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We are firm believers lighting can make or break a space and there are so many factors to consider; lighting types, fixtures, placement, and bulbs. No matter your home’s style, understanding these four factors is critical to make sure that all spaces have evenly distributed light throughout the day. Let’s take a look at each one and how they work together to create the mood you are hoping for and perform their most important job, helping you see!


Every well-designed home should have many layers of light to ensure each space is adequately lit for the various uses it might experience throughout the day.

For example, a bathroom might have;
  1. windows to allow natural light,

  2. undercabinet lighting for minimal lighting at night or in the early morning,

  3. recessed lighting to ensure plenty of bright, even light when natural light is not sufficient,

  4. vanity light or sconce or lighted mirror as task lighting.

These four lighting types would allow for optimal lighting throughout different times of day and seasons of the year. Below are definitions of five different lighting types to consider in your spaces.

Natural Lighting: You may have noticed that we are huge proponents of windows, expansive patio doors, and skylights. There’s just no substitute for natural light, especially in the Pacific Northwest!

Ambient Lighting: the primary source of light for a room. It should be even and bright, but not harsh.

Task Lighting: direct lighting used in a specific area for a task like cooking, reading, sewing, or writing. It should be bright and avoid shadows in the task area.

Accent or Decorative Lighting: used to highlight a specific feature or area, such as picture lighting.

Diffused vs. Direct Lighting: consider the difference between a clear bulb or shade vs. a frosted bulb or shade. Clear will provide more bright, direct light while frosted provides more even, gentle light. Both are effective for different uses.


When we talk about interior lighting, fixtures are generally the first thing that come to mind. We interact with them multiple times a day and they can be both utilitarian and a statement piece in your home. Good lighting has multiple layers to serve varied purposes. Here are a few lighting terms that may help you consider the correct lighting and fixtures for your spaces.

Chandelier: a fixture suspended from the ceiling with a central body and multiple branches or layers of lighting. They tend to be more formal and generally provide ambient lighting. Consider adding a dimmer switch in dining areas.

Pendant: a fixture suspended from the ceiling with a singular light or cluster of lights contained inside a shade, glass, or frame. They tend to be more modern and can provide both ambient and task lighting. Generally hung in a row or as a single fixture with a linear shape. Connecting to a dimmer switch allows an easy transition from task to ambient lighting.

Sconce: a plug-in or hardwired light source attached to a wall. These can be interior or exterior and are utilized for both task and accent lighting but should not be the only light source in a room.

Vanity: similar to a sconce, mounted to the wall, but above a vanity mirror. These provide task lighting and should not be the only light source in a room.

Recessed: installed directly in the ceiling, these fixtures may be traditional can lights or LED candle lights. Consider dimmer switch controls in hallways, bedrooms, or any area where softer lighting is enjoyed.

Flushmount or Semi-Flushmount: a ceiling fixture that is mounted flush (or nearly flush) to the ceiling. These are more decorative than recessed lights and can be useful in areas without the necessary clearance for a pendant.

Lamps: plug-in decorative or task lights placed on the floor or table.

Cabinet Lighting: used in kitchens under upper cabinets, under floating bathroom cabinets, or in open cubbies. They are usually either puck lights or LED light strips. Diffused lighting sleeves are preferable when the light source itself will be visible.


For each kind and use of light fixture there are different guidelines for placement. Below are general guidelines to consider when adding fixtures to your space and to help select the right kind of fixture for your needs.

A graphic showing the right spacing of pendant lights over a counter or table.

A graphic showing the correct placement of linear lighting over a counter or table

A graphic showing the correct height and size of a pendant light in an open space.

A graphic showing the correct placement for picture lights on a wall.

A graphic showing the correct placement of wall sconces next to a bed.

A graphic showing the correct placement of bathroom light fixtures.

A graphic with placement guidelines for recessed lighting.

Yes, bulbs get their own section here because they are one of the most important details that will make or break the lighting in your home. Bulbs have changed significantly in the last few decades, including the terms used. This often leads to confusion or homeowners disliking a fixture they invested in when really all that is needed is a different sort of bulb. LED bulbs are now the most common, most efficient bulbs available. Here are the terms you need to know to shop bulbs like a lighting pro.

Kelvins: a unit of thermodynamic temperature, or the measure of color temperature in a light bulb, lower numbers for warmer bulbs, higher numbers for cooler bulbs.

Lumens: a measure of the amount of brightness in a lightbulb, the higher the number of lumens, the brighter the bulb. We often hear of clients being unhappy with the light output of a certain fixture. In most cases, this can be fixed with a light bulb that has a higher lumen output!


Using the proper bulb for the different areas and tasks in your home is critical. Additionally, dimmer switches on certain key fixtures can create the correct lighting for different times throughout the day. They can offer bright light when needed for tasks, or soft light during early morning or evening periods. We love using dimmers in main living areas, kitchens, and bedrooms to enhance the effects of layered lighting.

We hope this in-depth lighting guide will serve as a helpful resource for any future lighting projects. If you are planning a home project of any size, book a complimentary consultation by clicking here.



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