The Layered Lighting Approach: Kitchen and Bathroom Lighting

I’ve had lighting on the brain for a while now. One of the reasons for this is that I get so many questions in my private Facebook community about lighting. It really seems to be an area where kitchen and bath designers need some extra support. Since coaching, mentoring, and teaching other kitchen and bath designers is such a passion of mine, I’m always drawn to the topics that will most benefit my community. I am always ready, willing, and eager to share my knowledge. 

Lighting absolutely fascinates me. The concepts and theories are so complex and layered (pun intended!) And, if you’re a regular reader of my blog, you know I delved deep into the history of the lightbulb last month. 

But today, I want to talk to you about the Layered Lighting Approach. It’s something that I’ve learned in my years of kitchen and bathroom designing that has helped me to create attractive and functional spaces. The Layered Lighting Approach is really a perfect explanation of how to plan for great lighting composition in any space you are designing.

As humans, we typically see and respond positively to bright vertical surfaces. Therefore, a room where vertical surfaces such as walls, furniture, art, etc., are well illuminated will feel much brighter than a room where only the horizontal surfaces such as desktops, tables, floor, etc., are lit.

What is the Layered Lighting Approach?

The layered lighting approach is a method used for layering lighting systems. The goal is to help create a composition and a particular aesthetic in a room. It provides a variety of light sources to accommodate your space and visually aid everyday tasks throughout the day. With the use of multiple light sources and the location of the fixtures, you can create a space that is warm and inviting, easy to perform tasks in, has ease of maneuverability, and has a positive direction of traffic flow. 

When using the layered lighting approach, you can add shadows and accents that will create a nice ambiance in your space. You can also combine layers of light to accommodate more than just one function like task lighting, ambient lighting, and accent lighting. 

What are the FIVE Lighting Layers?

When designing a lighting plan for a space using the Layered Lighting Approach you need to first begin by thinking in layers. We’ll go through the layers now from top to bottom. 

Focal Layer

Lighting in your Focal Layer will emphasize the architectural features and details of the space. Like highlighting artwork or emphasizing displays and signage, ceiling details, and architecture details.

This layer is often considered to be aesthetic in nature however, it plays an important role in the illumination of the space. The intent is to highlight the objects or features, not to see the luminaire. By identifying the key elements, focal points, and visual destinations you can lead a person through your space intuitively or create dramatic focal points.

Task Layer

The Task Layer is used to illuminate specific TASKS that are performed in a designated space like reading, cooking, chopping, shaving, blow-drying hair, or applying make-up.

You’ll want to place your task luminaries so that it only illuminates specific areas where the task is taking place.

Hot Tip: You can use more task lighting instead of ambient lighting in a setting to help reduce energy consumption.

Daylight Layer

Yes! Daylight is a layer. To get started on your Daylight Layer, you’ll first want to locate the NORTH side of the building. This is to determine the direction of the sun’s daily path. The daylight you have available in a space should be evaluated and maximized so that you can reduce the use of artificial lighting. Whenever it’s possible, try to incorporate the daylight into the overall lighting design plan.

This is so energy efficient! When you reduce the use of artificial light, you will gain energy savings! Plus, daylight reveals the true color rendering in spaces. A win-win all-around.

As a bonus, daylight creates a positive effect on people. It reduces stress and boosts a positive attitude by releasing feel-good hormones. But, still, you’ll need to take some steps to reduce glare, unwanted heat gain, and damage to interior surfaces within your space.  

Decorative Layer

Decorative lighting adds drama to a room by creating visual interest and is sometimes referred to as Accent Lighting.

This lighting layer can be utilized to highlight dramatic architectural features in a room or to draw the eye to plants, paintings, sculptures, and furniture. Now, you might be thinking… this sounds similar to the Focal Layer. However, decorative light fixtures do not always provide enough light for the room and they are meant to be exposed. Decorative fixtures provide an eye-level illumination that is missing from spaces that are only lit from the ceiling.

Hot Tip: Decorative lighting should be three times brighter than the general lighting surrounding it.

Ambient Layer

The Ambient layer is the primary layer of light in a room required to light the room safely and evenly. It is the functional foundation of an attractive lighting plan. Typically, your ambient light comes above from ceiling-mounted fixtures or recessed fixtures.

Also known as general lighting, it radiates a comfortable level of brightness without glare. It also allows you to see and walk about safely.

Decorative chandeliers, pendants, flush mounts, and semi-flush mounts can be used as a room’s primary lighting source while at the same time serving as the base layer of lighting. 

Interested in learning more about the Layered Lighting Approach? Lucky for you that’s what we’re focusing on in The Kitchen & Bath Design Academy Membership! That’s right, technical lighting design for kitchens and bathrooms. For all you need to know about lighting design head right here and join my monthly membership.

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