A Guide to Layering: How to Create Ambiance in your Home

by Gayle Robertson

We’ve all experienced it. That feeling that something isn’t quite right about a shop, a restaurant, maybe even a friend’s house. Perhaps there was a weird vibe, or the atmosphere just wasn’t as relaxing as you’d expected. We tend not to dwell on such impressions, and get on with life. But if we did, what would we find? Surprisingly often, our impressions were a reaction to being in a poorly lit space. 

Lighting has a powerful effect on the atmosphere of a place, which in turn influences how we feel, think and behave.  Brightly lit places are energising in some circumstances and utterly soul-less in others, while low-level lighting can be romantic in one setting, dreary in another. Getting the lighting right in your home can be tricky; it’s much easier to identify when it’s just plain wrong!

Creating a lighting layout which works for your home requires time and thought, but with a few key principles taken from the field of lighting design, the challenge is made much simpler. Lighting experts describe a well-lit room as being composed of three distinct layers —

Ambient lighting

Think of this as the background lighting, the default setting for the room, usually provided by ceiling spots

Think of this as the background lighting, the default setting for the room, usually provided by ceiling spots or a single central hanging light. Ambient lighting doesn't need to be boring, choose a statement pendant or chandelier as your main ambient room light. They key to this layer is adjustability, so we recommend you install a dimmer and dim-down this layer to create drama and cosiness.

Group pendant lights like the Chino Wood Cage Pendants in threes.

Accent lighting

This is used to highlight a particular space or feature within a room, from artwork to the architecture itself. Accent lighting is typically created using track lights, wall sconces and spotlights. Ideally these lights are brighter than the ambient light, without being harsh, and can be thought of as the decorative layer of lighting, which adds a pleasing finishing touch to a space.

Highlight wall art with Globe Pendant Spotlight - Black

Canto LED Architectural Wall Light

Highlight architectural detail with Canto LED Architectural Wall Light

Nexus Wall Light - Black

Use wall lamps like the Nexus Wall Light to highlight art & statement furniture pieces

Task lighting

Task lighting is specific to the activity for which it’s required; think reading lamps in living rooms, overhead spots above kitchen worktops, and illuminated bathroom mirrors .Clearly, task lighting should be bright enough to prevent eye strain, and when used on its own, can provide a softer lighting option than the ambient light source.

Eye Wall Light - Copper

Wall lamps can also function as task lighting. Pictured: Eye Wall Light - Copper

Place the Float Table Lamp next to your favourite armchair

So go ahead and have fun experimenting with these ideas in your own home – and remember, beyond these basic principles there are no set rules, the options are endless! And next time you’re somewhere new and feel that familiar unease, the nagging discomfort that you can’t quite place, take a look around - it might be the lighting.

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