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Light Layering basic rules


Post written by Rita Halliste, Lighting Designer (Spring Electrical)


Successful interior design is underpinned by a few basic laws, these include, space, materials, colour and light. Lighting is probably the most fundamental. This is why interior designers and electricians often rely on the expertise of specialised lighting designers.

This ensures that the space is lit well enough for the necessary tasks, the mood created by the interior designer is set off effectively and also that common lighting mistakes are avoided such as over switching, shadows or disproportionate fixture selection.

Lighting can make a big statement, for instance, you can take a dull, soulless room and turn it into something vibrant and exciting or alternatively create a serene, relaxing and calming space. When it comes to lighting the home, you have to understand, there is so much more to it than just switching on a grid of downlights to ban the dark.

One thing to remember is that you will never be able light a room as efficiently as the sun does. So instead, try to create a warm and inviting atmosphere using a flexible lighting scheme, which allows you to adapt the lighting to suit the different activities in that space. Each scheme has to use at least two elements but the best schemes may involve three or four elements.  The effect can be considered as a layer of light and each is controlled independently. This allows different scenes or moods of light to be created. As shown here.


When layering light, you are building up a scheme combining different types of lighting:

Ambient lighting, also known as general lighting should fill an area with a comfortable level of illumination and allow for safe movement in the space. Ambient lighting is fundamental to a good lighting plan as it is the base so that other layers of light can be added. Unfortunately many people stop with general light, which can leave the space looking bland and undefined like the lobby in a hospital. They are then unable to create an intimate, relaxing atmosphere and an inviting environment for entertainment

A common problem occurs when a central ceiling fixture is used as general light, this may get the job done, but leaves many dark corners and makes the room feel much smaller than it really is.  You can simply add a couple of directional downlights to highlight art on a wall or use soft accent light in darker corners to maximise the space


Feature lighting known as accent lighting adds beauty or visual interest to your home. Dramatic up lights can highlight details, relaxing side lights can be used for background illumination and a soft aspect light in the middle of the room will create an atmosphere of intimacy and restfulness.

Task light has an obvious use, providing increased light for specific tasks in a room that may already have some ambient light.

Decorative lighting or Statement lighting is when the main fitting or light creates is the focal point. It can also act as a sculpture or piece of art and although these pieces are often quite expensive, they’re definitely worth considering if you’re looking for a piece of contemporary design as well as a lighting source. These fixtures often do not provide sufficient ambient lighting, and should be used with other fixtures for a complete lighting plan.

Lighting control systems can range from the humble switch to a wireless whole house control system. Smart control systems can incorporate other household systems such as blinds and curtains, communications, temperature control and sound. Where and how you are going to control your lighting scheme is something you definitely shouldn’t overlook when purchasing your light fittings.

The decisions you make now will have an impact on how you live in and enjoy your home, so it is important to talk and consult with a specialist lighting designer, builder and electrician before finalising your electrical and lighting schemes and start the “first fix”.

Our lighting showroom in Ewell has a unique lighting pod with facilities to demonstrate how lighting can transform a space and a lighting designer on hand to inspire you with ideas.

With 50 years’ of experience in lighting, collaborating with electrical engineers, architects, interior designers and projects managers. Spring Electrical is one of the most widely recognised and trusted electrical wholesalers and retailers in Surrey.

Advice and sales enquiries in Ewell +44 (0) 20 8393 4000

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