When choosing light fixtures for your home, it’s important to first have a basic understanding of the purpose of your lighting. This allows you to better determine which light fixture types belong in various rooms of your home.
In this post, I’ll provide an overview of the three types (purposes) of lighting, six common (most used) light fixture types, and where each type of fixture works best in your home! I’ll also include some shoppable light fixtures at the end to get you started on your search for that perfect fixture!
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THREE TYPES (PURPOSES) OF LIGHTING
In order to determine the best lighting fixture(s) for each room in your home, it’s important to first define the purpose of the light. This will make more sense as you read about the three types!
Ambient lighting refers to the main source of lighting in a room. It typically is from overhead or recessed fixtures and provides your overall background lighting. Ambient lighting radiates around the room and reflects off of surfaces. It provides light for the entire room. This is your main source of lighting for a room.
As you can imagine, task lighting provides light for specific activities or tasks (e.g. bedside reading lamp or sconce, under cabinet lighting for food prep, desk task lamp to see documents, kitchen island pendants for food prep, etc.).
Accent lighting is used to draw attention to a particular architectural or decorative focal point (e.g. fireplace, art, bookshelves, etc.). Accent lighting is created with a properly placed sconce or adjustable recessed light shining down (or up).
LIGHT FIXTURE TYPES + WHERE TO USE
A chandelier is equal parts FUNCTION and DECOR! It is suspended from the ceiling and is typically displayed in a foyer, over a dining table, and occasionally in a family room. It is by far the fanciest light fixture option! A chandelier primarily provides ambient lighting; however, it also lights up a table so it can serve as task lighting as well!
Like a chandelier, a pendant light is suspended from the ceiling with a cord, chain or rod. Pendants are often used as functional task lighting above dining tables or kitchen islands, and you can certainly bring in a design element with the style of pendant you choose!
Related Post: HOW TO HANG PENDANT LIGHTING OVER A KITCHEN ISLAND
Wall sconces are mounted directly to the wall and are commonly installed in pairs. Sconces typically serve as task lighting (e.g. over a desk, in bathrooms on either side of the mirror, or by a bed for reading light) or accent lighting (e.g. swing lamp arm over a piece of art or bookshelf).
Flush mount light fixtures are installed flush with the ceiling and provide ambient lighting. These fixtures provide the overall ambient lighting for a room. Flush mount fixtures are a great option for walk-in closets, bathrooms, bedrooms, laundry rooms, and any room with a low ceiling. There really isn’t anything fancy about a flush mount fixture (although Kelley Nan chose a beauty below); its primary job is to light the entire room.
A semi-flush mount fixture is almost exactly like a flush mount fixture; the difference is that it hangs about 6-12” below the ceiling. Some people refer to it as a hybrid between a pendant and a flush mount. Like it’s twin above, a semi-flush mount fixture is a great option for walk-in closets, bathrooms, bedrooms, and laundry rooms.
Also referred to as ‘can lighting’, recessed lighting is great at providing ambient lighting … as well as accent lighting above art or other focal points! Honestly, there’s nothing pretty or spectacular design-wise about recessed lighting, BUT it is the KEY to great lighting in your home!
I recommend installing recessed lighting ALL over your home! Whether or not you have overhead lighting from a pendant, flush mount, or chandelier, it’s always a good idea to also add can fixtures around the perimeter of each room. We have recessed lighting in our family room, hallways, bedrooms, stairway, bathrooms, dining room, foyer … just about everywhere in our home! Even my tiny little office has four can lights!
SHOULD LIGHT FIXTURES MATCH THROUGHOUT THE HOUSE?
Light fixtures don’t need to match exactly, but they SHOULD coordinate to create a cohesive design flow in your home!
Learn how to accomplish this in HOW TO CREATE A COHESIVE DESIGN FLOW WITH LIGHT FIXTURES!
I hope you now have a better understanding of how the purpose of your light fixture determines what fixture(s) you should choose for the room! We covered the various types of lighting (ambient, task, and accent) as well as common light fixture types (chandy, pendant, flush, semi-flush, sconce, and recessed) and what room each fixture works best in!
Below are some shoppable light fixtures to get you started on your search for the perfect fixtures for your home!