How to do a lighting plan

Lighting is a very important part of home decorating that does not get the recognition that it deserves. It can make or break a room as it impacts everything from your mood, sleep patterns and energy level. Buying lights can be overwhelming if you don’t know what lighting is suited to your needs. A lighting plan is a great way to personalise your house to your lifestyle so you will know exactly what to buy. I’m using my bedroom as an example to show how lighting can be layered.

1. Educate yourself about lighting types

Generally, lighting is of three types: ambient, task, and accent.

Ambient Lighting simply is the overall, general lighting that fills the room. In the photo below, the ambient lighting is the chandelier and recessed light.

Task Lighting lights up a specific area like the office space in the photo below. You want this lighting to be brighter than your ambient lighting, so light will be focused in the specified area.

Accent Lighting highlights a particular area, like a work of art.

Layering lighting means arranging the three types of lighting to add functionality as well as beauty to a room.

2. Draw bird’s eye view of room

I did my lighting plan on Microsoft Excel but you can draw the room on paper to scale if you don’t have that application. Think about where lighting is needed in the room. Professionals propose starting with ambient lighting, then adding task and accent lighting but you can add whichever one first in your lighting plan if you have a vision of how the room should look lit.

3. Add ambient lighting

This is the most important layer of lighting. Ambient lighting normally comes from overhead fixtures. We went with recessed lighting for the bedroom for our ambient lighting. It is marked by the four yellow circles in the plan. When we flip the switch the four lights illuminates the entire room brightly because they are (CFL) Compact Florescent Bulbs that light like “daylight”. CFL bulbs are great energy savers but they cannot dim like incandescent bulbs. They are great for seeing to iron, dress etc. but their light is harsh and not conducive to relaxation, especially if you have a headache. For this reason we have two sources of ambient lighting in the bedroom. We bought a chandelier which emits soft, yellow light like incandescent bulbs, (but minus the heat and electricity cost).

Recessed lighting

4. Add task lighting

Task lighting is used for activities that need a lot of light. We don’t read in bed but couples normally have tall lamps on their nightstand for reading which acts as task lighting. I have two short lamps on each nightstand  that I got as a wedding gift but they are not used for any tasks. Remember there is no hard and fast rule about lighting. Plan based on your lifestyle and the activities that you do. I plan to install a DIY vanity which I’m hoping turns out like the photo below. When I do, it will be the only source of task lighting in the room.

5. Add accent lighting

If you have something that you want to highlight in a room like a piece of art or a beautiful headboard, accent lights can make it pop. We used two adjustable down lights to throw light on a piece of art.

6. Think about switch location

It is best to place the switch for ambient lighting at the entrance of the room so that you can see properly when you enter. Also, make sure there is a light switch close to your bedside as there is nothing worst that having to get out of bed to turn off the lights when you are sleepy. Remember to put the different sources of light on separate switches so you can control the amount of light that you need at a given time.


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