What is Ambient Lighting?

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Judy@JudithSutton.com   908 803-0472 



Lighting Tips, Ideas and Trends that can make a Major impact on your Interior Spaces




Invited Guest Contributor Christine

Ambient lighting is one of the three main lighting types –  it’s vital to remember that every room requires a mix of these in order to create an effective lighting landscape. As always, choosing lighting for your home is not as simple as it may initially appear!

There are three main types of lighting:

        Ambient lighting
        Task lighting
        Accent lighting

Some rooms require all three types to layer the lighting out perfectly, while others only need one or two types of lighting. Sometimes the decision can be flexible depending on your own needs or tastes.

I would like to mainly focus on ambient lighting here. I will take a look at the other two as well to give you a better idea of how each type works in conjunction with one another and how they best are used together in future articles. Before you go about rearranging the lights in your home though, take some time to learn how each lighting types works. The first is ambient lighting.



Ambient Lighting

Ambient lighting is also commonly known as general lighting. Ambient, or general lighting, tends to dominate the lighting landscape of each room. The main lights that you use to light up the room as a whole can usually be included within this lighting category.

Ambient light also tends to set the tone for the room. The level of ambient lighting will dictate whether a room is bright, homey, a bit darker or more relaxed.

Ambient lights most commonly hang from the ceiling. Lights such as chandeliers, track lights, pot lights, among others, help create a room’s ambient lighting.

Table and floor lamps can also contribute to a room’s ambient lighting. This is especially true if using one will light up a large portion of the room. However, there are also times when these lights are considered task lights.

When you walk into a room, consider what is the first light switch you look for? Chances are that this light switch is connected to the main ambient light. Ambient lights are almost always activated before task and accent lights as the primary means for lighting a room.

On the other hand, there are times when you are confined to a small room with little space and do not require the entire room to be well lit. It is at these times, as well as others, where task and accent lights are most commonly used.


Task Lighting
Task lighting is for more specific purposes than ambient lighting. Instead of lighting the whole room, it has a specific task to accomplish.

For example, if you require light for your desk and don’t want to use the main lights, you likely have a desk lamp. As the desk lamp is designed to light up the desk and nothing else, it is considered a task light.

The main purpose of task lighting is to reduce the strain on your eyes for things such as reading, writing or studying. Because of this, task lighting should be quite bright but not too glary for the eyes – the lighting needs to find a balance.


The strength of the task light depends largely on what you are doing. If you’re planning to read or write in a book, the light will need to be bright so that you can easily make out the words on each page. similarly, if you are working in the kitchen, you will need powerful lighting to make sure you can see everything you are doing.

Your age and eyesight is also a factor when it comes to task lighting. An older person requires a better, more focused light for general reading than someone who is younger.

Task lights tend to use halogen or LED bulbs. These bulbs are best because they produce a bright, focused light. These days, most people go with LED bulbs because they produce more lumens with less wattage, meaning they are more energy-efficient than halogen bulbs.


Accent Lighting

Lastly, we have accent lighting. Accent lighting is more for show and to add a finishing touch than for a particular practical task or general lighting. One example of this could be a spotlight inside a glass showcase. Accent light also works well for dimly lit cellar spaces. The purpose of the accent light is to illuminate the inside of the cabinet and remove any residual shadows that are created by the ambient lighting. Another example would be Art and pictures.

Accent lighting adds drama and style to the room. It takes care of any potential shadows and lights up areas such as the tops of shelves or corners that aren’t fully illuminated by the room’s ambient lighting.

The most common forms of accent lighting are track lights and spotlights. Track lights are often similar to spotlights: the main difference is they can be moved along a pole to target a different spot.

Another use of accent lighting could be to bring attention to a picture frame. Anything that  is mainly for decorative purposes counts as accent lighting.

Accent lights typically use LED bulbs as well. The reason for this is that the LED bulbs give off very little UV rays and heat. Using a hot bulb over a piece of artwork, for example, could be dangerous – LEDs remove this threat.

Consider the various different purposes for each type of light when designing the lighting set up for your house. When you fully understand how best to use each lighting type it should be easy to work out what you need and where.

More about task and accent lighting, as well as ideas, in the next  few posts. Questions?  Call me. I can help.

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