Lighting Your Home

With the thousands of different types and styles of lighting products, selecting the right lighting for your home can seem like a complex task. Here are a few basics that will help you decide what you need in order to provide a room with comfortable, appropriate, and adequate lighting.

Types of Lighting

There are three basic types of room lighting: ambient lighting, task lighting, and accent lighting.

1. Ambient Lighting

Also called general lighting, ambient lighting provides a room with overall illumination at a level that is comfortable to the eyes and allows the occupants to see well and walk around safely. This is the fundamental lighting for a room and can be provided by ceiling or wall-mounted fixtures.

2. Task Lighting

Certain tasks, such as reading, sewing, and cooking, require bright, direct light. Task lighting should provide enough illumination to work comfortably and without eyestrain. It is important that this type of lighting be free from distracting glare. Task lighting can be provided by table or floor lamps, wall or ceiling-mounted track lights, or ceiling-mounted pendant lamps.

3. Accent Lighting

The beauty and d��cor of a room can be highlighted and enhanced by accent lighting. Spotlights can illuminate a painting, sculpture, or houseplant. Wall-washers are ceiling-mounted fixtures that point downward and highlight the surface and texture of walls or draperies. Rope lights can be mounted within valances, crown moldings, or cabinet toe kicks to provide soft room-enhancing illumination. Accent lighting can incorporate colored bulbs or filters for an artistic effect.

Develop Your Own Lighting Plan

The easiest way to plan your lighting is to make a rough drawing of the layout of the room as if you were viewing it from above. Sketch in the fixtures for your ambient lighting. Then think about what activities take place in each area of the room, and add in appropriate task lighting. Lastly, think about what accent lighting you would like to add.

Types of Lamps and Lighting Fixtures

There are many different types of lamps and lighting fixtures available. Some examples are ceiling-mounted fixtures, chandeliers and pendant lamps, wall sconces, track lighting, light strips, floor and table lamps and torchieres, and undercabinet and undershelf fixtures.

Types of Bulbs

The primary types of bulbs used for home lighting are incandescent, fluorescent, and halogen.

1. Incandescent Bulb

This is the cheapest and most common type of light bulb. Incandescent bulbs produce a warm, attractive light and come in a wide range of sizes, styles, and wattages.

2. Fluorescent Bulb

This type of bulb is more efficient than the incandescent. The typical fluorescent bulb produces a harsh, bluish light, but newer types of fluorescents more nearly approximate the warm light of the incandescent bulb. Compact fluorescent bulbs fit in many of the same fixtures as incandescent bulbs.

3. Halogen Bulb

Halogen bulbs produce a bright, white light. They also create considerable heat and care must be taken to ensure that the bulb will not come into contact with any combustible material. Some rented homes will not allow halogen lights because they are considered a fire hazard.


Dimmer switches allow you to control ambient lighting to create different moods. Simple dimmer switches alter the light level by moving a slide control or pressing a button. More advanced integrated dimmer systems can store multiple preset lighting levels and be activated by wireless remote control.