I am a total lighting junkie and have adjustable lighting in every area of my home. I need bright, clear light for painting and projects, but want instant mood lighting the minute I have finished the task in hand.  This is easily achievable as long as you layer your lighting. Make sure you budget adequately for the lighting part of your renovation as it will have the most impact on the final look of your new space. If you are not using a designer, then consult with lighting experts who can help you create a design that is functional as well as visually interesting.  Good lighting designers layer light like interior designers layer color, texture and fabric.

There are three primary layers of lighting: ambient, accent and task.


Ambient means surrounding or encircling.  Ambient lighting simply means general lighting and is the most basic of the three types, but the anchor for the other lighting layers.  It provides overall comfortable illumination and is typically provided by ceiling mounted lights, such as track lights, recessed downlights, pendants or chandeliers, and wall sconces that wash the walls with light. When you come home and flick a switch, you want your ambient lighting to come on first.


Task lighting adds that extra boost of brightness that you need when focusing on particular activities like cooking, reading, sewing, studying or applying makeup. Task lighting should be free of glare and distracting shadows.  It may be part of the overall lighting system such as pendant lights or under counter cabinet lighting for your kitchen counters, and can also be added through table, floor and desk lamps. Your lamps will also add style and interest to your décor.


Accent or directional lighting is usually used to highlight decorative objects or architectural features such as paintings, sculptures, houseplants or a decorative range hood. It can be used to stunning effect outdoors to draw the eye to a particular tree or plant or landscape feature. Accent lighting is not the main focus and is in fact meant to work without being seen, if that makes sense. Recessed or track lighting is often used for accent lighting with adjustable fittings that allow the light to be focused precisely.


Dimmers are my favorite. Once you have planned your lighting layers, consider which areas of your new interior would benefit from being able to control the lighting intensity. By making each layer independently dimmable you can create an endless variety of visual scenes and moods.