The most visually pleasing and effective way to light a room is to have three layers: Ambient, task and accent.

Ambient Lighting

Ambient lighting is also known as overall lighting. 

Ambient lighting is defined as the main illumination in a room. It’s the natural light from your windows, and the lighting that substitutes for natural light. This will be the light above the core work or living space.

Ambient light could be from a multiple pendants, chandeliers, recessed/can lights, a ceiling fan with a light, or some other main light source. Ambient light is used to provide general illumination and comfort. This is the initial illumination that keeps you from stubbing your toe on a door or tripping over a pair of shoes. Flipping on the light switch and being able to see your surroundings is most commonly accomplished with ambient lighting.

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Task Lighting

More specialized than ambient lighting, the second layer is task lighting and is applicable in any room of the home. Task lighting is just what it sounds like: it’s the light you need to perform tasks―reading, studying, cooking, applying makeup, etc. 

Typically you might think of task lighting as kitchen under cabinet lighting or in home offices such as a bright desk lamp for working, reading and writing with ease. However, task lighting is also in the bathroom as the all-important vanity light or in the bedroom as a bedside reading lamp.

Examples of task lighting are: 

  • Desk lamps
  • Table lamps
  • Swing arm lamps
  • Under counter lights
  • Pendant lights
  • Directed track or recessed lights
  • Vanity lights
  • Adjustable floor lamps

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Accent Lighting

Accent lighting is our third type of lighting and as a general rule accent lighting should be three times brighter than the surrounding ambient light for maximum impact. But not always. Think of this as the jewelry or eye candy pieces your room needs for its prettiest appearance. Accent lighting is used to highlight architectural features and important objects. It is used to draw your attention to desirable aspects of a space.

Accent lighting could be cabinet lighting, niche lighting, wall scones, chandeliers with dimmer switches or candle light. This type of lighting is used to dress up any room. Accent lighting can serve a mostly decorative function, or can be used to create subtle or dramatic lighting effects, such as highlighting artwork or amplifying a vaulted ceiling.

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What Is Layered Lighting?

Layering your lighting simply means stepping beyond the basic overhead general light and thoughtfully arranging different styles of lighting to create a cohesive and purposeful lightscape. But what does this mean? Ambient lighting can be combined with task lighting to provide shadow-free work areas. While accent lighting adds drama or injects flair and personality. Using a mixture of different lighting techniques will create a richer home environment more pleasing to the eye.

What we’ve gone over are the basics of light layering. While there isn’t enough room to go into too much detail about them here, there are at least two more elements to light layering to take into consideration: the proper light bulbs and lighting controls. Your choice of light bulbs can drastically affect the outcome of your light layering!

Today we are going to focus on task lighting which is used to provide supplemental illumination for specific activities requiring more light, such as reading, sewing, personal grooming and preparing meals. It may be part of the general lighting system or additional localized lighting such as portable desktop, table and floor luminaires, or reading lights. The task lights are typically visible and their style and finish should match the décor of the space.

I’ve found my top 10 picks on great task lighting. These lamps can either work in a very lovely traditional home or magnificent modern house. Just click on the picture to take you to the site. Many of these lamps come in sets of 2 for the listed price. 


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1.  3R Studios Gold Giraffe Table Lamp


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2.  Cresswell Lighting Carey 20136-001 Table Lamp


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3.  Williston 24″ Table Lamp


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4.  Clarksville Glass 21″ Table Lamp


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5.  Jeffrey 29″ Metal/Marble LED Table Lamp, Brass Gold/White by JONATHAN Y


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6.  Safavieh Lighting 26-inch Navy Roxanne Table Lamp


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7.  Uttermost Twisted Vines Table Lamp


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8.  Kennebec 28″ Table Lamp Set


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9.  Bulah 29″ Table Lamp Set


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10.  Biscayne 26″ Table Lamp Set

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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Maureen Harrington

    Excellent piece!

    1. Kimmothy

      Maureen, thank you for reading my blog. Hope all is well with you.

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