The importance of layered lighting and how to master it

January 2, 2016

Lighting is one of the most important elements of a home – it allows you to adjust to every atmosphere, mood, and task. It can create a focal point in any area of your home, and can bring life and sparkle to all spaces. The designer’s secret to creating the perfect lighting is by layering light within every space so that you are able to customize and control not only the level of luminance, but the location as well. Layered light also allows each client to express their own individual style through different types of lighting. It’s essential to have various light sources within a space, including hidden cove lighting, recessed down lights, up lights, floor lamps, pendants, wall sconces, table lamps – just to name a few. Using these different types of light in combination allows you to create an intricate layered lighting look. Today we will focus on strip lighting, pendants, plus wall scones and wall-recessed lighting.

In general, recessed down lights (or pot lights) are my go-to for creating general ambient light because they are able to provide a good level of relatively even light, while also not obstructing sightlines. However, to add visual interest and create a dynamic space, we need to illuminate the space with more than just recessed down lighting.

Hidden LED tape is one of my beloved uses for layered lighting. One of my favourite applications is to conceal it within millwork. Adding a light source within the millwork also lightens up the weight of the object, and can make a space feel less heavy and weighted.


The hidden LED strip lighting concealed in the millwork of these floating shelves works doubly as a task light and an accent light, visually lifting the space and giving life and character to the office. It’s essential that with all sources of light we use dimmers to allow us to have total control of the brightness within the room.

Pendants, of course, are a staple when lighting a space. Pendants can be used in multiples or solo – and both can look absolutely fabulous. I especially adore pendants over a kitchen island, or overtop bedside tables or end tables in a living room for the perfect reading light.

Source: Caroline Harrison Designs Inc.

Two of my other favourite sources for light are wall sconces and recessed-wall lights. I really love to use wall sconces in washrooms on either side of the vanity around 6 feet above the finished floor. Light at this level provides the most flattering illumination of the face, which is important for the various tasks we perform in the mirror, such as shaving or applying make up – as well as just allowing you to feel the most confident as possible when entering and exiting your washroom. Your space should make you feel amazing, and lighting is a key element in achieving this. I also really like using recessed wall lights: they can instantly update a space and add a high amount of interest. It’s also possible to tilt the light source to focus more of the light upwards. Wall sconces and recessed wall lights can look fantastic in other spaces of course, including halls, exteriors, entries, and staircases to illuminate the tread, as pictured below.


Lighting plays a huge role in developing the ambience and mood of a space, and thus should be thoroughly considered. When contemplating light within a room, it’s important to consider how much natural light the room receives, which areas require the highest level of light, and what type of atmosphere you want to achieve with your lighting. However, no matter what the function or size of a room is, the best lighting concepts are always layered.