Ever since man discovered fire we’ve been using light to stave off the darkness and keep the night at bay. Lighting, however, is more than just providing light. Proper lighting understands that there are three basic types of lighting that we need to consider when designing our homes.
Ambient Lighting is designed to set the “ambience” or the tone of the whole area. Lighting a classroom is not the same as lighting a family room for example but both are ambient lighting. Where the classroom might need to be very bright a family room might need warmer, not so bright light. Understanding the use of the space helps determine not only what type of light (warm vs. cool, for example) but also how the area is going to be lit.
Task Lighting on the other hand is intended to light a specific work area in the space in question. A perfect example of task lighting might be countertops in the kitchen where food prep is going to take place. This area needs to be well lit so that the cook, or the kids helping, can properly see what they are doing. Unlike ambient lighting which is meant to light a whole room, task lighting is centered on the specific area where the task is going to be accomplished.
Accent Lighting is the third type of lighting. Accent lighting does what its name implies; it accents a particular architectural feature, a specific area, a work of art or even a wall. Where a task light might illuminate a specific spot on the counter where chopping and dicing will take place, accent lighting in the form of under cabinet LED tape can accentuate the whole counter top area.
When looking at lighting a room pay attention to all three of these types of lighting. Look at the room as a whole and determine what kind of mood or atmosphere you’re trying to create; look at the areas where you’ll be accomplishing aspecifictask (a light over the dining room table for example) and look at what, in the room, you want to accentuate. A properly lit room will have a perfect balance of ambient, task and accent Lighting.
Proper lighting can make all the difference between a room that is “nice” and a room that evokes emotion with a dynamic quality that brings the space to life.