You don’t have to know everything about lighting or spend tons of money to make rooms look light and lively. You do need to know the basics of functional and decorative lighting and how to get help for planning and buying lighting. Lighting design is broken down into three kinds of illumination: general lighting, task lighting, and accent lighting. Mix all three types to achieve decorative lighting.
Decorative lighting creates mood. Flat, functional lighting (such as the kind in your office) puts people on the alert. Decorative lighting, on the other hand, brings out the shape of objects.
To create a plan, consider what, where, and when activities take place. Lighting needs to vary its intensity to accommodate multiple activities that occur in a single room.
General, or ambient, lighting illuminates an entire space for visibility and safety. Light bounces off walls and ceilings to cover as much area as possible. General lighting can come from up-lights or down-lights:
- Up-lights point illumination toward the ceiling. Up-light fixtures include torchiers and wall sconces.
- Down-lights cast light down from the ceiling or wall. Popular down-lights include recessed lights and track lights.
- Some lights, such as table and floor lamps, are both up- and down-lights because they cast light toward both the ceiling and the floor.
Task, or work, lighting illuminates smaller areas where more intense light is needed. Task light should be three times as bright as general lighting. Good task lighting fixture choices are well-positioned recessed lights, track lighting, pendants, table or floor lamps, and under-cabinet lighting strips.
Accent lighting adds brilliant shimmer to make your precious objects, paintings, sculptures, and outstanding architectural features stand out. Use a bulb that’s no more than three times as bright as the surrounding general light.