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Basic Types of Lighting in Interior Design - Centerlight

A space's lighting sets the mood and enhances its aesthetic appeal. Understanding the different types of lighting is essential to creating a functional interior that is well-designed. In this blog post, we will explore the most common types of lighting used in interior design. From ambient lighting that provides overall illumination to task lighting that focuses on specific areas and accent lighting that highlights architectural features or decorative elements, we will explore how each type contributes to the overall ambiance and functionality of a room. Join us as we shed light on the world of the best interior lighting design!

Types of Lights Used in Interiors

  • Natural

Sunlight is the most natural light source, providing mental stimulation and being cost-free. However, it can be challenging to control. The quality of light varies depending on the location, with northern light being cooler than equatorial sunlight. Additionally, the direction a room faces, the time of day, and the seasons affect the amount of natural light in a room. Controlling natural light can be achieved through window coverings and the use of mirrored furniture or lined drapes for rooms with excessive sunlight. It is important to address the issue of glare, as a room that is too bright can appear flat and cold. Alterable window treatments such as blinds or shutters can help control sunlight and prevent glare without compromising the window's aesthetic. Combustion lights, such as candles and firelights, should not be overlooked as they create a highly atmospheric natural light source. Adding these elements, such as a roaring fire or candlesticks, can enhance the ambiance of a space. Hurricanes or lanterns offer a more casual way to enjoy the warm glow of candlelight both indoors and outdoors.

  • Artificial

Utilizing artificial lighting is essential for adding depth and dimension to your space. It is recommended to choose warm light instead of clear light as it creates a more welcoming and cozy atmosphere, especially in residential areas. Apart from enhancing the overall interior design style of a room, artificial lighting can be strategically used to highlight features, create distinct zones, and manipulate the perceived proportions of a space. When planning your lighting scheme, it is important to consider the five lighting categories and carefully determine where specific lighting effects are needed based on how you intend to utilize your space. By incorporating a variety of lighting techniques, you can effectively achieve the desired aesthetic and ambiance, ensuring a visually pleasing and comfortable environment.

Types of Lighting In Interior Design

  • General

General lighting serves as the foundational element of a lighting scheme and provides overall illumination to a room for functional purposes rather than aesthetic reasons. It is usually direct and can be controlled using a dimmer switch to accommodate changes in daylight. While a central pendant light, luxury chandelier, or artistic installation can make a visual statement and draw attention to a room, it is important to complement them with other lighting layers. Relying solely on a central light source can create unflattering shadows, especially for people, and fail to bring life to a room. Therefore, a simplified lighting scheme like this is generally considered inadequate for creating a welcoming and visually appealing space.

  • Ambient

Ambient lighting, the next layer of lighting, complements general lighting and shares similar characteristics. While general lighting is practical and used for everyday purposes, ambient lighting is often connected to a dimming system to control light levels for different occasions, creating a dramatic effect. It provides indirect and softer illumination, avoiding unflattering shadows. Examples of ambient lighting include eyeball spotlights, wall sconces that wash a wall with light, backlit perspex paneling, or concealed coffer lighting that throws light onto a ceiling. 

  • Task

Task lighting refers to light sources specifically used for performing specific tasks, such as reading or cooking. These lights typically have a higher wattage compared to other types of lighting. It is important to combine task lighting with adequate ambient light to avoid eye strain caused by sharp contrasts between light and dark areas.

Areas like reading nooks, home offices, and working areas require task lighting. Balanced-arm lamps are ideal for desk designs, while flexible reading lights near a headboard are great for bedtime reading. In personal grooming areas and bathrooms, mirror lighting is suitable. In the kitchen, task lighting is essential for easier and safer food preparation. Under-cabinet spotlights, recessed downlights over worktops, or long and low pendant lights over preparation islands are all options for kitchen task lighting. In addition to creating foot flow paths in rooms and hallways, task lighting can also be used for directional lights on the floor or riser lights on stairs.

  • Mood

Mood lighting is just as important as general and ambient lighting in terms of the overall appearance of a room. It creates a warm and inviting atmosphere by creating pools of light that counterbalance the shadows created by general lighting. In addition to its functional purpose, mood lighting is also a crucial element in defining the style of a room. Popular choices for mood lighting include table lamps and floor lamps, as exemplified by the Parisian living room design by Jean-Louis Deniot. It is recommended to place table lamps on solid side tables or consoles and conceal wires by threading them through discreet holes or taping/stapling them down legs. It is advisable to position the lampshades just above eye level to illuminate the entire room without casting downward shadows, as suggested by interior designer Barbara Barry. When selecting bulbs for mood lighting, halogen, and LED bulbs are preferred over tungsten filament bulbs due to their cost and energy efficiency. Opting for lower-wattage bulbs is ideal, as high-wattage bulbs can be too harsh and require larger shades to provide enough space between the bulb and the surrounding material.

