you can adjust the levels of light based on your specific needs.
Accent lighting adds drama and style to a room by creating visual interest. As part of an interior lighting design scheme, it is used to draw the eye to houseplants, paintings, sculptures and other prized possessions. Accent lighting can also be used to highlight the texture of a stone wall, window treatment or even outdoor landscaping.
To be most effective, accent lighting should be brighter than the general lighting sources surrounding it and carefully placed to highlight the desired features.