July 15, 2016

How to Layer Lighting Effectively

Tips | Lighting

@Pooky @Pooky

Layering light is how interior designers create atmosphere and mood in a room. We invited Pooky, lighting experts and makers of lovely designer lamps and lampshades, to share their tips for layering light effectively in the home…

Layering means combining different colours, materials and textures to create unique, interesting spaces. And layering light is much the same thing: it’s about mixing and matching different kinds of light to create mood and atmosphere.

The basic principle of layering is that in any given space you should have multiple sources of light – not just a single, central overhead fixture. That means finding your ideal mix of ceiling pendant lights, table lamps, wall lights and floor lamps.

@Pooky @Pooky

This gives you flexibility to create different light ‘scenes’ according to how you feel or the time of day. For example, a room you use for work during the day can be transformed into a glamorous dining room in the evening for entertaining guests, or a cosy reading nook at night – all by using different combinations of light.

Different kinds of light

Layering light is a bit of an art form, but there’s some science to it too. The key is to understand the three main types of lighting:

  • Ambient lighting: This is the general illumination you need to see what you’re doing - usually the light that comes on when you flick the main switch.

  • Accent lighting: Also known as ‘directional light’, this is the light used solely for aesthetic purposes, perhaps to highlight room features such as pictures, or architectural elements like fireplaces.

  • Task lighting: This is light used for a specific practical purpose, such as a desk lamp in the study or the handy overhead lights in the kitchen that prevent you chopping off your fingers when slicing the carrots.

@Pooky @Pooky

So layering light is about using these kinds of light as elements to create an overall scene. You can also plan flexible combinations of light to suit different moods and uses.

Five tips for creating lighting layers

  • Think like an artist

Ambient lighting doesn’t have to come from a single overhead source: wall lights, table lamps and floor lamps can all contribute to it, but accent lights should be around three times stronger than the general ambient light. Think of ambient lighting as being the canvas, spreading a uniform light across the room. Accent lights are like your paint brushstrokes, drawing attention to the bits of the room you want people to see.

  • Make task lights part of the plan

Task lighting needn’t only be practical. Lighting design, or layering, means you can use desk lamps and recess LEDs in conjunction with ambient and accent light to create an overall effect.

@homedit @homedit

  • Use plenty of lamps

Table lamps and floor lamps can provide ambient light, or task lighting for reading, or accent light if positioned in a particular spot – and because they can be moved around they give you more flexibility in your lighting design.

  • Invest in a control device

Invest in a central control device for switching and dimming all your lamps and lights – many systems allow you you to preset ‘scenes’ that can be activated at the push of a button.

  • Don’t forget natural light

When designing your layers, don’t forget the effects of natural light, for example from large bay windows, or night-time light such as streetlamps.

The fourth kind of light

@Pooky @Pooky

One last point to make. There is fourth kind of lighting:

  • decorative lighting.

This is any light source that is intended to look nice in itself, even when switched off. Of course, our friends at Pooky are biased, being rather obsessed with beautiful, quirky lamps of all kinds – but we think there’s no reason why lamps themselves shouldn’t be as lovely as the light they cast!

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