What paint color did you use in that picture? Will that fabric look good with this rug? How can we change the whole feel of this room? All of these questions depend on one very important design component; lighting. Often the most overlooked design element, lighting can create an entire atmosphere for a room and affect human mood and emotion. So then, why do we forget about such a huge aspect of our space? Don’t you think we could all save so much on therapy if we just had more chandeliers installed? Anyone? Just me…?
When we go to select lighting for a specific room, we should think about what mood or ambiance we want to create, but not just with the artificial lighting we are bringing in. We should also work on optimizing any natural light our space already has. Just like window treatments, artificial lighting should be used for adding style and functionality to a room.
Ambient lighting is the general illumination of a space. It is usually indirect, and coats an entire room. The mood and ambiance of a space are often directly affected by this light source. The ambient light is usually indirect and reduces contrasts and shadows. This is created using recessed lights, sconces, chandeliers or pendants.
Accent lighting is used to highlight a specific area, draw attention to a particular object or space, and even used to add a little drama when necessary. Think of a light hung above a piece of art, or exterior lights that highlight the architecture of a home, even sconces flanking a portrait can be an example of accent lighting.
The best designed homes tend to use a combination of two to three of these types of lighting in every room. As a designer, I usually start with the ambient lighting, and then fill in with task and accent as needed. It is important to know how a person is going to use the space, how the natural light effects that space, and at what time of day to really get an idea of the perfect lighting plan for one’s home.