Light in the home – accent lighting

The series continues with our next chapter on accent and task lighting. I’m always going on about lighting levels because they are so important for both design and functionality. Every room will require different levels of lighting depending on how you want to use it. Whether it’s the time of day, activity you’re doing, or the no. of people, being able to adjust the lighting to suit your mood or task is vital for a well designed and practical home. Get it right and you’ll barely notice it because it just works; if it’s wrong, it’s the most annoying thing ever. Accent lighting gives you the flexibility to create different settings and transform your space to work for you.

Feature image: New SS16 lighting range from Loaf

Chapter 4 – accent lighting

Accent lighting is anything that you wouldn’t consider the main source of light in a room. This could be lamps, wall lights, small pendants, or decorative light features. Positioned around your space, each with their own design and/or functional purpose, they will work individually or together to achieve your different lighting levels. Encompassed within this is task lighting which is primarily to provide good, functional light for a specific activity. However, there’s no reason why it can’t look beautiful too. Here are two rooms for you to consider:

The bedroom
Hanging pendants as bedside lights frees up valuable space on a small bedside table, as demonstrated in this bedroom by Inspired Design Ltd

There will be times when you will want maximum brightness in the bedroom and other times when you need complete darkness but what about everything in between? If ever there was a room where mood lighting was essential, the bedroom would be it (wink, wink)! It is likely that you will have a main source of light such as a statement pendant over the bed but in addition, accent lighting will also help to make the room more functional.

A little light by the bed for reading or winding down is a good place to start, and I’m sure most of you already have this covered. A main light is never going to be suitable as a reading light, nor would you want it to be. The last thing you want is to be lying in bed with a bulb dazzling in your eyes like you’re at the dentist. A pair of elegant table lamps will do the job nicely but also consider hanging pendant lights or wall lights on either side of the bed as stylish and space-saving options.

Gaston desk lamp, £95.00 from Loaf
Gaston desk lamp, £95.00 from Loaf

You may have a dressing table or desk in your bedroom too and these areas will benefit from some task lighting. Chances are, the main light is behind you so this just isn’t practical. A lamp here places the light in front of you and also highlights this area of the room. A similar approach can be used for a chest of drawers or console, ideal for some decorative accent lighting.

Wardrobe with built in lighting by Ardesia Design

Within a wardrobe or some bookshelves, it can also be useful to incorporate some inbuilt lighting such as a concealed LED strip or recessed spotlights in the ceiling above. Again, this provides useful light in front of you where you need it most.

Dimming the lights softens the room and encourages a relaxing atmosphere while making it look cosy and inviting. These accent lights allow you to vary the amount of light in the room and choose the areas you wish to highlight depending on your mood and what you’re doing.

See my shopping list below for some ideas.

The kitchen

Here’s another room that can benefit enormously from different lighting levels. When I’m using my kitchen, I want it to be super bright. Zero dinginess. With wall cupboards, shelves and equipment, it can take a lot of planning to make sure every area is properly lit. There’s also various different positions you could be facing so some thought also needs to be put into getting the light in the right direction. I’ve seen countless kitchens with simply a directional ceiling spotlight fitting and nothing else. You can position the lights to point every which way so that every corner is nice and bright but as soon as you put a person in the room, that’s when it fails. The light is always behind you and you’re always blocking your own light, which means washing up, slicing carrots and whisking eggs is all done in the gloominess of your own shadow. Rubbish.

I designed a lighting scheme for a kitchen where I suggested no central light fitting at all and only lights around the edge where it was actually needed. The client looked concerned. The fear is that the room will be dark but realistically, why do you need light in the centre of the room if there is nothing there? We fitted a lighting strip under the wall units, the extractor lit up the hob and pretty glass pendants were hung over the breakfast bar peninsula. Now every surface is well lit and the room functions really well. The client can also choose to have either the lighting strip or the pendants on in the evening to provide a dim glow in the kitchen so it is accented but not glaring in the open plan space.

A perfect demonstration of excellent kitchen lighting by Tom Howley Kitchens

These rise and fall pendants look beautiful over this kitchen island with the chrome finish adding another texture to the room. Ceiling spots offer lighting for the tall units and recessed fittings in the cabinetry highlight the perfectly organised shelves and provide light for the worktop and sink where it’s needed. Notice how there is no need for lights over the space between the island and the worktop. In the evenings, the owners can opt to just switch on the cabinet lights to give off a gentle glow.

A bulthaup kitchen in an open plan space by Kitchen Architecture

In an open plan space, variable lighting is particularly useful when the kitchen is not in full use. Movie night in the living room area needn’t be disrupted by the sudden harsh glare of a kitchen light when someone goes to grab a drink. In the absence of wall cupboards to conceal lights under, wall lights offer a similar function and can look stunning.

My favourite thing about a dim lighting option in the kitchen is for sneaking downstairs for a midnight snack without burning your corneas. Don’t deny it, we’ve all been there.

Decorative wall lights in this bathroom by Peach Studio

Bathroom wall lights also provide a similar function as useful mirror lighting and a lower lighting level for soothing baths and nighttime bathroom trips.

In fact, this softer light works well in any room, instantly creating a luxurious, cosy effect and a relaxing atmosphere. Plus it’s way more flattering, like a real life Instagram filter.

Wall lights are great and look super stylish but if you’re not undergoing full-on refurbishment and don’t want to damage your walls then get yourself some lamps.

I LOVE LAMP. Sorry, I couldn’t resist the Anchorman reference. But seriously, I really do love them and you can never have too many in my book. Whether it’s a floor lamp by your favourite chair or a pair of majestic table lamps on a console table, just add a few to highlight your favourite spots and you’ll be amazed at how it transforms a room.

The next chapter will be the last in our lighting series on switches and circuits. In the meantime, check out the shopping list below to get the look in your own home. Until next time…

J x

Missed out? Catch up here:

Read on: Chapter 5 – switches and circuits

Get in loser, we’re going shopping

Like some of the ideas above? Get the look:

Bedside pendant lights – spend vs save

SPEND – Gubi Turbo pendant (small), £439.00 from Rume

SAVE – Circle pendant light, £110.00 from Idyll Home

Bedside wall lights – traditional vs modern

TRADITIONAL – House wall light, £120.00 from The French Bedroom Company

MODERN – Ash white and brass swing wall light, £225.00 from Eclect Design

Desk lamps – splurge vs steal

SPLURGE – Tom Dixon Beat table light, £475.00 from Rume

STEAL – Little Gee desk lamp, £75.00 from Loaf

Kitchen pendants – neutral vs bright

NEUTRAL – Vintage British pendants by REAL, £456.00 from Skinflint

BRIGHT – &Tradition Flowerpot pendant in mint, £179.00 from Rume

Table lamps – classic vs quirky

CLASSIC – Concrete & brass lamp, £115.00 by Graham & Green

QUIRKY – Hiding Lady lamp, £350.00 from Rockett St George

Decorative lighting – words vs symbols

WORDS- ‘Amour’ neon art light, £292.25 from Graham & Green

SYMBOLS – Broadway lamp, £89.00 from

3 Replies to “Light in the home – accent lighting”

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