Three Keys to Tasteful Accent Lighting

There are three primary types of lighting in any space: ambient lighting, task lighting, and accent lighting. While the first two types are directly functional and influence how a space is used, accent lighting is purely for aesthetic value and bringing up the beauty of a space. This type of lighting serves the purpose of highlighting a particular area or feature of a room, placing some extra emphasis on something like a piece of artwork, a beautiful plant, or any other feature that might be noteworthy in a room. Illuminating this feature with some proper lighting can make an entire space feel more attractive, but improper lighting can be gaudy and leave your room feeling dark or cramped.

Here are three keys to making your accent lighting both tasteful and effective.

Know the Role of Accent Lighting

Most often, people think of accent lighting as what they use to illuminate a piece of art hung on the wall. However, it’s so much more than that—accent lighting becomes a key part of the art, and therefore needs to be appropriate for it. It doesn’t need to be super-large or super-bright, but rather good accent lighting simply exists with the actual feature itself to the point where you almost won’t even notice it. Here’s how:

  • Consider a different color of light than your ambient lighting. In many cases, changing the temperature of an accent light will help it draw attention to the feature you want to highlight. Obviously, that doesn’t mean use a blue or red bulb for the job, but instead maybe choose a warmer tone of white if the rest of the room uses a more pure or daylight-type white.
  • Accent lighting should be brighter than the area around it. The whole point of accent lighting is to spotlight a key feature of your room, and that doesn’t necessarily happen if the accent lighting in a space is dimmer than the ambient light around it. Consider either putting dimmer switches on ambient lights to allow them to come down in intensity, or use a brighter bulb in your accent lighting.
  • Accent lights generally shouldn’t be big. An accent light should never be trusted to illuminate a whole room. Instead, an accent light should offer just enough light to make a feature stand out and nothing more. If you have a larger feature, consider recessed accent lighting or multiple fixtures to do the job.

Don’t Ignore Backlighting

The ambient light in a space should be the single largest influence over how you set up and design your accent lighting. Accent lighting is designed to use more light to call added attention to a particular space, so you need to know how much ambient backlighting you are going to need. Too much ambient lighting can present problems (more on that in a bit), while not enough ambient light can cause accent lighting to leave heavy and sharp shadows that only make a room feel darker and more cramped. In fact, ambient lighting should also have a strong say in how you position your accent lighting over something. You’ll always want to put added shadows somewhere they won’t bring down a room, and that generally means placing the accent lighting toward the front and aiming down so the shadow is as small as possible and directly into a wall behind the accented object.

Don’t Accent Light Already Well-Lit Spaces

If you have something you wish to accent in a space that is already very well-lit, you might want to consider simply not accenting it at all. Adding an accent light to an already bright area can cause blowout and actually make the rest of your space look dim. A contrast between brighter and dimmer lights can create unintended shadows that make your roof feel lower and your space feel generally more cramped. However, no shadows at all will more or less ruin the accenting effect as well. Generally, as a best practice it’s a good idea to minimize shadows, but not completely eliminate them, as doing so looks unnatural.

Looking to install accent lighting in your home? Look to the experts at Lightning Bug Electric to do the job right! Schedule your appointment by calling (404) 471-3847 today.