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The difference between ambient, task and accent lighting

Rather than resorting to a single approach for all environments, it is recommended to illuminate a space using different types of fixtures, each with a different function. Taking into account the use made for each area, its size and design style, will help us find the best solution.

There are three basic types of lighting: ambient, task and accent. Combining them in the same space, especially in a multifunction room, makes it possible to achieve a large and flexible lighting project.

1. Ambient lighting

1. Ambient lighting


It provides a general brightness, intended to create a uniform and generic level of illumination. It is the first layer of lighting and indicates the guidelines of a space. For this reason, it is generally delicate or widespread and, often, it is adjustable to adapt to different day and night uses.

For optimal orientation and visibility, ambient lighting is particularly important in corridors and stairways. It is also very useful in kitchens and study areas, where systems with wide beams of light provide a constant level of illumination.

There are different types of ambient lighting:

  • ceiling-mounted or recessed lights, which project brightness downwards
  • wall lights and floor lamps that illuminate walls and/or ceilings with their shine
  • hidden lighting, floor and pendant lamps, which cast light on walls and ceilings

Although it offers general lighting, ambient light is not ideal for working or emphasizing specific elements of a space. This function belongs to the following two types of lighting.

2. Task lighting

2. Task lighting


This type of lighting, direct and intense, is ideal for carrying out specific jobs; reading and writing on a desk or taking care of your appearance and preparing food. This light directly irradiates the point where the work is done and is brighter than ambient lighting. An effective work lighting system does not dazzle, while being sufficiently intense to avoid visual fatigue.

Examples of work lighting include:

  • recessed spots and track lighting
  • pendant lights
  • spots placed in the lower part of the wall units
  • floor, desk and table lamps
  • mirror lamps for bathrooms

Work lighting is essential in the kitchen, where the lights placed in the lower part of the wall units, or the pendant lamps, increase visibility on the worktop and the area intended for food preparation. Table and floor lamps dispense useful work lighting in living rooms and bedrooms, and can accentuate the desired design style for this space.

Le applique, le barre luminose e le luci a sospensione possono essere utilizzate nei bagni per migliorare la visibilità, soprattutto in prossimità degli specchi.

3. Accent lighting

3. Accent lighting


This type is used to highlight a specific object or area. Normally, accent lights have a luminous intensity three times higher than the ambient ones. This type of lighting draws attention to specific elements, such as works of art, furniture details or peculiar architectural elements, which become focal points. For accent lighting, adjustable fittings are preferable, as they allow you to focus attention on limited areas or certain objects.

Common accent lights include:

  • wall lights
  • recessed lights
  • track lighting
  • spotlights for paintings

Accent lighting differs from other types of lighting because its main objective is aesthetic and creates a point of interest for the observer. This adds style and drama to a space and is particularly suitable for living rooms and green spaces, entrances or any other place whose special features you want to highlight. Recessed ceiling lights, track lighting or wall lamps are very useful in living rooms or common areas, as they can be angular and direct to emphasize something concrete.