Light Layering- The Secret Sauce to Good Design

Well done light layering keeps your eye moving around the room. Lighting Design: Randall Whitehead  Interior Design: Turner Martin Design www.turnermartindesign.com Photo: Dennis Anderson www.bluewaterpictures.com

Well done light layering keeps your eye moving around the room.

Lighting Design: Randall Whitehead 
Interior Design: Turner Martin Design www.turnermartindesign.com
Photo: Dennis Anderson www.bluewaterpictures.com

The pendant fixtures adds both ambient and decorative light for this family room. The recessed fixtures provide accent light, while the floor lamp provides task light for reading. There is no one light fixture that can give you everything you need to illuminate a room properly. The trick is using a variety of light sources to create a flexible, inviting space. This is called light layering. Lighting Design: Randall Whitehead Interior Design: Jessica Hall www.jessicahallassociates.com Photo: Dennis Anderson www.bluewaterpictures.com 

The pendant fixtures adds both ambient and decorative light for this family room. The recessed fixtures provide accent light, while the floor lamp provides task light for reading. There is no one light fixture that can give you everything you need to illuminate a room properly. The trick is using a variety of light sources to create a flexible, inviting space. This is called light layering.
Lighting Design: Randall Whitehead
Interior Design: Jessica Hall www.jessicahallassociates.com
Photo: Dennis Anderson www.bluewaterpictures.com 

Light performs four functions. Here is a list of what they are and what it is that they do:

Task - Lighting by which you do work, such as the under cabinet lighting in the kitchen or a reading lamp.

Accent - Lighting used to high light objects in a space. This adds depth and dimension to an environment. Recessed adjustable fixtures, track lights, portable uplights and directional landscape lights all fall into this category.

Decorative - These are what I like to call architectural bling.  Their main purpose is to look pretty.  They add sparkle to a space.  Chandeliers and candlestick-type wall sconces fall into this category. They should not be used as the work horses for lighting a room. When they are too bright they can visually overpower the other elements of the design.

Ambient - This is the gentle fill light for a room. It softens shadows on people’s faces and fills the volume of the space with a warm glow, as if the room was being filled with the light of a roaring fire. Ambient light comes from illumination that is bounced off the ceiling. Such sources as opaque wall sconces, torchieres, pendant hung indirect fixtures, and cove lighting can be used to create the ambient light.

Note- Some fixtures can serve more than one function, such as an alabaster pendant. While most of the light is reflected up to provide ambient light, some of the illumination backlights the stone to create a decorative effect.

The Bottom Line- By layering these four functions of light together you can create an environment that welcomes visitors into the space, while providing usable light for day-to-day activities.Getting a feel for these terminologies will get you on the right path to understanding how light can work for you.