Task lighting provides the clear, crisp light needed to read, write, sew and draw – in fact, any activity that requires concentration and good visibility. Task lights are often free-standing and adjustable, so you can direct the beam exactly where it’s needed.
Fixed lights are a more practical option in some situations. Lights fitted under the wall cabinets and in the cooker hood illuminate the worktop and hob for safe food preparation, and wall lights fitted within or at the sides of a bathroom mirror give an even light that’s ideal for applying make-up or shaving. In the bedroom, wall-mounted lamps double as reading lights.
There’s no mistaking a well-lit home. It’s one that appears warm and full of character with clever variations of light and shade, so that its best features are seen in a flattering light, while other areas are left in shadow. In rooms where atmosphere is important, several types of lighting are layered together and designers describe the main categories as ambient, task, accent and decorative light.
Ambient – otherwise known as general or background lighting – is a functional light illuminating the whole room and taking the place of daylight after dark or on grey days. It can be used alone, or in combination with other types of illumination. Pendant fittings are the traditional providers of ambient light, but recessed downlights, wall lights and uplighters that radiate a glow off the ceiling are alternatives. Dimmer controls allow the level of background light to be adjusted, allowing other lamps in the room to create subtle variations of mood.
Decorative lights are part sculptural object and part light provider and, in many cases, the role of light source is secondary. Think of a stained glass art nouveau Tiffany lamp, mid-century wall lights or table light with a dramatically dark shade lined with gold. They all look spectacular but often their light has to be supplemented with something more discreet and effective. Position ornamental lamps for effect. A beautiful lantern or chandelier hung in a hallway or over a dining table, a cluster of coloured glass globe lights suspended over a side table, or a pair of vintage wall lights bordering a beautiful mirror will always be a showstopper.
Light is an effective way to draw attention to the objects and decorative aspects of your home you most love. A display of glass or ceramics, a picture, ornate plasterwork or even the texture or colour of a wall will all take on greater significance when individually lit. Accent lighting can be provided by a variety of fittings, from directional downlighters inset into the ceiling and focused on a painting or architectural feature, to a picture light or even a table lamp creating a pool of illumination in which a group of small objects is arranged. Too many accent lights in a room will dilute their effect, so choose the objects you want to highlight judiciously.
Transform your home into a more comfortable, welcoming and attractive space with our pick of the most beautiful light fittings.
This feature first appeared in the February 2018 issue of Homes & Antiques.