Home lighting ideas and designs

The best home lighting dramatically improves the overall effect of a room's design scheme. It's essential that you put as much thought and care into the selection of your lighting fixtures that you do into your carpeting, wallpaper, paint and furniture – interior lighting has the power to make or break a room.

To make the best lighting choices, you have to think about how the space will be used and choose the lighting type that will best meet the needs of the people using it. Thus, an understanding of both room-specific lighting principles and the four basic types of light will help you a great deal.

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Home Lighting: The Four Basic Types

Interior lighting can be categorized into four basic types: ambient lighting, task lighting, accent lighting and natural lighting.

Ambient lighting, also called general lighting, is all-purpose lighting designed to illuminate the entire room. Track lighting, recessed lighting and ceiling-mounted lights are the most common examples of ambient lighting.

Task lighting refers to light designed to aid in a specific task, such as reading or cooking. It should not cast a glare, nor should it be so bright that it strains your eyes after extended periods of exposure. Lamps are commonly used to provide task lighting.

Accent lighting is designed to illuminate a specific object or corner of the room. For example, you may have a work of art that you want to draw attention to with an accent light. As a general rule of thumb, accent lights illuminate a narrow field, but with about three times more brightness than ambient light provides.

Natural light comes from outside the room; its intensity and brightness varies, as it is dependent on factors such as the time of day, the time of year and the type of fixture that's letting it in the house. Windows, doors and skylights all allow natural light into your home.

Decorative Lighting for Every Room

Now that you understand the four main ways light is used, you can start to think about how you'd like to arrange lighting in specific rooms. Typically, kitchen lighting is dominated by ambient and task lighting. The same is true of bathroom lighting. These rooms are heavily used to perform specific tasks, like food preparation and personal grooming.

Living rooms, bedrooms and recreation rooms tend to use more accent lighting than kitchens and bathrooms, though your specific strategy will depend on your personal tastes and habits. Finally, if energy conservation is important to you, fluorescent lighting is something you should consider – these bulbs have longer lives and use less energy than standard light bulbs do.