Making Accent Lighting Work for You

Accent lights can illuminate key areas and details, providing a bit of texture. There are many types of accent lights to choose from. Aside from the type of accent light, always remember that less is better. You can also mix and match accent lights for a more personal touch.
Making Accent Lighting Work for You

If you’ve still got that big ceiling lamp hanging in your bedroom, you may want to upgrade your household lighting. Designers now prefer accent lights, which illuminate key areas and details instead of lighting the entire room. You can install accent lights along your walls, over paintings, or anything you want to draw attention to. Accent lighting adds a touch of class and drama to your room without losing the functionality of general lighting.

But there’s a catch: accent lighting takes more skill and planning than general lighting. You can’t just put accent lights anywhere; they have to accent the right things and work with the rest of your lighting. If you’re thinking of installing accent lights in your home, here’s a quick guide to make sure you get it right.

Types of accent lighting

Almost any light can be used to accent, so technically, there are countless types of accent lighting. The most notable difference is in their function and position. Here are some of the most common types:

  • Sconces: wall-mounted lamps that direct light upward. Use them to warm up hallways and foyers, but place them above eye level to keep the light source hidden.
  • Recessed Lighting: the light source is level with the surface. This creates a dramatic glow perfect for bedrooms, studies, or living areas.
  • Strip Lighting: several lamps arranged on a wall or overhead strip. This is often used for bars, kitchens, and entertainment rooms.
  • Adjustable Lighting: can be directed to certain areas, either from a traditional or recessed position. It makes a great mood light for parties and romantic dinners.

Use a dimmer

Accent lighting is all about mood, so it’s no use if there’s only too bright or too dark. Install a dimmer so that you can control the brightness according to the mood you want to set. This also helps you save energy on days when a dim light would suffice. It’s not practical to install dimmers for every light, so try wiring them in groups—one for each hallway or end of the hallway, the reading corner, or the vanity mirror.

Mix and match

In a small room, accent lighting alone may provide enough illumination. In most cases, however, accent lighting is best used in conjunction with general and other types of lighting. A simple rule is to make your accent lights a different color, or at least a shade warmer, than your area lights. If you have a large white overhead lamp, bright amber accents will stand out against it.

Less is more

It’s easy to get carried away with the appeal of accent lights, but take care not to overdo it. Too much accent lighting can result in a confusing array of lights that washes out your entire room and mutes the rest of your home décor. There’s also the money you’ll be spending on wasted energy. If you’re not sure you have enough, follow the “less is more” rule and resist the urge to install more.