Lighting Design Basics For Your Home

Even though lighting design can significantly improve a home’s aesthetic appeal, it often seems like an afterthought. Lighting design puts the finishing touches on the interior design. It has an important role to play in how the space is perceived and experienced because it dramatically affects the mood of the space.

The overall goal for home lighting is that it be comfortable, easily controlled, and energy-efficient. The key to achieving this is to plan the lighting design properly.

Basic Principles of Lighting Design

A good lighting design plan takes into consideration the qualities of the light source and how it is distributed in the room. The basic principles of lighting design start with knowledge of the four characteristics of the lighting sources.

What Is Color Temperature?

Color temperature describes a light source’s coolness or warmth, measured in Kelvin degrees. These values describe the colors of the light emitted.

Warm lights create an inviting, cozy, calm atmosphere and are the perfect lighting for bedrooms, family rooms, living rooms, and dining rooms that generally have an intimate feel. Lighting for kitchens, bathrooms, and any workspace can use soft, neutral white light that is clean and friendly. Cool lighting works best in offices and hospitals.

Signature 70 Inch 8 Light LED Linear Suspension Light by Corbett Lighting

The unique sculptural design of the Signature 70 Inch 8 Light LED Linear Suspension Light by Corbett Lighting brings warm light into the living room in a thoroughly modern way. Inspired by the loops and letters in a handwritten signature with sweeping arms and entwining lines, this stunning light is the perfect signature piece for any space.

What Is Beam Angle?

Beam angle refers to the angle at which the light is emitted or distributed from a lamp. When highlighting a piece of art or other treasured objects, angled lighting should be a part of the lighting for living rooms. Conversely, a wide-angle provides softer, general light that is perfect for a large area. Chandeliers provide general lighting for dining rooms.

What Are Lumens?

Simply put, lumens measure the total amount of light visible emitted from a light source. The higher the lumens, the brighter the light will seem. When selecting a lightbulb for a particular space, consider the activities that will take place in the room and choose the amount of lumens that provide enough light for those activities.

What Is Color Rendering Index (CRI)?

The Color Rendering Index (CRI) refers to how accurately a light source renders color on a scale of 0 to 100. Higher CRIs render color better. Light sources that have a CRI of 90 or higher are the best for rendering color, so if the space has colors that are crucial to the design, these values will guide the choice.

Putting Lighting Design Basics to Work

Now it’s time to put these lighting design basics to work. Lighting design focuses on creating layered light. Blending these different lighting sources in a space creates contrast and accentuates elements, texture, and color.

How Layers Work

Rarely does a single light fixture provide all the illumination in a room. Proper layering of ambient, task, and accent lighting brings a room to life.

  • Ambient or general lighting is the primary light source in a room.
  • Task lighting illuminates work areas, such as prep areas in a kitchen.
  • Accent lighting highlights a specific area, object, or artwork.

Ambient Lighting

The first layer of lighting to add to a room is ambient lighting. Ambient lighting serves the important purpose of providing overall illumination in any space. Its primary function is to allow visibility throughout the space. Ambient lighting is usually softly diffused to add a consistent lighting level.

Ambient lighting can be incorporated into a space through:

  • Recessed or ceiling-mounted lights that direct light downwards.
  • Floor and wall lamps shed a wash of light toward the ceiling or walls.
  • Pendants that throw light off walls and ceilings.

Carondelet 18 Inch Large Pendant by Sea Gull Lighting

Dazzling and timeless, this pair of Carondelet 18 Inch Large Pendants by Sea Gull Lighting features a cascade of faceted, linear glass crystals that deliver sparkling ambient lighting to this dining room. The sleek, contemporary silhouette adds drama and excitement without upstaging the beautiful décor.

Accent Lighting

Accent lighting is used to highlight a particular object or feature, such as architectural details, stunning countertops, artwork, or furnishings, and turn them into a focal point. They also add contrast, drama, and style to a space. When a room looks good but seems to be missing something, it may need accent lighting. Adding this layer creates defined shadows that add depth to the area or object it highlights and balances the overall appearance of the space.

French Maid Pendants by Regina Andrew

Saucy French Maid Pendants by Regina Andrew do double duty by adding accent lighting and task lighting to this kitchen. They reflect light off the high-gloss countertop, making it stand out. Accent lighting can also be used to amp up the style in any space.

Task Lighting

Task lighting, as the name suggests, adds light to an area for a specific task or activity such as writing, reading, or preparing food. Brighter than ambient light, it is focused on the area where the task is performed. Task lighting will be the most functional layer of your lighting plan.

Examples of task lighting include:

  • Under-cabinet lighting
  • Recessed lighting
  • Pendants
  • Floor, desk, and table lamps
  • Bathroom vanity lights

Accord 31 Inch 5 Light LED Bath Vanity Light by ET2 Lighting

Machined blocks of brushed aluminum house LED modules that project light through a clear acrylic diffuser and down to the surface below, making the Accord 31 Inch 5 Light LED Bath Vanity Light by ET2 Lighting a stunning and functional addition to this bathroom. Laser cutout tubes below provide task lighting and character, while the black edge along the back adds interest to the clean design.

Suzanne Kasler Morris 23 Inch Cage Pendant by Visual Comfort and Co.

In a lovely example of layered lighting, the Suzanne Kasler Morris 23 Inch Cage Pendant by Visual Comfort and Co. offers ambient light while a pair of Aerin Culloden 32 Inch Table Lamps by Visual Comfort and Co. add task lighting for bedtime reading.

Benefits of Good Lighting Design

A good lighting design plan offers functional lighting as it reinforces the room’s design style. When selecting lighting fixtures, they need to fulfill both criteria.


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