Lighting Basics

Lighting is pretty important in our every day life. And while we consciously know when to turn it off or turn it on, there’s even more to consider than just what fixture to put where.

lighting edison bulb
Edison bulb pendant


Ideally, every room should layer natural and electric light. There are 4 types of lighting: ambient, accent, task, and daylight.

natural and electric lighting elements creating a cohesive space
bedroom showcasing natural and electric light

Ambient is your overall, wash of light. It helps to light an entire space, often with an equal level. Think of giving your space a nice comfortable and even glow. Ambient lighting is your recessed light fixtures.

Accent is exactly like it sounds; it highlights spots in the space or accentuates certain areas. An example could be recessed fixtures that are directional and highlight a specific item (art, wall details, focal point in a room, etc). Use this sparingly to give impact where you want the eye to go.

Task is another one that is exactly as it sounds: designed for a specific task. Desk fixtures, pendants in a kitchen, lighting in a classroom. All of these tasks require higher levels of lighting for it to be accomplished. They aren’t used at all times, but necessary when it is time to do the specific task.

Daylight can be both a positive and a negative in a space. Positive because it’s free and we respond well to it for our natural body needs, etc. Negative because of glare, heat impact, not being to able to predict it, etc. How a room is positioned in a home can also play a factor.


Electric light and natural light can affect how color is seen in a space, which can contribute to how you feel in a space and if you even feel comfortable. The type of light bulbs (called lamps) used can affect color, light output, even physical effects to the body. There are a number of factors involved in regards to the various types (incandescent, LED, fluorescent to name a few) of electric light bulbs/lamping available including light output amount, color temperature (color of the light on a scale of warmer or cooler light — think of flames in a fire), life of lamp/bulb, etc.

Lamping (light bulbs) are now sold with information on their boxes that many purchasers don’t realize is even there. Each box will tell you the color temperature in Kelvin degrees. The kelvin temperature range is from 2700K to 6500K. The higher the number, the hotter and bluer the light. The lower the number, the cooler and warmer/more yellow the light. My experience has shown that the ideal color temperature is 3000-3500K. It is a crisper, whiter light and color reads truer in this range.

glass pendants with edison bulb; highlighting natural lighting elements
glass globe pendant with the Edison bulb


So, how do you know if your light situation is ideal or needs improvement? Evaluate it using these techniques and questions:

• How do you feel about the quality of lighting during the day? What about during the evening? How do you feel about the quality of light at night?

• What are the sources of light in the space?

• Are your sources of light giving you the layered lighting levels to provide ambient (overall), accent (highlight), task (enough light to accomplish a task), and daylight? If yes, great, move to next question! If no, what’s missing? What could be added?


• Do the colors you have in your space read the same in natural daylight as in electric light? If yes, great, move to the next question! If no, does the color appear muddier? Does the light itself appear to have a yellow or blue tone to it? If it is muddy, chances are the color temperature is the issue. Ideally, you should have light that reads more white than yellow or blue. This helps colors in your space to read true to their actual color. Try to ensure your lamps/bulbs are in the 3000-3500K range. Lamping (light bulbs) are now sold with information on their boxes that many purchasers don’t realize is even there.


• Do you hear buzzing or see flickering in your lamps/bulbs? Does it take time for your light to warm up/get to the full output? If yes, you’re probably using fluorescents or compact fluorescents. And, over time, these fixtures start to decrease the light output. I personally do not like these and would suggest you consider switching to LED versions instead.

• Do you have a dimmer switch, but it doesn’t seem to work with your fixture? This is something you should get checked out by an electrician. It could be a faulty switch, it could be a disconnect between the type of dimmer installed, or even something more complex.

• How about natural daylight? Does the sun shine into the space and disrupt the viewing of a screen? Or is it making the room hot when full sun is hitting that portion of the home? Consider window treatments: shades, black out curtains, window films, etc. to help control the temporary effects to the space.

Still not sure about your space or feel like you need more assistance? Contact me to set up a lighting consultation and let’s get that lighting working for you and your space!!