Lighting in layers

Lighting layers is a concept that is more familiar to interior designers and lighting professionals than most ordinary people but the concept is pretty simple: rather than light a room with a single light source (typically a pendant) — a selection of lights is used. This creates depth and mood, emphasises form, and is practical too. Before planning or adding light layers, it’s useful to recall the three chief functions of lighting:

  • Ambient lighting: overall lighting that includes window light, but in artificial lighting is provided principally by ceiling fittings such as pendants and downlights
  • Accent lighting: emphasises architectural features, artworks, décor, furniture and furnishings (encompasses display lighting)
  • Task lighting: a supplementary light source designed to illuminate any task, including food preparation, makeup application, needlework, reading, and shaving

By installing a variety of fittings, you’ll avoid flat, two-dimensional lighting. Dimmer switches enable extra control over lighting mood. Areas of light and dark always enhance mood, while too much light unfailingly destroys it. Running different groups of lights on different circuits is desirable, as it lets you control individual layers at specific times of day or according to available window light.

Careful choice of lighting completes the work of the architect, artist, decorator, or furniture-maker, and shows off your home to its best effect. Below, we’ll look at ways to layer light in various rooms of a home.

Example 1 – Dining room

By definition, layered lighting needs at least two light sources. Most dining rooms have a light over the table, which might be a classically designed fitting like the Zaragoza 3-Light Pendant. Shaded luminaires with a strong downward flow of light are excellent for creating mood. The nearer they are suspended to a surface, the more focused and intimate is their effect.

Wall lights can be used in a dining room as a second lighting layer. Co-ordinated lighting schemes are easy to achieve within many lighting ranges, and this is true of the Zaragoza range. The Zaragoza Wall Light complements the above-mentioned pendant.

A picture light such as the Astro Teetoo 550 adds charm to the dining room, along with your chosen artwork. This dimmable fitting uses 12V halogen capsules for a crisp, pleasant quality of warm white light.

Example 2 – Kitchen

A kitchen offers plenty of scope for layered lighting. Recessed downlights provide discreet ambient lighting. If you have a kitchen island, a pendant can be positioned directly over its centre, with downlights installed above the edges. The Edit UFO Rise and Fall Pendant is one possibility above a kitchen island. You can alter the effect of its light at any time by raising or lowering the shade.

To give a kitchen island or other detached furniture a floating effect, lengths of LED flexi strip can be concealed around the base. The strips come in a choice of colours. Coloured lights are effective in establishing a particular mood, and floating furniture adds visual intrigue. This is a type of accent lighting.

Kitchen task lighting is often supplied by under-cabinet lights. These are especially useful because they light the worktop directly, whereas overhead lighting is often obstructed by the cook. Some LED Strip Lights produces a cool white light that is ideal for this application and it’s incredibly energy efficient.

LED technology has made lighting more discreet and practical in many instances. LED Cabinet Lights can be fitted inside kitchen display units to show off your glassware or crockery. Unlike filament lamps, it produces a physically cool beam of light.

Example 3 – Bedroom

Take a closer look at the Coupa FlexLED Reading LightMany people have a central pendant in their bedroom, perhaps supplemented with bedside lamps. The pendant provides practical ambient light, while a bedside lamp is ideal for reading. The benefits of dimming have been mentioned;  Touch Lamps have incremental dimming built in, needing only a light touch of the base for on/off and brightness control. Other, similar table lamps are sold by Lyco.

If you have a TV in the bedroom, you can conceal lighting behind the screen to ease eyestrain in subdued light or darkness. This idea is already built into some TVs, which cast an attractive glow onto a rear wall for just this purpose. Pupil dilation is reduced, and because the eyes do not adjust fully for the darkest areas of the picture it makes shadows appear deeper and colours richer. An LED flexi strip is useful again here. Aside from its ocular benefits, the lighting effect adds ambience.

Wall lights are often used in place of bedside lamps and suspended above or adjacent to the bed. They make useful reading lights. The latest LED reading lights are even better if you don’t want to keep a partner awake while reading. Their unidirectional light focuses on the page without affecting other areas of the room. Reading Lights serves two roles by providing a soft, auxiliary light for the room and a separate LED light for reading.

Directional downlights can be used to cast attractive pools of warm accent lighting against bare expanses of wall. A surface-mounted spotlight bar would do the same job. Again, this creates mood, especially in conjunction with dimmed ambient lighting.

Extra layers

Take a closer look at the Limina White Plater Floor UplighterThere are plenty of other lighting layers for you to consider. Choose lights that will highlight architectural features and create a greater feeling of space and depth. A freestanding uplighter like the Astro Cut Floor Uplighter can be positioned in alcoves or dark corners. You can use recessed floor lights to highlight doorways and arches. Lights can be installed in niches or on bookshelves. Start with ambient light and plan your lighting according to a room’s features and function. With lighting layers, you’ll create atmosphere and rediscover your home.

For more useful information and advice, please look at our Lighting Advice section.