5 Things to Remember When Layering Your Lighting

How to Layer Lighting

Much like you layer your clothing for different functions (warmth, moisture wicking, protection from the elements) and to express your personal style, lighting layering works in a similar fashion. 

Multiple sources of lighting optimize the functionality and aesthetics of a room by adding depth and dimension to the space. They also minimize shadows and glare. Much like adding layers to a great outfit, this approach improves versatility. 

Start with the Basics:

General (or ambient) lighting is what covers the important parts of your room with light. It provides uniform coverage for the bulk of the room. (Think pants and shirt or little black dress!) This is the overall lighting that enables you to see what you need to see as you move through the space. It could be from a ceiling fixture (flush or semi-flush mount, chandelier, pendant), recessed lighting or lamps.  There are many possibilities and combinations that can make up the foundation for your lighting ensemble. 

Consider your Activities:

Much like selecting your outfit for the day, choosing your lighting depends upon the different activities which will be taking place in the environment. You likely wouldn’t wear a sundress to an outdoor party in November (at least not in Sioux Falls!) as it won’t keep you warm. Similarly, your lighting needs to be appropriate to the function of your space

Be sure your task lighting is up for the job. Will you be doing any reading, food prep or hobbies which require extra light? Do you need to ensure lighting doesn’t create a glare when watching TV?

Develop a lighting plan that takes those activities into account. Just as you wouldn’t want to catch a chill because you didn’t wear a jacket, you wouldn’t want to have your favorite reading nook, kitchen island or work space lack adequate lighting for the tasks which take place there. Layering your lighting avoids those faux pas.

Set the Tone:

What look and feel do you want your space to convey? Are you going for warm and cozy, formal and classy or maybe an eclectic vibe all your own? Let your lighting help create that feel! All three layers of lighting – ambient, task and accent – help set the tone of a room. The shapes, styles, finishes and even the light bulbs factor into the overall feel created by lighting. What look are you envisioning?

Not sure? Or have an idea but don’t know where to start?  Like dressing up for a big event, it can be a bit overwhelming. But, it’s do-able. If you are not comfortable selecting fixtures which showcase your personal flair, you may want help from a ‘wardrobe stylist’ of sorts. Experienced lighting consultants or an interior designer can help you take your layering game to a new (and beautifully lit!) level.

Hit the Highlights:

Accent lighting focuses light on a certain area or object. It is a lovely way to highlight architectural features of a room, special artwork, meaningful photos, or treasured artifacts. Common types of accent lights include wall sconces, recessed lights, table & torchière lamps, or even track lighting. Undercabinet lighting can also illuminate items on shelves, countertops, or other display areas. The bright glow from the accent light adds visual interest to a room, much like accessories and jewelry add to one’s wardrobe.

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Tip: Chandeliers and wall sconces can do double duty as both ambient and accent lighting, especially if dimmer switches are used.

Make it Cohesive:

Just like clothing, your lighting doesn’t need to be “matchy-matchy.” Finishes and styles abound, and there are endless combinations which work well together. Sticking with a certain finish or style results in a put-together look, but outfitting your home with unique pieces which reflect your taste works, too.

If you prefer to keep things coordinated, many lighting manufacturers offer coordinating options for all lighting types. That means you can easily achieve a harmonized look and feel throughout your entire home while layering your lighting. 

Ensuring your space is covered with function and fashion in mind is important and will provide you years of comfortable, versatile use – like your favorite jeans or that oh-so-flattering sweater. Pulling together the just-right lighting plan for your space is fun and easy with a bit of forethought and advice from a pro. Your newly lit space will be perfectly tailored to your lifestyle. 

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