The rule of 3’s. They’re the triple threat of lighting design. Three types of lighting: ambient, task and accent. Three levels of design: top, middle & bottom. For today’s blog post I’ve put together a quick reference guide on what the different layers are, along with a few tips on how to use them to pull your space together.
Three Layers of Light: Ambient, Task & Accent
1. Ambient lighting is used primarily for general vision. It is not directed at one particular item or area of the room, but instead uniformly brightens the space. An example would be an overhead dome light.
2. Task lights serve a very specific lighting purpose for, well — a task. When you need more visual accuracy, say when you’re dicing vegetables in the kitchen, you might kick on some under cabinet lights. I love this interactive picture that shows the dramatic difference in a kitchen after under cabinet lights were added. (That’s next on my project list!)
3. Accent lights add depth & dimension and showcase individual items or areas. A favorite painting or photograph displayed under a picture light on the wall is a popular way to accent with lighting. One of my favorite examples of decorative outdoor accent lighting are submersible color changing tape lights that illuminate a cascading water feature.
We’ve referenced this picture before because it’s such a great example of light layering. The basic rules of lighting design are in full force and the result is a wonderful blend of light and shadows that open up this room to a myriad of decorating opportunities. Can you find the different layers? [Hint: Check out Annie’s original post to see if you’re right.]
Three Layers of Design: Top, Middle & Bottom
Think of your room in three distinct layers: A top, a middle & a bottom layer. Now add light to each one.
1. The top layer is the ceiling, where you’re likely to find recessed can lights, cove lights, track lights or flush-mount fixtures.
2. The middle layer encompasses the wall and may include low hanging chandeliers or picture lights for artwork.
3. The bottom layer is where the furniture is located and might include table & desk lamps, step lights or night lights.
The #1 Rule is that there are No Rules
Here’s the thing with interior design that drives me crazy — We’re given a set of rules, and then with a cheery voice we’re told that “Rules are made to be broken!” Despite my need to keep things in an orderly fashion, I do get it. What it all comes down to is that these are guidelines, not do-or-die mandates. If your formal dining room doesn’t need any task lighting, skip it. If your bedroom won’t benefit from accent lights, leave them out.
But when you’re staring at a room and can’t quite figure out what’s missing, even though you swear you did everything Pinterest told you to do, check the lighting and review the 3 Rules of lighting design. It may be just the thing you need to pull it all together.