Lighting 101

Lighting is often an aspect of interior design that is overlooked and under-appreciated.

In my opinion, lighting has the power to make or break the space. There are four main types of lighting to consider when designing a space: ambient, accent, task, or decorative. Ambient lighting is the general lighting that usually illuminates an entire space. Accent lighting is used to highlight an area or particular object. Task lighting is installed in areas that will require additional light, such as a work or reading area. Decorative lighting is just that, to add interest or decoration to a space.

To begin choosing lights, you must consider the function of the space. Is it a space that is primarily for entertaining? Or is it a more functional space that is used for reading or cooking? I begin by placing task lighting within the space to illuminate the work areas. I then move to installing ambient lighting to the rest of the space. Lastly, I consider accent and decorative lighting.

On the more technical side:

What is the best lighting for a hallway?


There should be a fixture every 6-8 feet and depending on the ceiling height, a flush mount or semi flush mount can be used. If you have wide hallways, you can consider adding wall sconces for added light and design. A general rule for wall scones is that they are placed 5 feet above the ground, and also 6-8 feet apart.

What is the best lighting for a dining room?


A chandelier or bowl over the dining room table can provide excellent ambient lighting, and with the addition of a dimmer, can emit diffused light to create an inviting atmosphere for dinner guests. Accent lighting can be used to highlight any art or accessories in the room without overpowering the focal point of the chandelier and dining table.

What is the best lighting for a bathroom?


If possible, the best lighting in the bathroom is a vanity light on or above the mirror and two wall sconces on either side. This prevents shadowing on the face while using the mirror. The vanity light should be ½ to 1/3 the width of the countertop, and installed 75”-80” above the floor. If you have a high ceiling, it is recommended to face vanity lights down. Otherwise, face vanity lights up so the light can reflect off the ceiling. In addition to this lighting, general ambient lighting might be required to illuminate the rest of the space.

What is the best lighting for a kitchen?


Layering lighting is especially important in the kitchen. General ambient lighting can be achieved through the use of potlights to highlight the walkways of the kitchen. Undercabinet lighting can be used for ambient lighting and is great for task lighting when working on the perimeter counters. Pendant lights above the island are a nice highlight to the space. Additional task lighting above the kitchen sink and other task areas may be required.