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Layers of Light


Happy Friday everyone!

Today, we will be discussing the importance

of layering light in your home.


Whether the source is artificial or natural, light plays a major role in the aesthetic quality of a space, and it can have a large effect on the well-being of its occupants. The feeling of a space can also be dramatically altered by small adjustments to the type and quality of light within that space. In today's post, we will explore a few common residential spaces and discuss the quality of light in each one.

Before we begin, let's first define some characteristics of light and lighting sources that we will use throughout today's discussion:

Beam Spread (Beam Angle): Describes the cone shape of the downward light emitted by a lighting fixture.

Correlated Color Temperature: Measured in Kelvins (K). Describes the color output of the light source. The lower the number, the warmer the light. Here are some examples:

2500K-3000K: Often advertised as "warm white". Incandescent bulbs read 2700K.

3500K: Often advertised as "neutral white". Typically used in retail environments.

4100K: Often advertised as "cool white". Most offices are lit with this temperature.

Lumens: Measure of the light output (brightness) from a light source.

For each image, we will focus on three main criteria:

  • Ambient Light: The general purpose, usually overhead light in a space that has a wide beam spread. May not be the highest lumen source in the room. Typically turned on by a single switch near the primary entry to the space.

  • Task Light: Specialized light in areas where the user is performing a specific task. Higher lumen light sources are needed to prevent eye strain. A higher color temperature is commonly used to support productivity. This type of light is typically adjustable, and the technical details of the light tend to vary by room and task.

  • Accent Light: Used to highlight or draw attention to a certain area, object, or architectural element in the space. Often put on a dimmer switch. This type of lighting can range from functional and aesthetic application. Visual interest and aesthetic value is usually more important than light source performance.


Ambient Light: The recessed cans have a wide beam spread allowing every area of the kitchen to be lit. The color temperature is neutral and supplements the accent light sources in the space.

Task Light: The concealed undercabinet lights are a great way to add more light at the workspace (countertop) level. They have a higher lumen output in order to reduce eye strain while performing cooking and food prep tasks.

Accent Light: The two pendants hanging above the island tie the space together. There is also a functional example of accent light in the top most upper cabinet which is used to accent the pieces seen through the glass door. In both instances, the color temperature is warmer.


Ambient Light: Though you cannot see it in this photo, it is safe to assume there is a fixture in the center of the space providing the overall light.

Task Light: The light source that is around the mirror provides excellent lumen output and color temperature for the user. Providing light on the sides of the mirror is critical in order to prevent shadowing around the user's face. Sometimes in smaller bathrooms or powder rooms, the task lighting near the mirror doubles as the space's ambient light.

Accent Light: In this space, the track lights accent the countertops for an evenly lit work surface. The lighting below the vanities complements and visually softens the void space.

Photo: If this is your photo, please let us know so we can give you credit!

Living Room

Ambient Light: Living rooms are a space for relaxation with little need for ambient light. The task lighting and accent lighting can work together to appropriately light the entire space.

Task Light: Floor and table lamps are a great way to provide a sense of calmness within a living space. For example, if the user wants to read or do light computer work, floor and table lamps give them enough light.

Accent Light: It appears there are several small spot lights (not visible) that are accenting the large piece of artwork on the wall as well as other areas of the space. In this case, the spot lights blur the line between ambient and accent light. There is also a decorative chandelier hanging in the center of the room to provide visual interest and balance to the space.

Photo: If this is your photo, please let us know so we can give you credit!

As seen in the examples above, ambient, task, and accent lighting needs to be proportioned in order to suit the functional and aesthetic needs of the space. In the kitchen space, we noticed bright, cooler lights while in the living room, we noticed dimmer, warmer lights. Each space should fit the needs of the user as well as create harmony between the furniture and accessories of the space.

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