Lighting in Layers
If you are like most of us, you live in a home with poor lighting, but don’t worry, it isn’t your fault. What has become the standard for residential lighting, often referred to as “four cans and a fan,” is pretty poor lighting by most standards. Sure, it is efficient and safe, simple and effective, but it certainly isn’t attractive. It is an improvement over a single light in the center of a room, but that is a pretty low bar.
If you agree that your home could look better with different lighting, read on to find out exactly how experts think about the three layers that create beautiful spaces; ambient, task and accent lighting.
No one type of light fixture should ever be asked to provide all of the light in a space, but it is often the ambient lights that do most of the work. In a typical home the recessed ceiling lights serve the purpose of this general lighting, and typically work in conjunction with natural light to provide the majority of light in the home. Quality ambient light can come from just about any source, but it should aim to be glare free, consistent, and not overly bright.
These three things are easy to achieve with high quality recessed can lights and smart dimmers, and even more so when combined with good lighting design. For instance, most recessed lights are essentially used to “light the air” in a room, when washing light across a wall or focusing light on horizontal surfaces in the room is much more interesting to look at. Pendant lights, wall sconces, chandeliers, linear lights and many others can also be used to create the ambient light in a room, it just takes creativity and the ability to control all of the sources seamlessly with a lighting control system.
Every room can benefit from asking the question, “How will I use this room?” A good lighting designer will ensure that the primary function of that room is considered first when lighting that space. That lighting designed to accommodate a specific task is known as task lighting.
Kitchens, offices, reading nooks, and work benches are all good examples of areas that benefit greatly from well-designed task lighting. The recessed lights in your kitchen can serve as a task light, but only work well if they are over the countertop so your body doesn’t cast a shadow across the work surface. A combination of overhead and under-cabinet light works even better, as it evenly lights the space with enough light to see exactly what you are doing, no matter how exacting the task. Thinking about how you use a space will allow you to optimize the lighting for every space.
Accent lighting is probably the lighting layer left out of most rooms, as it often adds cost but isn’t required for the room to function. Accent lighting is typically brighter, focused, infusions of light that contrast against the consistent ambient light in a room. Often considered the jewelry of light, it is the detail that makes a room interesting and three dimensional. Some examples include decorative wall sconces, art lighting, and the intentional choice to light interesting surfaces like wood walls, natural stone, etc. In a well-designed space, the accent lighting often contributes greatly to the ambient light in the space, which makes for a much more interesting visual experience that is every bit as functional and safe.
The trick to using the layers of light is learning how to effectively combine and control them. Dimmable fixtures controlled by a lighting control system, such as Lutron RadioRa2 or HomeWorks QS, allow the precise blending of dozens of light sources in such a way that anyone can control them. With a lighting control system, you decide how you want the room to look, and then that look is programmed into the system so at the press of a button the space looks perfect every time. Beyond that, the system can be automated so that your lights come on just as you desire with no input from you; you simply live in your home as it works for you.
If you want to learn more about lighting and lighting control, or want to start designing a system for your home, please reach out to BRAVAS today. We are happy to help make your home the inviting space you always wanted it to be. If you would prefer to read more, please download our Solutions Guide to learn all of the things BRAVAS can do for you.