Lighting Design 101: Design Like a PRO!

Feb 12, 2021


Nothing exists without light. Colors, textures, and geometry are born for our eyes when light meets matter. At that moment, it’s when the miracle of illumination happens, where what mends our world are revealed to our eyes. Lighting design is everything when it comes to interior design. It plays a big role in how you perceive and experience a space because it radically affects the appearance of geometry, and our mood and emotions as well.



A good lighting plan depends on the characteristics of the light source and how we distribute it in the space. Here, you’ll find the basic principles about lighting design, along with some tips, ideas and concepts on how to light up any space like a pro.



The basic principles of lighting design begin with understanding the characteristics of the lighting source. Each bulb or lighting fixture has conditions that may or may not be good for your spaces. Let’s see the 4 characteristics of light sources that you need dominate before selecting bulbs or a lighting fixture for your space.


Color Temperature:

Color temperature is used as a method of describing the warmth or coolness of a light source. The spectrum of color temperature is measured in Kelvin degrees. These values are used to describe the color emitted from lighting sources.

  • The warm light creates a cozy, calm, inviting atmosphere, perfect to be used in bedrooms, living rooms, family rooms, dining rooms or any space that require an intimate and personal mood.
  • Neutral and soft white is a friendly and clean light best for kitchen and bathrooms or any kind of workspace.
  • The cool light is adequate for offices, hospitals or other commercial uses



Beam Angle:

The beam angle of a lamp is the angle at which the light is distributed or emitted. If you want to highlight a treasured object, then a spot angle could be the right choice. On the other hand, a wide-angle gives a more general and softer light, it’s the perfect choice to light up a wide area.




In simple terms, Lumens are a measure of the total amount of visible light (to the human eye) from a lamp or light source. The higher the lumen rating, the “brighter” the lamp will appear. So first, to select a bulb, take into account the dimension and the activities that you will develop in the space.




The Color Rendering Index (CRI) is a scale from 0 to 100 percent indicating how accurate a “given” light source is at rendering color. The higher the CRI, the better the color rendering ability. Light sources with a CRI of 90 or higher are excellent at color rendering. So if you are lighting up a space where color is crucial in the design, then you need to consider these values.



When you’ve learned the basics for selecting the perfect lighting source, it’s time to see how to use the different kinds of lighting sources to design the lighting plan of a space like a pro.

First of all, it’s important to understand that a good lighting design is all about layers. Different lighting sources need to be blended into the space to create contrast, accentuate elements, color and texture. Let see how the layers works:



Ambient Lighting

Ambient lighting is the base layer of light in any room. The main purpose of ambient lighting is the overall illumination of a room that lets you see and move clearly throughout the entire room. Ambient lighting is meant to create a general and uniform lighting level. It’s the first layer of lighting and sets the tone of a space. Typically, the ambient lighting is soft and diffused.



You can incorporate ambient lighting into your space through:

  1. Ceiling-mounted or recessed fixtures that direct light downwards.
  2. LED strips, Wall and floor lamps, that wash the walls and/or ceiling with light.
  3. Pendants that bounce light off ceilings and walls.


Accent Lighting

Accent lighting is intended to highlight a specific object or area to draw attention to a feature, such as artwork, furnishings or architectural details, converting them into focal points.  



The accent lights are responsible for adding style, contrast and drama to a space. So if you feel that your room may be missing that “special” something, it may be the accent lighting. This lighting layer is used to highlight design elements of your space, in order to create more defined shadows that will add depth to each object and to the overall appearance of the space. In technical terms, accent lights are typically three times as bright as ambient lights. 



Recessed spot ceiling lights, track lights or wall-mounted lights are very effective in living rooms or common areas, since they can be angled and directed to create a highlight.


Task Lighting

As the name suggest, task lighting is light for a particular task or activity such as reading, writing, eating or preparing food. It’s focused on the particular area where the task is performed and it’s brighter than ambient lighting. Task Lighting will be the most functional layer of your lighting plan.



Examples of task lighting include:

  1. Recessed and track lighting
  2. Pendants
  3. Under-cabinet lighting
  4. Floor, desk and table lamps
  5. Bathroom vanity lights

A good Lighting plan provides functional lighting, but it’s also an excellent element to be used to reinforce the room’s desired design style. At the time of selecting your lighting fixture, don’t forget to select the perfect one that complements the interior design style that you’re looking for. Remember that a good interior design blends function and aesthetics.



If you’re a visual learner, check out a guide with more detailed information on how to light up your space as a professional HERE!

About Zahira Cury

Zahira Cury is an Architect, Interior and Lighting Designer, stylist, founder and creative director of D.Signers Group. She earned a masters in "Lighting Design and Led Technology" in "Politecnico di Milano" in Italy and throughout her love of architecture and interior design, she decided to create the D.Signers Instagram to share extraordinary spaces and inspire worldwide.

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