Lighting may be the hardest working – and most underrated – element of your home’s design. All the fabric, color and furniture in the world sit flat and lifeless without the appropriate lighting. The good news is that lighting is one of the more affordable elements of design and gives a lot of mood control over your space. The secret key to good lighting is to layer it. An ideal lighting scheme starts with natural light and supplements with ambient, task and accent lighting.
Ambient light is typically broad, diffuse lighting that sets a mood. Not to be confused with general lighting that serves more practical uses in the house, ambient lighting adds warmth to your space. Any number of fixtures can provide ambient light, but lamps, chandeliers and sconces tend to bathe a room in light and create that base layer of warmth and energy for a space. Dimmer switches can turn even general lighting into mood lighting, which is why we recommend dimmers for every room of the house for our clients.
While the fixtures themselves can add drama and style to a room, a sparkling chandelier or sophisticated sconce can also provide the finishing touch to your space or simply add another layer of design and functionality to the room.
Task lighting is vital to assist with the task at hand. As practical as it is, it can also add a special element and attitude to a room. Pendant lights over a kitchen island look great, but more importantly, they direct the light just where it is necessary. Place table and desk lamps in areas of the house where you work, but since not all tasks are a part of the daily grind, make sure you’ve got the lighting you need when it’s time to kick back with a favorite book or a big stack of magazines.
After hours, task lighting can provide a wonderful accent effect. When the ambient light drops, a desk or table lamp can provide an effective wash of illumination. We love the look of under-cabinet and recessed fixtures in the kitchen that provide spotlighting during dinner prep, but create a soothing, cool mood after the job is complete.
Accent lighting brings a special effect into a space and gives the most modest of rooms a custom look. After you’ve worked out ambient and task lighting, go ahead and add a final accent layer. A small burst of illumination in a corner or washing over a wall can do as much for a space as a bold accent color on the wall. If you’ve got pieces in the house that you’re particularly fond of – a painting or print, a small sculpture, even keepsakes – an accent light does double duty, creating a subtle effect with a concentrated focus.
Track lighting is the classic example of accent lighting, and offers flexibility at a “luxe for less” cost. Recessed lighting offers many of the same advantages as the track with a more polished look and feel.
For the more effective lighting results, use under-cabinet lighting in the kitchen, small specialty lamps in living areas and larger pendant and chandelier fixtures in dining in kitchen areas to highlight your favorite parts of being home.
Award-winning interior designer Kerrie Kelly writes on home décor, including lighting, for Home Depot. Kelly is the author of the book Home Decor: A Sunset Design Guide. She provides advice to homeowners on lamps, sconces, and chandeliers. To view Home Depot’s complete selection of chandeliers and pendant lighting, click here.