Lighting for Dummies

 In Articles, Design


It’s a simple thing, and a simple concept, right? No matter where we are or what we do, light is, and has always been, a necessity for humans. It provides us with the ability to see and understand our surroundings, allows us to view the world as we know it.

But light is so much more than just a visual aid. Light has the power to influence our feelings and emotions — it can make the most delicious of dishes look completely unappetising, or make the healthiest of people look pale and sickly.

In essence, light shapes our perceptions of the world, and our experiences in the world.

As technology continues to evolve, we are continuously presented with endless options for our lighting solutions. It gets incredibly confusing; don’t worry, we’ve all been there.

But here is where we’ll put an end to that confusion: By going through the 3 basic layers of lighting and their functions, we will explore some of the many types of lights available today in designing and decorating our spaces with light, so that you’ll be able to choose something that’s best suited to your preferences and needs.

(TIP: Click on linked keywords to skip to each section of the article!)


Types of lights

To start off, light has 3 basic layers: ambient, accent, and task. While each layer serves their own function, all 3 often have to be present in order to create a balanced, comfortable look in your space, and prevent unflattering looks.

1. Ambient

Ambient lighting is the most general type of lighting, that is responsible for the most basic role of light: providing adequate illumination to perform basic tasks. The ambient layer should always be your first consideration, and other remaining layers of light will be planned and chosen based on the type of ambience light you use. To avoid glare, it is also useful to use shaded or tinted fixtures for the lights, or to direct the light towards a wall that will bounce the light back into the room.

2. Accent

Accent lighting, on the other hand, is more decorative. It is often used to highlight certain features of, or items in the room. Think of museums and galleries — lights shining directly onto artworks will definitely bring people’s attention towards them, making them the focal point of the entire place. Similarly, especially if your space lacks something especially attention-grabbing, accent lights will do the trick!

3. Task

Task lights are, as the name would suggest, used to aid in performing specific tasks. To choose the most suitable type, think of what specific activity the light is meant to help you in. For example, studying and reading may require a desk lamp, but cooking may just require a pendant light. Task lights are a great way to improve your visual clarity, and ensure that you are not straining or damaging your eyes while performing daily tasks — for this, also be sure to avoid creating shadows or glare with your lights.

Furthermore, with the increase in designs and choices nowadays, decorative lights that serve as the main focal point in a room itself have also become popular, such as the widely popular LED tapes or fairy lights, that can also add a nice touch to your space. However, these lights often do not act as good enough sources of illumination, so only use them for what they are — decorative!

Of course, each type of light can serve as multiple layers, so you don’t really need 3 separate light fixtures in each room to make them look good!

Types of bulbs

Okay. So now you might have a pretty rough idea on what type of light you want to incorporate into your space for your renovation project, but there’s another dilemma.

What kind of bulb should I use?

When it comes to certain fixtures such as cove lighting, there’s usually a default that’s most suitable — there’s not much choice. However, when it’s something as simple and versatile as a ceiling light, you’d be shocked at the number of options you can have.

Among durability, cost-efficiency and brightness, here are the most commonly available bulbs, explained for you to consider.

As if you didn’t have enough choices, bulbs also come in different colours, known as light colour or colour temperature. Generally, there are 3 categories to this: warm white, cool white, and daylight. Simply put, colours are categorised based on the Kelvin scale, which is a measurement of temperature; the higher the number, the cooler your light is.

When choosing the colour of your light, consider things such as the ambience you want for room to have, as well as the function of your light. For example, warmer lights have been scientifically proven to be more calming and less harsh on the eyes, thus they would be a good fit for bedside lamps in a bedroom. On the other hand, for places where attention and alertness is needed such as in workspaces and offices, cooler and brighter lights might be preferable.

Nowadays, many light fixtures even come with the option of having multiple colours within one, which give you more flexibility in choosing what suits you best!

Natural light

Now that we’ve gone through artificial light, we can’t forget the biggest source of light we have — sunlight. In daytime, natural light can play a big part in enlivening the room or environment that we are in, that no kind of artificial light to replicate (as much as we try).

Natural light is dynamic; just as the sun moves and changes its position throughout the day, the light that it bathes our rooms in can also greatly change the way they look. Using natural light can also help you save on energy costs, as you can greatly reduce your usage of other lights in your rooms.

Here are some tips to help you draw in light during the day, and use it to your advantage!

1. Windows matter!

Although it’s usually out of our control, the position and size of our windows play a huge role in affecting how sunlight enters our rooms.

While we can’t control our windows or the movement of the sun, we can react to it accordingly: If your window faces west, your room is more likely to be drenched in yellow, orange hues in the evening while the sun sets. So avoid painting your walls blue or green that will cause crashing colours. Instead, go for a warmer theme in your room that sunlight can help enhance.


2. Fabric, fabric, fabric!

Blinds, curtains, drapes — more than decoration, these are tools that we can use to respond to changes in light (and heat). If the sun gets unbearingly bright in the afternoon, consider getting light-coloured blinds to block out some light, while leaving enough to illuminate your space adequately.

Otherwise, get curtains with white lining or drapes that can prevent your room from flooding with heat, while maintaining the same level of brightness. Photos are also best taken with white drapes to soften the often too-harsh sunlight!

3. Sunglasses for your house

If curtains or blinds are not preferable, tinted windows can also help!

Grey-tinted ones help act as the ‘sunglasses’ of your house, preventing all the light from shining in. Other brighter tints such as green or even purple can help to do this too, while also slightly colouring your room in a fancy shade.


At first glance, lighting may seem like a simple, no-brainer task. But when you think again, it becomes clear that lighting opens up a whole new world of questions and uncertainties. And with that, it also includes a bunch of new answers, options and decisions for you to consider and make.

Light is something that we use and need in our everyday lives, so it’s important to think through the entire process, weigh your options carefully, and ultimately choose something that will aid you in your tasks, as well as something that can reinvigorate your space to make a statement.

So… light it up, up, up!

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