  • Accent

Accent lighting serves a specific purpose in interior design by highlighting particular features in a room. It includes spotlights that enhance artwork, sculptures, and objects in cabinets or on pedestals, preventing them from being lost in a poorly lit space. Accent lighting can be used to draw attention to features such as artwork or plants, highlight architectural elements, and also serve as decorative lighting.

  • Decorative

Decorative lighting is utilized solely for aesthetic purposes, serving to enhance the overall style and visual appeal. It encompasses lighting fixtures such as wall sconces, chandeliers, or pendant lights. It can be strategically placed in various areas, including entrances, above dining room tables, in living rooms, or as wall sconces on either side of the bed.

Types of Indoor Light Fixtures

  • Surface Mounted

Surface-mounted fixtures, such as the round lights from Centerlight's Round Series, are visible fixtures that are typically installed flush against the ceiling or wall. They are commonly used in areas such as entryways, hallways, and bedrooms. These round lights provide a sleek and modern look while offering functional illumination to enhance the overall design of a space.

  • Pendant

Pendants are available in a wide variety of colors and styles, making them seamlessly blend into any home decor. They can be easily set up, even without professional assistance. Simply attach sturdy hooks to the ceiling, then run the wire of the pendant through the hooks, along walls and floors while ensuring it remains hidden from view. Pendants offer a stylish alternative to track lighting and are often perceived as easier to install. Another type of indoor light that is sometimes wrongly considered challenging to set up is linear light. Linear lights, such as the ones available from Centerlight's Linear Series, provide a sleek and contemporary lighting option for various spaces. They can be mounted flush against the ceiling or used as suspended fixtures, creating a visually appealing and functional lighting design.

  • Track System

Track lights are an alternative option for directing light from your ceiling to the floor. These lights are mounted on the ceiling and point downward, providing illumination for hallways or the center of a room. They have a sophisticated and artistic appearance, but professional assistance from an electrician may be required for proper installation.

  • Recessed

Recessed fixtures are indoor lights that are fully contained inside walls, ceilings, or floors. They are fixtures that lay flush with the ceiling or walls, in contrast to fixtures that protrude. Recessed lighting is hidden and placed in a ceiling cavity, making the light source not directly visible. This type of lighting, often in the form of downlights or pot lights, provides indirect lighting and can be effectively used in any room of the home. However, it is important to have a variety of light sources and types to avoid relying solely on recessed lighting.

  • Ceiling

When it comes to establishing a consistent and dependable foundation for your indoor lighting design, consider incorporating ceiling fixtures. We're not just referring to standard recessed ceiling fixtures but also chandeliers, pendants that are mounted near the ceiling, and even low-hanging lights. Ceiling lights serve as an essential cornerstone for proper illumination in your indoor spaces, be it your living room, bedroom, or kitchen. Without them, your space may be inadequately lit.

Lighting Effects

  • Downlighting

Most central light sources or spotlights in interiors will be downlights—downlighting is a very useful and popular form of lighting. There is an unflattering shadow cast by it (especially on people), so ambient lighting must be provided in order to counterbalance it. Centerlight's Round Series is an excellent option for downlighting. These round lights provide a sleek and modern look while offering functional illumination to enhance the overall design of a space.

  • Uplighting

Uplighting provides a softer alternative to downlighting by introducing light into a room indirectly, bouncing it off the ceiling, and reflecting it back into the space.

  • Wall Washing

Wall washing is a lighting technique that provides even and soft illumination to a vertical surface. The light should be positioned at an appropriate distance to ensure that the entire surface is reached by the beam.

  • Spotlights

Spotlighting is commonly employed in interior design for both task and accent lighting purposes, allowing for the highlighting of specific features within a room.

  • Perimeter

Perimeter lighting is used to enhance the dimensions of a room and create a sense of spaciousness. This can be achieved through the use of coving or cornice lighting, which is a popular technique employed by interior designers and architects.


In conclusion, understanding the different types of lighting in interior design is vital for creating a well-designed and functional space. From natural lighting that brings in the beauty of sunlight to artificial lighting that adds depth and dimension, each type of lighting serves a specific purpose in enhancing the overall ambiance and functionality of a room. By considering the various types of lighting, such as general, ambient, task, mood, accent, and decorative lighting, you can create a visually pleasing and comfortable environment that meets your specific needs.

For more information or assistance with your interior lighting design, please contact us at:

  • Phone: +1-424-274-7444
  • Address: 4712 Admiralty Way, #299 Marina Del Rey, CA 90292
  • We look forward to shedding light on your interior lighting needs!