The art of layering light

Interior design enthusiasts know all about the art form that is layering. From colours to materials, by layering textures and tones in a complementary or contrasting fashion you can create unique, characterful spaces.

As decor lovers we know the importance of light within a space and we’ve recently learnt the art of layering something else; light. By using different light sources you create mood, and can take a space from cheerful in daylight, to intimate at night time. Here’s our guide to the art of layering light…

Have plenty of lighting options

The first and most important principle of layering is you should have multiple sources of light, not just a single ‘main light’ in the middle of the ceiling.

Having plenty of options – table lamps, floor lamps, wall lights and pendants. These will give you the flexibility to change the lighting ‘scene’ in a room, depending on what sort of atmosphere you want to create.

This is particularly important for rooms that have multiple purposes. For example, if your dining space doubles as a study, you’ll want a nice bright light in the day but a more intimate, low-lit atmosphere when entertaining in the evening.

Make a statement with a designer table lamp (table lamps by Pooky)

Make a statement with a designer table lamp from Pooky

Know the three kinds of light…

Layering is the art of combining the three main kinds of light:

Ambient lighting is the general light you need in any space to be able to walk around without bumping into things. In most cases, its daylight through a window or the light you get when you flick on the main switch at night.

Task lighting is light employed for a particular activity, a dentist’s lamp for example. In the home the most obvious task lights are desk lamps and lights over the kitchen work surfaces.

Accent lighting is stronger, directed light used for highlighting features you want to draw attention to, such as ornaments or interesting alcoves. Accent light is usually three times stronger than the general ambient light.

Make sure you have multiple light sources, such as pendants, table lamps and floor lamps

Make sure you have multiple light sources, such as pendants, table lamps and floor lamps (Image: Pooky)

Make a scene

Once you start thinking in terms of the three kinds of light, you can have great fun creating different lighting scenes by using different lamps and light sources.

It’s a bit of an art form. Typically, ceiling lights and floor lamps will provide different shades of ambient light, which you can think of as your canvas, with table lamps and wall lights providing accents and texture.

But lamps can play multiple roles. A desk light for example provides task lighting when you’re working, but you might also use it as an accent light if you have an interesting desk you’re keen to show off.

If you invest in dimmer switches and a central control panel, you can even create pre-set scenes for different moods or times of day. Perhaps a bright room in the morning, a mellower afternoon light and a cosy glow for late at night.

Use an accent wall light to highlight features (wall light by Pooky)

Use an accent wall light, such as this Pooky wall light, to highlight features.

Don’t forget to decorate…

There is another type of light; decorative lighting. Simply, this is any light source designed to be attractive for its own sake, regardless of the actual illumination it casts. In hotel lobbies or stately homes these might be giant statement lamps, or glistening chandeliers.

In a more domestic setting, lamps and lampshades are a great way to bring accent colours and textures into your decor, even when they’re switched off. Decorative lighting options for any kind of interior scheme are very affordable, such as Pooky’s range of table lamps. They even have a series of wooden table lamps that can be finished in your favourite Farrow & Ball colour, so you can complement or contrast with the rest of your room.

Lights by Pooky

Lights by Pooky

Header image: Pooky

The Chromologist


The Chromologist is a colour whisperer. He understands and knows them better than they know themselves, translating their pleas to be used beautifully for humankind. It's unknown from whence he came. Some say the fraction of space between a prism and a spectrum, others say he toiled in the fabled colour mines of Svalbard for years untold, deep underground, speaking only to the reds and blues, cerises and aquas, bronze and golds...

The Chromologist 2019 | Farrow & Ball

The Chromologist