Beautiful room with sofa, fireplace, and columns

This gorgeous and classical room includes ambient, task, and accent lighting.

When it comes time to build a new home or remodel your existing home, it’s easy to forget just how important lighting is to the overall effect of each room. You may spend hours choosing between ten different shades of eggshell paint or flipping through dozens of cabinetry catalogues, but the colors of your walls and the warm accents of your cabinets could be lost in the shadows if you don’t choose the right light.

Great lighting sets the mood of a room, sculpting the shadows, and guiding the eye exactly where you want it to go. Lighting also improves the functionality of the room, for example, making it easy and enjoyable to read books in the library or relax in the living room.

With so much power to help or harm your overall design scheme, lighting needs to be considered carefully. Here are some expert interior design tips when choosing the right light for your home.

Determine the Room’s Function                                                                                                            

A room’s lighting should serve the purpose of the room. You probably don’t want bright flood lights in your bedroom, but you do want brighter lights in the kitchen where you will be chopping vegetables, measuring cups of sugar, and mixing up a batch of your famous brownies. The first step in choosing your lighting is to determine the function of each room. Will you be watching a lot of television in the living room, working on crafts in the upstairs office, relaxing in a warm bubble bath in the bathroom? Choose lighting that can support these activities. For example, you’ll want to make sure the lighting in the living room don’t reflect or wash out the television. You may also want to add task lighting to the office. A dimmer switch in the bathroom can help you create a relaxing atmosphere for bubble baths while offering bright light for makeup application or shaving in the morning.

Decide on Style

At some point in the building or remodel phase of your home, you’ll need to decide on exactly what type of lighting you want. Should a room be lit by antique lamps, wall sconces, an ornate chandelier, delicate pendants, or recessed cans? The answer will depend on your own personal style choices and what you want your home to look like. Your lighting fixtures should support the overall style of your home. An ultra-modern home may utilize more overhead cans and recessed lighting, while a more traditional home will likely contain lamps, scones, and pendant lights.

Choose Ambient, Task, and Accent Lighting

Not all lighting is the same, nor is it meant to perform the same task. In the interior design world, we typically divide lighting into three separate categories: ambient lighting, task lighting, and accent lighting. Ambient lighting is what most homeowners think of when it comes to lights. It provides the overall illumination for a room. Typically, ambient lighting comes from overhead cans or light fixtures, sconces on the wall, or lamps on tables and shelves. Task lighting provides illumination for specific activities. The most common forms of task lighting are reading lamps, overhead lights in a kitchen, or lights over a vanity in the bathroom. Lastly, accent lighting draws the eye to a specific area or object in the room. Many homeowners like to add gentle track lights around a favorite painting or picture or install a directional recessed can to spotlight a sculpture or aquarium.

When you understand your style and the purpose of the room, and know what décor you plan to put in the room, you can choose the appropriate mix of ambient, task, and accent lighting.

Work with an Interior Designer

This article has probably given you a lot to think about when it comes to lighting. You don’t have to go through this process alone or worry about installing the wrong kind of lighting for your house. An interior designer can help you define your own unique style and map out the purpose of each room. She can then make recommendations and present you with tailored lighting choices so that the light will always be right in your home.

If you have a home in San Diego or Orange County, call me to schedule an interior design consultation.