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As residential lighting designers, we know a thing or two when it comes to setting the mood of a house - adding light in the right places to make the best of your space.

To do this successfully, we combine ambient, task and accent lighting to achieve a lighting scheme that feels balanced and luxurious.

If you’re wondering what the difference between the three is, allow us to explain.

In this article, our expert lighting design team explain how to use ambient, task and accent lighting to successfully light your home.

What is ambient lighting?

Ambient lighting, also known as general lighting or mood lighting, creates the main light in a space.

Ambient lighting makes up the majority of light in a room, and tends to be the base layer of light that sets the tone of a room.

The level of ambient lighting will determine whether a room has a bright and crisp, homey and relaxed, or dark and moody ambience.

When it comes to using ambient lighting in a residential space, it tends to be quite soft.

Ambient lights can be hung from the ceiling, and light fixtures such as chandeliers, track light, among others, can be used to create ambient lighting in a room.

Table and floor lamps can also be used, but there are occasions where these are considered task lights.

ambient lighting

How to create ambient lighting in your home

Ambient lighting shouldn’t be overly bright or dazzling. As we mentioned above, it does tend to be quite soft.

The aim is to build up a soft, indirect general glow that lights up a room.

To do this, you might layer up your lights from the top down, using a combination of:

  • Pendant fixtures can be used in living rooms or over kitchen islands to create a soft general light.
  • Downlights to operate as background lights. Low-glare downlight are best to use in this instance, as your eye won’t be drawn directly to the light.
  • Table and floor lamps can also be introduced to light up darker areas and create a mid-level, general glow.

What is task lighting?

Task lighting is for more specific, functional tasks. Instead of lighting up an entire room, task lights are used to light up a particular space.

Task lighting is much more direct than ambient lighting, and its main purpose it to reduce the strain on your eyes for things like reading or writing.

Task lighting is commonly used in spaces like kitchen worktops, home office desks, or in a reading spot.

The strength of the task light depends mainly on the task you are doing. If you would like to read a book, the light will need to be bright and direct so you can read properly and avoid straining your eyes.

If you are working in the kitchen, you will need bright lighting so you can see what you are doing clearly.

Task lighting

How to create task lighting in your home

When it comes to creating bespoke task lighting, it’s important to consider the space and how you use it.

Some people may have a large dining table that is used more for homework than for entertaining guests. Others will use this space for both purposes.

In this case, a variety of lighting solutions are needed, like dimmers. You will need full light for dinner and homework time, but when it comes to hosting dinner parties, you’ll want the ability to create an atmosphere with low mood lighting.

The key to good task lighting is to discover how you use your space. Let’s look at some more of the most used spaces in homes.

  • Kitchen islands typically have 3, 4 or 5 pendants suspended above them to give a good coverage of downward light. Under cabinet bench lighting can be used to illuminate long spaces.
  • Bathroom task lighting is usually focused on the vanity area. A low-level wash light for the bathroom is ideal, but good task lighting is needed for those who use the bathroom for grooming and styling purposes.
  • Bedroom task lighting usually involves getting ready, reading and studying. Bedside lamps and wall lights are best suited for reading. The light should illuminate your book only, not the entire room.

Want to learn more about how to use ambient, task and accent lighting in your home?

Download our lighting design brochure

What is accent lighting?

Lastly, we have accent lighting. This is used to draw your eye to the most attractive elements in a room, and adds a finishing touch.

Accent lighting are more like feature lights that are used alongside ambient lights. They add drama, style and an air of luxury to a room.

Accent lights light up shadowy areas, like the tops of shelves or corners that aren’t reached by ambient lighting.

accent lighting

How to create accent lighting in your home

If you have any stunning architectural features in your home, then accent lighting will help you highlight them.

For example, in a traditional building there may be stunning ceiling arches. In heritage buildings there may be beautiful carving that can be elegantly highlighted with accent lighting.

The most common forms of accent lights are track lights and spotlights, which use concentrated beams of light to create focus. Accent lighting doesn’t need to be too bright, just enough to highlight great features in the space.

Accent lights will usually use LED luminaries, as they give off very few UV rays and little heat. Using a hot bulb over piece of art, for example, could have disastrous consequences.

How to use ambient, task and accent lighting in your home

Now you know the difference between ambient, task and accent lights. Lighting up your home isn’t as simple as you might have first thought.

For the last 20 years, our lighting design team have transformed luxury spaces in Hampshire, Surrey and London.

If you’re looking for an award-winning residential lighting design team, we can help. Contact our expert team today - we’d love to talk you through our process.


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