Our guide to different lighting effects

Read our blog post for our advice on different lighting effects - everything you need to know.

Our guide to different lighting effects

In any room, there is ambient or background lighting, the level of light from daylight or that traditional single pendant hanging from the centre ceiling...

It is flat and dull like a midsummer's day, with no shadows or areas of drama. Add to it with accent lighting which will bring focus and shade to a space. The simplest way is to put a lamp on a table, but uplighters, downlighters, spots and track lighting focus on different areas of a room. I think the key is to have light at different heights within a room. You may want to dispense with overhead lights completely and use wall sconces, standard or low-level table lamps instead. I personally would be very wary of using recessed downlighters. Your ceiling is full of holes and you soon find that changing 18 bulbs a week is not a lot of fun. The day of the downlighter has passed, in my opinion.They give a harsh, unflattering light and determine the style of your room or property in a way that a light fitting doesn't. I'd be more tempted to go with spot lighting and a traditional or contemporary central light fitting.

Uplighters are very effective, giving a soft diffuse glow and adding interest at various heights, from the floor or wall sconces. They are second only to candlelight in flattering skin colour, so think about using them in areas where you entertain. Highlight a couple of areas or features in a room. ‘Floor washers' are recessed low into a wall to throw diffuse light over a whole floor area, while ‘wall washers' highlight a feature wall. Side lights are a great way to give interesting pools of light, especially beside a fireplace or mantelpiece, an easy area to forget. Bookshelves can be backlit or frontlit to give very different effects. It is always a good idea with individual lighting units to fix them into a lighting circuit with a switch by the door. It's handy to use and looks fabulous when you turn them all on in one go.

Task lighting throws bright light on to one specific area. In kitchens you need task lighting for cooking, in living areas for reading, sewing or drawing, in offices for working. It needs to be bright - at least 60 watts - but not so focused you end up with glare or working in your own shadow. Anglepoise lamps are the cheapest solution, though can feel harsh and overbright. For reading and computer work a more diffuse background light is needed to send light from behind on to the book or screen. Spot and picture lights throw directional light on to one surface or feature, but you need to avoid glare, especially off glass. Dedicated picture lights can be positioned below or above: there's more visual drama when they're lit from below but the fitting looks more discreet above the picture.