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Embracing All Five Types of Lighting

I’ve been spending a lot of time in lighting stores lately. This may be a coincidence but if there’s one thing all spaces benefit from, it’s being well lit. Lighting can make a statement, create a focal point, balance scale, transform the feel of a room and most importantly improve its function. If there’s one thing all designers agree on its how crucial good lighting is to a well-designed space.


Here are the five types of lighting to consider when looking to improve function or create an impact in your home:

Natural Light – The sun is an ideal source of light that’s quality varies depending on the season, the time of day and especially the direction or exposure of a room. Famous architects like Gaudi used to add central light wells or calculate the exact size and height of windows to capture and control the amount of natural light in the homes they built.

Whether too much or too little, there are much less expensive ways to optimize the amount of light available in your home. Investing in the right window treatments to filter too much light or strategically placing mirrors, using glossy paint etc. can help redistribute too little natural light in a space.

Ambient Lighting - Closely related to natural light and often the next best thing, ambient means light that comes from all directions and tends to be slightly hidden or softer in nature to create a natural-like glow in a space. Fluorescent lighting is the most common example of ambient light but is not one I tend to use in homes or commercial spaces given its artificial feel. Candles and firelight change the “ambience” of a room and are therefore great examples of this type of lighting - especially at night. Adding a dimmer to an existing light fixture is another great, inexpensive way to achieve the characteristics of ambient light.

Accent Lighting - The complete opposite of ambient, accent lighting tends to be direct in nature and strategically positioned to “accent” specific architectural features or your favourite elements in a space. A directional light above a photo or beautiful piece of artwork that brings out its texture and colour is a great example of accent lighting. The main disadvantage of this type of light is the heat it can generate and add to a small space given its directional nature. Accent lighting is therefore a type of light most designers use sparingly to add impact.

Aesthetic Lighting – Used to create wow factor, aesthetic lighting tends to be a designers’ best friend given its art like nature and how it can be used as a centerpiece or focal point. Decorative wall sconces, chandeliers and neon signs are all examples of aesthetic lighting that can add impact, elegance or opulence to a space. This type of lighting tends to be more expensive so I always try to ensure it serves a dual purpose by doubling as task, accent or ambient lighting in addition to being purely aesthetic.

Task – This is the most important type of lighting source since it ensures both the function and purpose of a space. Task lighting should be strategically placed to help read, cook, shave, apply makeup etc. and must therefore be given top priority when re-evaluating the lighting in your home. Examples include floor or table lamps, under-mounted cabinet lighting, moveable track lighting and well placed pot lights or sconces.

A good designer will not only understand the different types of lighting above, they’ll also know how to layer all five types to create an impact and ensure ambience no matter what time of day or how you intend to your space.

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