The #1 Rule In Residential Lighting

Besides just having light, light layering (having multiple light sources for different purposes) is the most important, all-encompassing rule in home lighting design.

I recently ran across a post on Freshome featuring a loft installation designed by Luiz Fernando Grabowsky. It demonstrates this essential rule with finesse, using multiple lighting fixtures to bring out every aspect of the room. I was especially impressed because it does so in such a small space, and manages to make the place look so unique.

Let me break down how and why this loft rocks my world with its light layers. But first, here’s a photo:

Image via

Ah, the lovely, lovely light. This space is such a great example of light layering. A single light source never does any space justice. You need different light sources for different purposes, for aesthetics and functionality.

Let’s look at that photo again:

Image via

That’s not just one, not two, but five different light sources, not counting the ample ambient light coming in from the windows. You have under cabinet lights on the left, recessed accent lights on the back wall, a pendant light, a table lamp, and linear accent lights atop the window.

On the other side of the room, there are just as many layers:

Image via

There are pendant lights and reading lights on either side of the bed, display lights at the top of the gallery wall, shelf accent lighting on the top right, and even a night light.

What we can take away from that rather detailed list is that there are 5 different kinds of light layers:

1. Ambient light, which comes from windows and any overhead lights (not pictured).

2. Accent light, which comes from shelf lighting, display lights, and the window lights.

3. Task light, which comes from under cabinet lights and reading lights.

4. Safety light, which comes from night lights.

5. Mood light, which comes from stylish pendants.

This room is truly a textbook example of light layering. Each kind of light serves a different purpose and adds to the room’s aesthetics in a unique way.  Plus, with light layers, changing the look of a room to suit the time of day and how you’re feeling becomes super easy. Just turn some lights on, and leave others off!

Even though this design concept is basic, there are infinite ways to adapt light layers to suit your unique style. For instance, I love how these pendant lights blend so seamlessly in with the gallery wall:

Image via

Another really innovative, unique light layer is the accent light on the windows. Lit from above and below, I imagine they add a lightness to the room, even after dark:

Image via

So there you have it. The most universal rule in residential lighting design, and a few ways to make it your own. What’s your favorite light layer in this space?

Annie Josey

Annie was the E-Commerce Marketing Specialist at Pegasus Lighting from June 2012 to October 2013. She has a background in English literature, and loves using language to help illuminate the world. So covering lighting news and tips naturally fit her interests. In her personal time she enjoys painting, biking, and reading.