How many light sources do I need?

April 27, 2023

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With the recent launch of our lighting collection with Shades of Light, we’ve been getting so much love and kind words, so thank you all for your continued support. After all, we designed the collection with you in mind, so it brings us joy to know that you’re just as excited as we are! I wanted to highlight (literally) a commonly asked question I get about lighting in hopes of illuminating just how much of a difference lighting can make in your home: “How many lighting sources do I need in a room?” So if you’re finding yourself in poorly lit spaces, keep reading for my rule of thumb.

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Lighting is one of the most crucial element in home design, yet often the most forgotten. Back in my early home design days, lighting used to be the cherry on top, but now that I know what a difference it can make, it takes more priority and more of the budget! Lighting contributes to the functionality, ambiance, and aesthetics of a space–It’s everything. I’ll say this: A room only looks as good as the lighting allows, so take the time to get it right.

So to answer your question, the lighting formula I use for every room is to incorporate these three lighting sources in every room.

Three main light sources

  1. Ambient lighting: This is general lighting that provides overall illumination to the room. Usually, this is achieved with a ceiling-mounted fixture, recessed lighting, or both.
  2. Task lighting: This type of lighting is designed to provide focused illumination for specific tasks such as reading, working, cooking, and more. Examples include table lamps, floor lamps, and pendants.
  3. Accent lighting: Accent lighting is used to highlight specific objects or areas in the room, such as artwork, plants, or architectural features. Examples of accent lighting include track lighting, picture lights, and sconces.

I would say that natural window light is an extremely preferred source of lighting, but not always guaranteed depending on the time of day and weather. For those reasons, I say it’s a bonus lighting source!

Whether you are working to improve your bedroom, living room, or even your kitchen, do a little checklist to be sure you have all of your lighting boxes checked. Let’s look at a few examples!

Lighting in the bedroom

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In our bedroom, the one and only source of ambient lighting in this room is the chandelier. It provides overall illumination to the entire room, and since the room is a bit larger and the ceilings are taller, we bumped up the lumens a bit. The nightstand lamps provide enough lighting to read in bed without any overhead lighting (AKA task lighting). And the picture light is doing such a good job of highlighting the beautiful artwork hanging above our bed. Get it?

Pro tip: Automate your task lighting with Alexa devices and smart bulbs so you can say, “Alexa, turn on the lights in the bedroom,” or “Alexa, it’s lamp-o-clock.” These are the golden years, baby.

Lighting in the bonus room

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The bonus room is a really fun example because the ambient lighting is all recessed lighting, and they do an excellent job. There’s a plethora of task lighting throughout this room, but here you can see two table lamps that give enough light for playing games, or sometimes we’ll even keep a light on while we watch a movie so we can keep snacking. As for the sconce, it does a really good job of highlighting how darling that window nook is, which is exactly what accent lighting is for.

Lighting in the kitchen

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In the kitchen, there are certainly more than three lighting sources because, with bigger spaces, you’re probably going to need to sprinkle in more task and accent lighting throughout. Again, our ambient lighting is satisfied with recessed lighting, which is a really good idea for a bigger room. I think the pendants could pass as either task or accent lighting because they provide good lighting for Chris to chop and prepare food, but they also illuminate our beautiful countertops. Excellent. Similarly, the sconces highlight our focal point range hood, but they also provide efficient lighting for cooking.

I can’t wrap up this post without mentioning decorative lighting, whose sole purpose is to add visual interest and style to the room rather than illumination. I’ll just say that I hope all of my light fixtures provide visual interest, and I hope that my decorative lighting also doubles in function.

Which lighting questions should I answer next?

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What do you think?

  1. Sarah says:

    Thank you! I love these more instructive types of posts. I was definitely aware of ambient & task lighting (and the need for both). But accent lights weren’t really on my radar. I think this one is more challenging if you aren’t the position to rewire your house. Would love to know if you have lumen/wattage specs for each category or if it just depends?

  2. Beverly Diliberto says:

    How did you get your recessed lighting to blend in so beautifully unlike the ugly can-lighting you see everywhere?

  3. Christine Brick says:

    Hi! Still three layers in a bathroom? What would replace the task lighting? I don’t think I’ll have a lamp in my bathroom😂😂

  4. Mindy says:

    This is great information. How do you set up the switches with multiple light sources? (For example, are the sconces separate from the chandelier?). I would like to use sconces as a sort of nightlight.

  5. Michelle says:

    Yes, to all of this! I’m designing our forever new-build and my contractor noted that my electrical plan came back higher than “typical” and it was for this exact reason. I’ve been thinking and planning how rooms will feel through windows and lighting for years, so I feel confident our planning will evoke all the feels in spaces when we’re finally there. I’m thinking the Edie Chandelier would be perfect in my office!

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