Light Layering

There is no single light fixture that gives you everything you need to illuminate a room properly. The trick is using a variety of light sources to create a flexible, inviting space. I call this light layering. Light performs four basic functions:

Task Lighting is lighting by which you do work, such as under cabinet lighting in kitchens, or reading lamps.

Ambient Lighting is gentle fill light. It softens shadows on people's faces and fills the volume of a space with a warm glow, as from a roaring fire. Ambient light comes from illumination that is bounced off the ceiling. Sources such as opaque wall sconces, torchieres, pendant hung indirect fixtures, and cove lighting can be used to create ambient light.

Accent Lighting is used to highlight objects and add depth and dimension to an environment. Recessed adjustable fixtures, track lights, portable uplights and directional landscape lights are all in this category.

Decorative Lighting adds sparkle to a room. Decorative fixtres are the supermodels of lighting - their only purpose is to look pretty. Chandeliers and candlestick-type wall sconces fall into this category. Decoratives should not be used as workhorses for lighting a room; when they're too bright they can overpower other design elements.

By layering these four functions together you can create environments that welcome visitors while providing usable light for day-to-day activities. Getting a feel for these functions will get you on the right path to understanding how light can work for you.