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Lighting 101 - A Basic Understanding of Lighting Fixtures

Lighting has become a significant factor in creating aesthetically pleasing and functional spaces. Light helps to define specific areas and draws people together, and it can also impact your mood. When using the proper type of lighting, it can promote productivity and make us feel comfortable and relaxed. Lighting has a direct impact on how you physically feel in a space. While our primary focus here is on artificial lighting, natural light is also an important source that should be maximized when considering lighting.

Understanding the types of lighting

Spaces serve multiple purposes. Utilizing a combination of ambient, task, and accent lighting is crucial to serving all functions within a space. The best place to start when selecting lighting is with ambient or general lighting, then determine what tasks are performed in that room, and what features might want to be highlighted to round out your lighting selections.

  • Ambient – Use to light up a room in its entirety, providing a uniform level of illumination throughout a space independently of other lighting sources. Example: Traditional recessed/surface mounted fixture and/or LED downlights

  • Task – Illuminates a task such as reading, cooking, or computer work. Task lighting is a brighter light with a smaller focal point. Example: Pendant lighting, desk lamp, etc.

  • Accent – Used to focus on a specific point of interest such as highlighting an architectural feature, artwork, or a collection of objects. Example: Track lighting, wall-mounted fixtures, etc.

Choosing the Right Brightness

The brightness of the light can also affect your mood and energy levels. Bright, intense light can make you feel more alert and focused, while dimmer lighting can help you relax and unwind. It’s essential to choose the right brightness level for the task at hand and the mood you want to create.

Direct – The light points directly to an object or area to powerfully illuminate the desired area

Semi-direct – Similar to direct lighting, most of the light points downward, with a small portion that reflects upward to create a slightly softer effect.

Indirect – 100% of the lighting generated is pointed up towards the ceiling or wall, illuminating the space with the soft reflected light.

Semi-indirect – Most of the light is beamed upward, with a small portion directed downward, creating a similar soft effect to indirect.

Consider Color Temperature

Light can emit different colors ranging from warm to cool, referred to as color temperature. Color temperature tells us about the look and feel of the light and can set a certain mood or energy depending on the selection.

  • Warm Light – Red and yellow hues of light have a more cozy feeling and are typically used in intimate residential and hospitality spaces.

  • Cool Light – Ranging from white to bluish, cool colored light creates a clean and energizing atmosphere and is typically used in larger and more commercial spaces.

Final Thoughts

Lighting affects how we perceive textures and colors and manipulates the overall feel of a space. It’s important to know that more light isn’t always better. Carefully selecting ambient, task, and accent lighting for a comprehensive solution that is unique to each space. Successful lighting selection matches the light levels to the mood and the tasks being performed, limiting high output light sources to where it’s needed and keeping lower ambient light levels elsewhere. It also becomes crucial to consider both natural and artificial light when designing your space.

Lighting plays a critical role in creating the ambiance and atmosphere of a space. From the color temperature to the intensity of light, the right lighting can have a significant impact on your mood, productivity, and overall well-being. By considering the type of lighting, color temperature, brightness, and natural light, you can create a space that is not only functional but also beautiful and enjoyable to be in.


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