How to: Lighting Layers

The right lighting helps create mood, composition and ambiance within an interior space, transforming even the most simply furnished room into a well-lit masterpiece. To maximize the livability and beauty of a space, at least three “layers” of lighting are needed from a variety of sources. Read on to learn more about these layers and how they work together to beautifully illuminate a space. (The following is excerpted from “The Lighting Look Book” by Littman Brands, which can be viewed here.)


Harlow by Corbett Lighting

Establishes Necessary Ambient Lighting
Also known as overall or general lighting, ambient lighting is a room’s functional foundation, creating safe and even illumination to help aid traffic and other basic visual tasks throughout the home. Chandeliers stand out as artistic centerpieces, but pendants, flush mounts, and semi-flush mounts can also be used as a room’s primary light source. Dimmer switches allow you to adjust the ambient lighting to bring in other layers and change the room’s atmosphere.

big bang

Big Bang by Corbett Lighting

TIP: If ambient light levels are lower than task levels, the contrast will create a dramatic effect. However, if ambient light levels are as high as task levels, then the space will be brighter.

While a ceiling fixture might meet the practical requirements of lighting up a space, ambient lighting should only be the “base” layer in a thoughtful lighting layout.


Queen Bee by Corbett Lighting

Illuminates Activities with Task Lighting
While ambient lighting welcomes us into a room, task lighting is focused on the things we do there. The demands of task lighting vary substantially from room to room. Kitchens require strong, shadow-free lighting in food preparation areas while bathrooms require well-diffused vanity illumination for grooming tasks. Each activity has its own unique lighting requirements, which can be met with a variety of pendants, wall-mounts and portables.


Geisha by Corbett Lighting

Enhances Features with Accent Lighting
While ambient and task lighting layers are necessary for a room’s functionality, accent lighting enhances the impact of architectural and design elements, allowing you to focus attention in specific areas that highlight a room’s aesthetic features. Well-placed sconces can draw your eye to fireplaces, while picture lamps can illuminate prized possessions.

TIP: There are two types of accent lighting. The focal layer is for illuminating artwork, displays and architectural elements, while the decorative layer is mainly for ornamentation.