Why lighting design is an important element of interior design

UK Home Improvement

Why Lighting Design is an Important Element of Interior Design

Light is one of the holy grails of interior design. Ask any homebuyer what they’re looking for when viewing potential properties and the answer is likely to include ‘plenty of good light’ right at the top of the wish list.

Effect of light on the human body and mind

Light affects our mood and well-being, and the amount of light your home receives, therefore, has a big impact on how you feel. If we take a very brief look at human biology, it all becomes clear. It’s all to do with the body’s natural internal clock which regulates our wake-sleep patterns, largely depending on the level of light. While natural daylight stimulates the brain and makes us feel alert and motivated, fading light levels in the evening prepare the body for sleep. Seasonal and weather changes can also have a major effect. It’s no coincidence that everyone feels happier on a bright sunny day, and long, dark winters can even trigger Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a type of depression.

And it’s not just the amount of light that affects our mood and behaviour, its colour and ‘temperature’ also play an important part. With LED lights, light bulb colour temperatures are measured in Kelvin (K) – more than 5,000K produces a crisp, cool white/blue that stimulates the brain, while less than 3,000K will give a yellow, warm-toned soothing light. You can already see that you would use different colours for different activities and areas in the house.

What’s a layered lighting design?

Interior designers know the above only too well, and they’re aware that creating the right level of illumination is key for a space to feel comfortable. What’s more, there’s no ‘one size fits all’ solution to good lighting design. It all depends on the room, its purpose and how you want to feel when you’re spending time there. Most rooms are, in fact, multifunctional spaces, requiring several types of lighting. That’s why designers often talk about the importance of layered lighting designs.

Layered lighting is the secret to creating the right atmosphere in a room. “Just as mixed textures, colours and materials create a successful interior design scheme, an effective lighting design depends on using a variety of light sources,” says one interiors expert. There are 4 main types of artificial lighting to consider:

Ambient lighting

This provides general illumination, usually by switching on ‘the big light’, a single ceiling pendant, however, it could also come from recessed or wall-mounted light fixtures. Ambient lighting is the blank canvas onto which you can layer other types of lighting to create atmosphere and depth.

Task lighting

Task lighting is used to focus on specific activities. It’s a practical, task-oriented light that helps you to see what you’re doing. Think of desk lamps, reading lights, spotlights, under cabinet kitchen lights, bathroom mirror lighting etc. Use in addition to ambient lighting to highlight particular areas.

Accent lighting

Accent lighting is also used for highlighting purposes, but these are aesthetic rather than practical. You might wish to showcase an artwork, an item of furniture or an architectural element in the room. Position a table lamp, wall sconce or chandelier to direct the eye to the feature.

Decorative lighting

Finally, any light source that is a feature in its own right falls under ‘decorative lighting’. This includes quirky lamps, light art installations, candles and the real cosy flame from a fireplace. The actual light added through decorative lighting is incidental; it’s more about the mood it creates.

How to create the right atmosphere

While plenty of light is always a good thing, it does depend on where exactly you put it. Active tasks including getting ready in the morning, working from home, or having dinner will need plenty of ambient lighting. Having abundant natural daylight is always a good starting point. “One of today’s most popular additions to homes, roof lanterns and skylights are fantastic architectural features which maximise the light and bring the outdoors inside,” advises one industry specialist.

In working areas such as the kitchen, bathroom or study, it is advisable to supplement ambient light with targeted task lighting. A row of pendant lights suspended over the kitchen island, for instance, will make an impact in terms of both style and practicality.

Other multipurpose areas in the home include the living room where everything from relaxing with a book or watching TV to socialising and entertaining friends takes place. Prioritise good ambient lighting, including plenty of natural daylight, with an attractive pendant light or chandelier, perhaps some additional dimmable wall lights and table lamps for added cosiness.

In the bedroom, you will want to create a calm and restful atmosphere. In addition to the usual pendant ceiling light, add focused light around the dressing table and on bedside tables to create a warm glow.

Some lighting design tips

Creating a layered lighting scheme is a bit of an art and a science, and some of it will inevitably come down to trial and error. Here are some ideas to bear in mind when you’re planning to balance the layers of light in your home to create the right look and feel.

Always consider natural light first

Are the windows large or small? Which way does the room face? Are there any obstructions inside or outside that block the sunlight? Make sure you understand how much light the room gets during the day when you put together your lighting design.

You can never have enough lamps

Lamps are one of the secret weapons that interior designers use to create an atmosphere. Lamps come in every conceivable style and can be used to produce any type of light – ambient, task, accent, decorative. They’re also portable, providing even greater flexibility.

Invest in remote control operation

Finally, once your layered lighting design is in place, think about investing in a central device to operate your home. Consider smart home automation for light control, curtain control, heating control and more, and put your home comforts at your fingertips.


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