How to layer lighting in your home for optimal function and style

Learn how to layer lighting in your home for a brighter outlook

Design, furniture, paint colours – these are all important aspects of successful interior design. However, they all rely on one thing to pull them together – lighting. And it’s not just the style of your lighting, but how much and what types of illumination you introduce into each space.
Without proper lighting a ‘moody’ living room simply appears dingy and a white bathroom, clinical instead of restful.

But above elevating the design of our interiors, lighting can influence how we feel in our homes. Federica Contardi, Citta’s national visual merchandiser, says, “Light has an important influence on our lives. It helps to regulate our days and our moods. When thinking about light, people often forget to consider the different times of the day and consequently, the intensity and colour of the lights.”

Lighting designer Laura Mitchell from Social Light agrees. “The key to creating successful lighting is to establish the right atmosphere. If you want your home to be relaxed and inviting, you’ll want to use the light to draw attention to areas of interest and where people should gather to achieve this.”

To ensure your lighting is delivering the best for your way of life, renovation consultant Jen Jones of Nine Yards Consulting says it should be planned as early as the concept stages. “Selections such as tile and bench choices impact the way colour is presented, i.e. reflected or absorbed, and if the right light isn’t specified, then it can end up being ineffective.”

Layering lighting

Federica says creating layers of lighting in your home is as important as choosing furniture. “It’s an essential step to complete the interior look of your home. It’s very important to have the right lighting layout and intensity at home – both for functional and aesthetic reasons. The right amount of light in the right position allows us to have a functional living space. A certain number of accent and design lights contribute towards creating a refined look and also a cosier environment.”

Rachel Williamson, founder of Mr Ralph Lighting, says, “Light that surrounds us, like wall lighting and table lamps, is far more relaxing than light that is just above us. There is nothing more frustrating than insufficient light.” Layering comes in the form of three different types of lighting: ambient, task and accent. Rachel suggests utilising all three forms to create a rich and flexible space.

Ambient lighting: Is normally the one that provides overall illumination in a room. It could be via natural or overhead lighting.

Task lighting: Is used to illuminate a workspace or area for a specific task, i.e. a lamp on a desk or a pendant over a kitchen island.

Accent lighting: Is either a spotlight to highlight a feature or a designer piece of lighting to create an interesting focal point.

Types of lighting fixtures

Overhead lights:

  • Downlights: These are a recessed light fitting primarily used to provide ambient light. Laura says, “Downlights are also great for task lighting and keeping a clean look on the ceiling.”
  • Ceiling lights: These are also referred to as a “surface mount” or a “button” and are generally a light attached to the ceiling that doesn’t sit flush, explains Laura.
  • Pendant lights: These hang from the ceiling and are used for task lighting as well as decoratively.

Wall lights:

  • Sconces: These types of light fittings are attached to the wall and normally – but not always – direct light upwards. They can be used as accent lighting for rooms such as the living room or hallway, or as task lighting beside the bed.


  • Table lamps: Used for task lighting in the bedroom, living room or office.
  • Floor lamps: Can also be used for task lighting, but are more often an accent light or a decorative piece.


Text by: Bea Taylor

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