Top tips

Lighting types: Everything you need to know

Lighting a room can be as simple as having a single ceiling light or as extravagant as using all of the different lighting types to layer your light for dramatic effect. Read my advice on choosing the best lighting for your space.

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While it may be an afterthought for some, lighting can single-handedly impact how your rooms look and feel.

Keep reading for details of the different lighting types, as well as practical guidance on what works best where.

What are the 4 types of lighting?

There are four main lighting types that bring their own purpose and qualities to spaces. They are:

1. Ambient lighting

Is the main source of general lighting in a room that provides full illumination. For instance, the ceiling light in your living room, spotlights in your bathroom or strip light in your kitchen.

Ambient lighting’s purpose is to literally brighten up rooms, providing a source of light that bounces and reflects off the walls.

2. Accent lighting

Also known as highlighting, accent lighting is where lighting becomes magical. It’s used to highlight certain features and objects within rooms, for instance, alcoves, fireplaces, textured walls, pictures and wall art.

You don’t have to rely on accent lighting to light your entire room, that’s what ambient lighting is there for.

Essentially a second layer of lighting, ambient lights (e.g. spotlight and wall lights) are carefully positioned so they shine upwards or downwards over certain features.

3. Decorative lighting

Is where lighting gets really fun!

Essentially there for decoration, this form of lighting is all about making a design statement, using lights! Practical examples include dramatic pendant lighting, wall sconces and stylish table and floor lamps.

As the name suggests, you are decorating your room with lighting fixtures that go with the rest of your décor.

4. Task lighting

More practical, like ambient lighting, task lighting is used to shine light on the areas that you need to be even lighter and brighter to enable you to get done what you need to get done.

By this we mean spotlights over your kitchen work surface or cooker, a desk lamp in your office and an angled floor lamp pointing over or towards your reading chair.

What is the proper way to light a room?

There are some dos and don’ts when it comes to lighting certain rooms. They include:

  • Do – get a feel for your room before rushing out and buying different types of lighting 
  • Don’t – fit spotlights in relaxing areas as they give off a bright and intense light 
  • Do – use dimmable lighting for more chilled spaces (e.g. your living room)
  • Don’t – install non-resistant lights in bathrooms, wet rooms or en-suites
  • Do – put uplighters in the corner of rooms to make the space look larger
  • Don’t – forget about using task lighting in bathrooms, for instance, over the mirror
  • Do – experiment with the four different types of lighting for a fabulous end result! 

One of the most important things to consider when lighting a room is how you use it, which will vary, depending on the room.

Start with the main ambient lighting, and assess whether you like it how it is or if you’d like to make it more decorative.

Then consider if you need any additional lights for practical and aesthetic purposes.

What is the cheapest way to light your house?

With the cost of living on the rise, you may feel reluctant to invest in multiple different types of lighting because of the cost associated with using them all.

With that in mind, here are some practical tips for lighting your house in more of a budget-savvy way:

1. Use energy efficient bulbs

Traditional incandescent bulbs (in which the light is produced by the glow of a wire heated by an electric current) were not designed to be energy efficient.

They last for an average of 750 to 1,000 hours and can easily be replaced with energy efficient alternatives – Compact Fluorescent Lamp (CFL), LED or light emitting diode bulbs.

These alternatives reportedly use 25% less energy than traditional bulbs and last up to three times longer.

2. Choose the correct lumen level

It’s a common misconception that energy efficient bulbs aren’t as bright as traditional bulbs.

However, if you’ve selected the right lumen level, this shouldn’t be the case.

This below, from the Energy Saving Trust, shows you how traditional watts convert to more sustainable lumen levels:

  • 15 watt > 140 lumen
  • 25 watt > 250 lumen
  • 40 watt > 470 lumen
  • 60 watt > 800 lumen
  • 75 watt > 1,050 lumen
  • 100 watt > 1,520 lumen

3. Fit dimmer switches

Dimmer switches are great for helping us relax and unwind in our living rooms and bedrooms.

At the same time, they’re also recognised as being a more cost efficient way of lighting your room because your lighting level isn’t kept on high all of the time.

Next time you get the chance, have a quick look around your home and see if there are any rooms that would benefit from dimmable lighting.

Lighting is more than just lighting. There are different sub layers to it, in form of the four different lighting types, that are capable of making your rooms more usable, personalised and aesthetically-pleasing.

Start with ambient lighting as your base and then build upwards, depending on how you use your spaces.

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Victoria Foster

Written by:

Stylist & Visual Merchandiser

at ScS

24th January 2024

Victoria is a stylist and merchandiser based at our in-house photo studio. Having been part of the ScS family since 2012, Victoria styles stunning home sets with the latest trends to showcase newly launched ScS products. With over 25 years of experience in styling and merchandising, she loves to keep an eye on the latest trends in the interior landscape. Victoria's favourite interior scheme is the Boho trend and loves to layer a mixture of different textures in her home. Her styling top tip is to always create a focal point in a room. Whether it’s a feature wall, a piece of artwork, or a bright patterned rug, having a focal point can help to drive the decisions on the rest of the rooms layout.