3 Types of Lighting EVERY Room Should Have
In an excerpt from her new book, Color, interior designer Abigail Ahern shows us how to light any space.
Editor’s Note: Below is an excerpt from acclaimed London-based interior designer Abigail Ahern’s newly released book, Color.
When we light spaces we never want to over light them, as shadows create mystery and drama. In order to achieve this effect, there are three categories of interior lighting you need to know about: ambient (or general), task, and accent. A successful lighting scheme requires a combo of all three; what we in the biz call “layering.”
This provides general illumination and is most often found in recessed lighting, chandeliers, and other ceiling fixtures. Recessed halogens, positioned around the perimeter of a room, can fool the eye by appearing to push back the walls. But go easy on the downlights: Avoid zillions in each and every ceiling, so that rooms are lit up like an airport runway. Dimmers are key here, as they will enable you to control the amount of illumination according to the daylight. You’ll get far more control over brightness and mood with dimmers, so as the day progresses, you can control various lighting scenes.
Task is concentrated lighting for performing certain tasks—writing, reading, cooking—and will create those intriguing shadows we love. Sit down on any chair in my pad and you’ll find a small table next to it with a table lamp, perfect for casting a warm, atmospheric glow.
Task lighting on its own creates too much contrast. So you need to layer this with accent lighting (my favorite!). I’m talking candlelight, decorative sconces, or picture lights that highlight things: artwork, architecture, textiles, groups of vases, you name it. You can’t work or read with accent lighting; it is solely about creating atmosphere. In my pad, as dusk falls, I go from a space lit mostly by daylight to an atmospheric intimate zone—which feels immediately snug and cozy. Layered and theatrical, it beckons me in.