Types of Lighting

A trio of decorative light fittings

There are three main types of lighting that are used in interior lighting design schemes. Although each has its own character and rules for usage, there is always an area of overlap when they are applied to real-world lighting situations:

General lighting - This makes the room usable when the sun goes down allowing you to walk around the room and carry out normal tasks safely and comfortably.

Task lighting - This is supplementary to general lighting and allows more specialised tasks such as reading or sewing in the living room or preparation and cooking in the kitchen to be tackled. Task lighting works best when used in conjunction with general lighting.

Accent lighting - This is used to augment the architecture of the room by picking out a piece of artwork or an interesting feature of a period interior. Sometimes successful accent lighting can be as simple as the flickering flames of a real log fire. The drama of accent lighting is often enhanced when the general lighting is extinguished.

Types of General Lighting

Pendant lights - This is a very traditional style of light. As the name suggests it usually hangs from the ceiling, normally in or near the centre of the room, with the light and its shade suspended by the electrical flex that supplies it. Pendant lights are always a compromise solution with the light being strongest below the fitting with the edges of the room remaining dimly lit. This is often perfectly acceptable, over a table in a dining room or kitchen-diner. In fact some modern pendants have a reel of cable built into the ceiling fitting allowing the light to be pulled down for occasions when the light needs to be focussed closer to the table.



Chandeliers - These are highly decorative versions of the pendant and have multiple light sources, originally supplied by candles, the light from which is typically deflected and refracted by crystal cut glass that makes up the body of the fitting. Due to their weight, chandeliers are supported by a chain which requires a solid fixing in the ceiling.

Wall lights - These should be considered as a supplement to general lighting and work best in more traditional schemes where their pedigree of electrified wall-sconces blends better with the overall look of the room. Modern lighting methods such as downlighters have all but made the wall light extinct. If you do use them, make sure that they are high enough up the wall to prevent people walking into them and try to arrange it so the lightbulb is not visible from the seating positions in the room.

Free-standing lamps - These generally fall into two categories, short and stubby table lamps or tall and skinny standard lamps. These are useful for creating an additional pool of light in a selected area of a room. Sometimes table lamps or standard lamps can serve as task lighting if positioned next to an armchair.

Down-lighters and up-lighters - Down-lighters are usually installed in the ceiling and a well-considered down-lighter scheme can make all other types of lighting unnecessary, especially if they are wired in groups that can be turned on and off and/or dimmed independently. Up-lighters can be installed in the floor or can be freestanding. Up-lighting is often used to accent architectural houseplants.

Types of Task Lighting

Anglepoise - The classic form of task lighting is in effect a single spot or floodlamp supported on a flexible or jointed arm for precision positioning.

Track lighting - Track lighting allows a line of spotlamps to be supplied from a single electrical source. Typically the position of each spot can be adjusted along the length of the track and the direction of each spot can be manipulated.

Fluorescent lighting - Useful as a general form of task illumination in kitchens and garages. Always used under a diffusing shade to reduce the harsh nature of the light.

General and task lighting can be mixed and configured to act as accent and/or display lighting.



Article by Melvyn Fickling
© Jonny Ricoh Directories