The three layers of light explained

Home lighting design or interior space requires a bit more than picking out a beautiful floor lamp or adjusting the bulbs in your ceiling fixtures. The secret behind beautiful, comfortable, and all-around, well-lit spaces is light layering. This lighting design technique is based on the idea that no single light source can give a space everything it needs to be illuminated properly—but don’t be intimidated! Using layers of light to illuminate your space doesn’t have to be complicated.

Discover how the three layers of light are used in combination with one another to get that beautiful and inviting space. Plus, get a peek at our new catalog along the way and be inspired by an all-new assortment of modern NOVA lighting and decor.

Cove 3-light Pendant in Satin Nickel

Ambient Lighting

Think of ambient lighting as your blank canvas and task lighting and accent lighting as the tools you need to create a masterpiece. As the foundational layer, build on ambient light by incorporating task and accent lighting to bring drama and interest to your space in addition to making it functionally lit. Working together, the three layers of light create a balance of visual effect and function.

Function of Ambient Lighting

As mentioned, ambient lighting is the foundational layer of light layering. It provides a space with general, glare-free illumination and it’s usually the flick-of-the-main-switch light (think ceiling or recessed lighting) that keeps you from bumping into furniture in the middle of the night and provides a basic amount of illumination during the day

Sunset pendant in walnut
Sunset Pendant in Walnut + Brass

Ambient Lighting Examples

Natural light
Make use of windows, skylights, and any other source of natural light to illuminate interior spaces during the day.
Pendant lights
Pendants are light fixtures that are hung from the ceiling to bring ambient light down from above. Pendant lights can be used solo or in multiples as well to give your living environment more illumination.
Chandeliers feature a branched design with multiple lights situated across the frame to effectively illuminate a surrounding space.
Flush or Semi-Flush-Mount Lights
Lighting fixtures mounted flush (or semi-flush) against the ceiling, provide general light in a room.
Recessed lights
A hidden light source that is installed directly into the ceiling, wall, or other surface to provide ambient lighting. Also known as “downlights”.

Sentry Task Floor Lamp in Satin Nickel
Sentry Task Floor Lamp in Satin Nickel

Task Lighting

The second layer that we add to the mix is task lighting. Different from ambient lighting, which gives general illumination to a space, task lighting offers a proper level of focused light to keep you concentrated on the task at hand without eye strain.

The function of task lighting

Because task lighting offers a specialized light source, it’s the perfect lighting solution for workspaces like a home office or even reading nooks. Their work-oriented purpose can also extend beyond home office spaces or reading corners and be used in combination with ambient lighting as a vanity light in your bathroom or as a bedside reading lamp in your bedroom.

Swing Sconce in Gunmetal
Swing Sconce in Gunmetal

Task lighting examples

Desk and/or Floor Lamps
Adjustability and directional lighting are key for a Desk Lamp or floor lamp to be functional as a task lighting solution.
Wall Sconces
Fixed to the wall, sconces can be incredibly versatile lighting solutions when it comes to illuminating your environment. Depending on their design, some Sconces make great task lighting options. For a sconce task light, look for single-shaded sconces with adjustability!
Picture Lights
Mounted within a picture frame or on the wall above a painting, picture lights highlight your favorite piece of décor or beloved works of art.

Flaven Sconce in Satin Nickel
Flaven Sconce in Satin Nickel

Accent Lighting

When it comes to adding mood and personality to a space, accent lighting is going to be what you’ll want to rely on because it adds the eye-catching drama and style to home interiors that we all strive for!

The function of accent lighting

Accent lighting can be used solely for form or solely for function—a truly versatile source of light for interior spaces, and the possible locations of accent lamps in your home are just as versatile. You can choose to place them on nightstands, end tables, mantles, windowsills, or entertainment consoles to add dramatic interest to your space.

When it comes to function, use accent lighting to give the details that you love about your home the attention that they deserve. Highlight favorite décor pieces, photos, or architectural details with well-placed accent lamps to create dramatic interest and beautiful interior style.

Shimmy Loop Table Lamp in Satin Nickel

There is no right or wrong way to use accent lighting to decorate your living area. Experiment with it to create a space that you love and reflects your taste.

Some accent lamps can even become the décor piece themselves! Get inspired by discovering the incredible selection of accent lamps in our new catalog.

Accent lighting examples

Table Lamps
Give a room character with artfully designed and beautifully illuminated accent table lamps that bring both style and function to your interior.
Wall Sconce
As we mentioned, wall sconces can be super versatile lighting options. For accent lighting, frame a favorite object, shelving unit, or seating area with a pair of sconces to create a focal point. Wall sconces that shine light both upwards and downwards, cast a captivating hourglass shadow that adds drama to an entryway or hallway.

Spokes Table Lamp in Satin Nickel
Spokes Table Lamp in Satin Nickel

Bringing Light Layers Together

Now that you’ve mastered the basics of light layering, you’re ready to apply it to your home! Before you get started, there are a couple of elements you’ll want to keep in mind to maximize the functionality and inviting effect of those beautiful layers of light.

Light bulbs
The light bulbs that you choose can have a significant effect on the way a light source illuminates your home. Choose light bulbs that complement the tone or atmosphere you want to obtain. If you prefer a cooler color temperature (4000k or higher) or warmer color temperatures (2700-300k), then be sure to double-check that your light bulbs reflect this to get the outcome that you want!

Light control
With total control over light settings, you can easily adjust a room’s brightness level to reflect your preferred atmosphere. Do you want bright and airy? Or maybe you want to enjoy a more moody aesthetic in the evening as you settle in and relax after the day. You can adjust your lighting easily with a dimmer light switch and set the mood of your space.

Spring 2020 nova catalog
Spring 2020 NOVA Catalog

See You Layer

With well-placed and thoughtfully selected lighting fixtures you can reimagine any space from a harshly lit room to a warm, inviting sanctuary. Be sure to show us your light layering successes on Instagram using #myNOVAstyle. We can’t wait to see!