Types of Lighting and Designer Rules

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Have you ever wondered about the secrets to lighting your home that designers apply to make an aesthetically pleasing space? Sharing all of the details on the types of lighting and how to apply them to your home.

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

Learn about the types of lighting that you need in your home and the number of each type you should use.
Kitchen with picture light, overhead lights, under cabinet lighting.

Interior Design Guidelines

There are specific guidelines that Interior Designers follow to ensure that a room is perfectly lit. They also aim to have a specific number of each type of light in a space to ensure it is aesthetically pleasing to the space users.

Learn about the types of lighting that you need in your home and the number of each type you should use.
Powder room with vanity lighting, overhead lighting.

Types of Lighting

Ambient Light

This type of lighting provides light to the entire room. An example of this would be pot lights throughout a room.

Accent Lighting

Accent lighting emphasizes and brings focus to an object by shining light directly on them. A good example of this would be picture lighting.

Task Lighting

This type provides lighting to complete a task, for example, under cabinet lighting in a kitchen or a reading lamp beside a chair or on a desk.

Mood/Decorative Lighting

This lighting enhances the mood of the space but doesn’t necessarily provide a function other than for décor or mood aesthetics. An example of this would be a table lamp or a candle.

PRO TIP: Layering your lighting helps add dimension, personality, but also adds ambience to the space.

Design Lighting Rules of Thumb

The rule of thumb for lighting a space like a designer is to ensure you have at least three of the four types of lighting mentioned above in a room. For instance, in a kitchen, you typically have ambient light (ex., pot lights), and task lighting (ex., under cabinet lights); from there, you should add another type. Whether it is pendant lights over the peninsula/island or accent lighting such as a wall sconce or picture light. This is what would make the space complete.

Kitchen lighting is very important to the form and function of a kitchen. This kitchen has overhead lights, under cabinet listing as well as a sconce illuminating a picture.

Looking for the lighting in my home? Shop them here.

Types of Ceiling Lights

There are many different types of ceiling lights to use in your home. These are the eight common types of ceiling lights that you will find when shopping for your space.

Learn about the types of ceiling lights and what they look like. Types included: Chandelier, pendant, inverted pendant, flush mount, semi-flush mount, track lights, recessed lights, and cove lights.

Chandeliers have multiple light sources and add personality to a space and act as a focal point. Pendant lights are similar to chandeliers; however, they only have one source of light and are often smaller. Inverted pendant lights are similar to regular pendant lights and create an atmosphere perfect for ambient lighting with the light pointing upwards towards the ceiling.

Flush mount lights are flat against your ceiling and ideal for closets, hallways, and bathrooms. Semi-flush mounts are another popular style; however, they are similar to flush mounts, but they hang a few inches (4-8″) below the ceiling.

Recessed lights are recessed into the ceiling; examples are pot lights or can lights. Track lighting is a modern type of fixture which is ideal if you are trying to accent something or use as task lighting. Cove lights direct light up towards the ceiling from a cove, accenting the ceiling.

Learn about the different types of lighting to use in a kitchen and ho many of each type should be used. This breakfast nook has a picture light illuminating the art on the shiplap wall in addition to overhead pot lights.

Types of Wall Lights

Several types of wall lights are used in design for light in addition to adding ambience and personality to a space.

Types of walls lights that designers use in a space. This image shows how each of these styles appear. The types of lighting include picture lights, up lights, down lights, candle sconce, swing arm, wallchiere, and lantern

Picture Lights are designed to highlight a focal point in a space, whether it is art or a specific point on the wall, but they are not supposed to be a primary source of light for a space. Up lights are good for lighting up a larger space, and this design directs towards the ceiling allowing the light to bounce off of the wall and ceiling. Down lights are used to illuminate the ground and are therefore used outside for walkways.

Candle Sconces are, as they sound, imitating the look of the historic first sconces that illuminated space by candlelight. Today, you often find these with chandelier bulbs imitating the look of a candle, though sconces made for candles do exist still. Swing arm sconces have longer arms that are adjustable, allowing the sconce to be moved around in many directions.

A Wallchiere is a mounted lamp that spreads light outwards and upwards and resembles a floor lamp mounted to the wall. Lantern-style sconces look just like old fashion lanterns that are mounted on the wall, for example, think of lanterns beside the front door of a house.

Lighting can be the make of break of a perfectly designer space. This Living room features brass sconces with fabric shades on either sides of the fireplace as well as overhead lights, and not picture a piece of art with a picture light.

Lighting Materials

  • Aluminum
  • Black
  • Brass
  • Bronze
  • Chrome
  • Glass
  • Gold
  • Nickel
  • Silver
  • Wood

Lighting Finishes

  • Brass
  • Bronze
  • Chrome
  • Stainless

PRO TIP: Don’t be afraid to mix finishes, but try to stick to two. Want to learn more about mixing metals/materials in a space? Learn more here.

This dining room has a piaf chandelier in ebonized oak with shades on the light bulbs, in addition to overhead lights.

Shop Lighting By Type

Shop Lighting by Room

This bedroom has a lantern style chandelier in brass. Lighting is key when it comes to design and picking the perfect combination of lighting can be hard. Learn how to mix lighting like a designer.


What is a Kelvin (K)?

This refers to the warms or coolness of a light. The scale starts at a very warm (1,000K) and goes to Cool (10,000K). For a kitchen pick 4000-4500K, for a living room pick 2,200-3,000K.

What are lumens?

They are the measurement of the amount of visible light to our eyes, from a light sources

Does a higher lumen mean brighter light?

Yes, more lumens mean it’s a brighter light and less lumens means it is dimmer.

How many lights do you need in a room?

This depends on what the room is used for. Bedrooms and sitting rooms need around 15 lumens per square foot, but bathrooms and kitchens need around 75 lumens per square foot.

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  1. Is that the Piaf chandelier in your dining room? How wide is your table? Trying to get a sense if it’ll work in my space (8 ft ceilings and only 38 inch wide table)

  2. Jenn, Yes, it’s the Piaf! Since this is designer lighting, usually you can request a specific length for your light so I don’t think it will be an issue for your ceiling height! The table is pretty wide, it is 44″ (we have since replaced it, but I luckily had the measurements!).