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How to Match the Type of Light Used with Its Task

There are many different types of lighting products available in the market today. Some are decorative, and will add to the beauty of your property, while others have a specific function.

When you’re in the process of installing lighting in your home, it’s important to understand the purpose of different forms of lighting, and how they fit in with the home design.

This will ensure every room is well-lit and has the right ambience. Good understanding of different light fixtures will also help you design an energy-efficient system that will lead to lower energy bills.

This article provides a brief introduction to different types of lighting fixtures that help create a layered system that includes ambient, task, accent, and special purpose lighting.

1. Ambient lighting

Ambient lighting (general lighting) provides enough illumination for people to carry out their day-to-day tasks like walking around, finding things, or interacting with others. These lights create a balanced atmosphere in the room as they are are generally softer and warmer to ensure the space is comfortable and doesn’t look too stark. Ambient lighting is supposed to look like natural light and should be flat. Here’s a list of different kinds of ambient lighting fixtures:


Recessed ceiling lights or track lights – These are the most commonly used fixtures for ambient lighting. They’re unobtrusive and don’t disrupt the flow of design in the room, and are bright enough to ensure visibility. The number of fixtures depends on the size of the room but it’s important to ensure you don’t install too many or too few.

Chandeliers and pendant lights – Chandeliers and pendant lights don’t just provide illumination, but also add a decorative touch to the space. A good chandelier can add grandeur and beauty to a room while pendant lights can add a sleek and contemporary touch.

Both of these lighting options are versatile and can be installed in different rooms. You just need to ensure they are proportionate to the size and design of the space they are to be installed in.

Wall sconces – Wall scones are a bit brighter than recessed lights or chandeliers so it’s important to use them carefully. However, when installed in the right location, they can add a beautiful ambiance to the room or outdoor living space.

These fixtures are particularly suitable for porches, patios, hallways, and other such locations. Make sure you choose sconces that blend in well with the design and architecture of your home.

2. Task lighting

While ambient lighting provides a bright and comfortable atmosphere, it’s not suitable for focused tasks like cooking, writing, reading, sketching and drawing, working on projects, etc. Task lights are designed to provide bright and sharp light to your work area to ensure you can easily see smaller and finer details.

They also eliminate most of the shadow from the surface so you can work comfortably. Task light works in conjunction with ambient lighting to ensure the brightness doesn’t cause any strain.

If you use only task lights in a dark room, your eyes will suffer a considerable amount of stress and it will be difficult to focus. Here’s a look at task light fixtures:

Desk/floor lamps or swing lights – These lights can be placed on your desk, by your favourite reading chair, in a library, and other such spaces. Swing lights with a moveable arm allow you to direct lights as needed and are a better alternative to desk or floor lamps.

Under cabinet and vanity lights - These lights are ideal for kitchen countertops because they don’t take up too much space but provide enough illumination to carry out meal preparation and cooking safely.

Track and pendant lighting – Track and pendant fixtures can also be used to provide sufficient brightness and focus. You just need to use brighter bulbs and ensure the fixtures are located in the right place. These are ideal for kitchen island countertops, children’s play or study rooms, offices, etc as they provide illumination over a large area.

3. Accent lights

Accent-Lighting-in-roomAccent lights are designed to highlight a space, fixture, or decorative element. These fixtures can help create a very sophisticated and beautiful atmosphere and give purpose to the design elements of your home.

Accent lighting, in conjunction with ambient lights, creates a layered effect and ensures all of your lighting needs are met. Here are some of the best accent lights available:

Wall lights – These are some of the most commonly used accent lights and are very versatile. Wall lights come in different designs and sizes so they can be used to highlight all kinds of decorative elements like the texture in the wall, paintings, and photographs, and showcase the architecture of the space.

Spotlighting – These lights can be placed above or below a specific decorative fixture like a painting, sculpture, portrait, etc. The fixture focuses soft light directly on the decorative feature, highlighting it and drawing attention to it.

These lights are commonly used in art galleries and other such establishments to showcase art more effectively. They can be used in your home at strategic points to add an extra layer of sophistication to the lighting effect.

Exterior and landscape lighting – These lights are used to illuminate the landscape and highlight different fixtures and features. They are designed for outdoor conditions and can withstand rain, heat, dust, etc, and still function properly.

You can also use lights to create a party atmosphere in your home or backyard. A combination of coloured, moving, flashing, and string lights can set the right mood. These fixtures aren’t used on a daily basis so they don’t need to be a part of the primary lighting system.

After understanding what every light fixture does, you can look at your home design and decide what types of lights you need and where to place them. If you’re uncertain, consult an experienced interior designer or a lighting expert. They will offer valuable advice and even recommend good-quality lighting products.