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  • Indoor Lighting Design Guide | 3 Lighting Layers



  • Indoor Lighting Design Guide | 3 Lighting Layers

    January 5, 2018

    Indoor Lighting Guide - The 3 Layers of Lighting

    One of the best ways to transform your home, spirit, and mood is by reassessing your indoor lighting situation.

    Many people underestimate the power of lighting. Not oly does lighting affect your ability to cook, work and relax, it also has huge effects on your health, emotions, and wellbeing.

    Lighting & Psychology (Wellbeing)

    Here are some psychological implications of bad lighting in your home:

    • Bright light makes your emotions more intense (whether positive or negative)
    • Bright light at night can cause trouble sleeping. It’s highly recommended that you stop looking at any screens (TVs, phones, computers) at least an hour before going to bed.
    • Natural lighting (aka daylighting) makes people feel happier, healthier, and more productive.

    In a study cited by a New York Times article, changing the color and intensity of classroom lights cause students to behave much better (less fidgeting and more concentration).

    Lighting has been proven to affect appetite, mood, behavior, sleep, memory, and desire. If you are feeling unproductive, aggravated, depressed, or trouble sleeping, have you ever considered changing your indoor lighting design?

    Indoor Lighting Design Guide

    When planning the light design in your home, it’s important to consider all of the different types of lighting, light fixtures, bulbs, color temperature, and other details. Taking in everything at once can easily become overwhelming. That’s why we are concentrating on the most important aspects of planning the lighting layers in your home.

    Since each room is different, you’ll want to carefully consider the different ways in which you use the space. Lighting experts tend to think of interior lighting design in terms of three layers of lighting.

    The 3 Layers of Lighting

    Regardless of whether you’re lighting an internal room or filling the driveway with light for night-time safety, understanding the basic three layers of lighting will help you install the perfect lighting for your home.

    1. Ambient Lights

    Ambient lighting provides the general lighting for the room. It is normally the light that turns on when you first walk in a room and flick on the lights.

    Ambient lighting can consist of recessed lights, ceiling fixtures, sconces, lamps, and chandeliers, which are used to light the entire room. Other possible ambient light fixtures include cove, soffit, and valance lighting. These fixtures are great for general visibility and help to illuminate everything evenly.

    Use ambient lights when you want to create a uniform light level for a large area.

    2. Task Lights

    Task lights serve a specific purpose, and are usually (but not always) inactive otherwise. Cabinet lights, workbench lamps, and security flood lights are all types of task lights. Outdoor path lighting which carries you safely from driveway to doorstep is also a type of task light.

    By providing targeted light to a specific space, such as desks or kitchen counters, you can easily accomplish your work. Task lighting is normally needed for reading, writing, preparing food, and other projects requiring attention to detail.

    3. Accent Lights

    Accent lights add depth and highlights to a room. As the name implies, accent lighting highlights features and adds a splash of attention to different areas to generate volume and interest in a room. With proper accent lighting you’ll prevent the room from seeming flat by carefully creating bright and dark spots (deliberately) throughout the room. Accents are also essential for backlighting or illuminating artwork in a room or points of interest in your yard.

    The main point of accent lighting is to call attention to a specific object or area. Indoors, you can use accent lights to highlight artwork, bookcases, plants, sculptures, and more. Outdoors, you may want to highlight trees, plants, water features, decorative walls, and other areas.

    When planning your light design around your home, it’s normally best to start with the ambient lighting first. Make sure everything is uniformly lit. Then, start thinking of where you need task lighting for projects and accent lighting to draw attention to the most beautiful objects. Moving from general to specific is a good strategy for most things, but especially when it comes to lighting design.

    Lighting Fixtures 

    One of the best ways to improve your indoor lighting is by having a variety of different light fixtures and styles.

    Surface Lights – installed flush against a surface, often found in hallways and bedrooms.

    Recessed Lights – installed into a cavity so you cannot see the light source, also referred to as indirect or pot lighting.

    Pendant Lights – hung from a ceiling by a chain, cable, or cord, normally found in areas with high ceilings.

    Track Lights – installed on the ceiling or hung slightly lower, creating a track with multiple bulbs.

    Portable Lights – plugged into an outlet, portable lights can be taken anywhere. Portable lights encompass table lamps, floor lamps, and battery-operated fixtures.

    Color Temperature

    Besides layering and fixtures, the other most important thing to take into consideration is the color temperature. Bulb color temperature is measured on the Kelvin (K) scale.

    Generally, color temperature falls into one of three color categories:

    • Warm – 1000K – 3000K
    • Neutral – 3100K – 4500K
    • Cool – 4600K – 6500K

    Warm light helps create calm and cozy environments, best for living rooms, bedrooms, and ambient lighting.

    Neutral light helps create bright and vibrant environments, best for basements, garages, bathrooms, and task lighting.

    Cool light helps create crisp and invigorating environments, best for display areas, security lights, and task/accent lighting.

    Color Temperature Kelvin (K) Chart - Indoor Lighting Guide

    Source: Wikimedia Commons

    For help designing your landscape and outdoor lighting, visit our Outdoor Lighting Guide.

    OnTime Service can help you design and install both indoor and outdoor residential lighting, but we recommend doing some planning yourself. By creating three layers of light, you can meet all of your lighting needs.


    Contact OnTime Service at (205) 942-1405 to schedule your indoor lighting consultation.

    OnTime Service has been providing Birmingham-area homeowners with professional on-time home services since 1975.  As always, we will provide you with straightforward pricing options before any work begins. Your satisfaction is 100% guaranteed.

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