Lighting Types: Know the Difference

Lighting can make or break a room. Learn the characteristics of different lighting types and where to use each in your home.

beasley dining alcove

Ambient

Ambient is a hidden source of light that washes a room with a glow. It flattens an interior and creates very little shadow. A wall sconce is an example of ambient lighting, as are paper lanterns. Use of a dimmer can also provide ambient light. Design by Troy Beasley.

dining room epitomizes contemporary style

Accent

Directional lighting or lighting that adds interest or highlights a certain object or unusual architectural feature in a room. A bulb and some kind of shield to direct the light are all that's needed for this type of lighting. Halogen spotlights and table lamps with opaque shades are good ways to achieve accent lighting. Design by Lori Dennis.

Task

Task lighting is just that; lighting that's used to perform daily activities such as reading, cooking, shaving, putting on makeup, etc. Effective task lighting enhances visual clarity and keeps the eyes from getting tired, so it needs to be glare-free. Design by Alia Meyer.

art inspired living room

Aesthetic

Lighting itself can be a work of art. A neon sculpture would be purely decorative and an example of aesthetic lighting. A spotlight illuminating a statue on a pedestal or portrait on the wall is also artistic. This type of lighting also needs to be used along with other lighting types. Design by Andreas Charalambous.

Natural

Sunlight, candlelight and firelight; this is light that moves and is sometimes referred to as kinetic. The quality of natural light, sunlight in particular, depends on many things — time of day, weather, what season it is. Fall has a different light than summer, for instance. The setting sun gives a different kind of light than midday sun. Design by Tracy Morris.

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