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Types of Lighting – Ambient, Task, Accent

Types of Lighting – Ambient, Task, Accent

It is time to begin configuring the lighting for your space or project. It can be an uphill battle finding the right lighting and knowing what type of fixtures to choose. However, don’t despair! Below we have explained the three basic types of lighting to begin your project.

The three basic types of lighting that work together in your home are ambient, task and accent lighting. A good lighting plan combines all three types to light an area according to function and style. Each type of lighting meets a particular need and one type of lighting cannot do it all. It is a good concept to have a range of different types of lighting.

Ambient Lighting

Ambient, or general lighting is the most basic of the three types. It provides an area with overall illumination – radiating a comfortable level of brightness without glare and allows you to see and walk about safely. Ambient lighting can be accomplished with chandeliers, ceiling or wall-mount fixtures, track or recessed lights, and even table and floor lamps. In some spaces such as laundry rooms, the ambient lighting also serves as the primary source of task lighting.

Having a central source of ambient light in all rooms is fundamental to a good lighting plan; it’s the base upon which you add all other layers of lighting.

Task Lighting

Task lighting targets a particular area of a room illuminating a specific function – like reading, grooming, preparing and cooking food, doing homework, working on hobbies, playing games and balancing your checkbook. For example areas in the home that require task lighting are the kitchen counters where food is prepared, the bedroom end tables where reading is done, or vanity where makeup is applied.

To enhance visual clarity and prevent eyestrain, effective task lighting should be free of distracting glare and shadows. Great task lighting can be achieved by recessed and track lighting, pendant lighting and specialty lighting, as well as vanity lights and floor, table, and desk lamps.

Accent Lighting

Accent, or directional, lighting is typically used to highlight certain objects or architectural features, such as houseplants, paintings, sculptures, or carved cabinet doors. It can also be used to highlight the texture of a brick or stone wall, window treatments or outdoor landscaping such as a beautiful tree, plant or water feature, or to draw the eye to a particular area of the landscape.

Accent lighting should be about three times the general illumination level. Accent lighting should never be the focal point. In fact, it’s meant to work without being seen. Accent lighting can be provided by recessed and track lighting, chandeliers with dimmer switches, specialty lighting, and wall sconces.

When planning the layers of light in a room, it usually makes sense to consider the ambient lighting first, then consider task and accent lighting. Specifically identify the room or space and its intended purpose then you can decide how to go about illuminating. With rooms that are heavily task-oriented, however, such as home offices, task lighting can be the focus first. And in a hallway that doubles as a photo or art gallery, accent lighting might be considered first.

(sourced from

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