Festive lighting is such a big part of the holiday season! But the right lighting is also a particularly important factor in making your home beautiful and functional all year long. It’s the finishing touch: with the flip of a switch, the right lighting sets the mood, directs your attention, and can even reduce your monthly energy bill.

Christmas decorations with small, lit houses

Four layers of lighting to consider

Ambient lighting provides overall illumination and is best when it comes from several sources, including lamps, ceiling fixtures, and natural light from windows.

white kitchen with layered lighting

Layered kitchen lighting. Photo courtesy Kichler Lighting

Task lighting is an extra light fixture focused on a specific area to make working at a task easier.

Accent lighting is used to define spaces, focus attention on photos or artwork, or create dramatic effects by drawing attention to certain details within a room.

Photo of how to layer lighting in a kitchen with accent lights

Kitchen Accent Lighting. Photo courtesy Kichler Lighting

Decorative lighting adds style and aesthetic appeal in addition to functional light, with fixtures designed to enhance the personality and beauty of your room.

We can help you combine and layer lighting to create exactly the ambiance you’re hoping for.

decorative lamps

Decorative Lamps by Pottery Barn

Lighting tips, room by room


The kitchen may require the most flexible lighting plan of any room. So many different activities happen there. Overhead lighting, such as recessed lights, provides the essential ambient lighting and should be arranged so you can brighten the room when you have extra helpers in the kitchen.

Photo of how to layer lighting in a kitchen

Photo courtesy Kichler Lighting

Under-cabinet fixtures are important task lighting for chores done at the counter. Several pendant lights grouped over the island provide additional task lighting for food prep, serving a buffet, or doing homework. Accent lights can highlight the artwork of your favorite little Rembrandt on the wall.

Dining Room

dining room lighting

Photo courtesy Kichler Lighting

The obvious choice in the dining room is a chandelier or pendant grouping over the table because activity is almost always focused on the table. Make sure the fixture is not too large (which overpowers the room) or hangs so low that it interferes with conversation across the table. A dimmer will let you adjust the ambient lighting level depending on whether you’re having a quiet dinner party or using the table for the kids’ homework project.


An overhead fixture (or ceiling fan with a light) is often used as the main source of ambient light in a bedroom. Just make sure to install a dimmer switch so you can control whether it’s soft or bright. You’ll want to have task lighting at least in the form of small lamps on bedside tables. In a master bedroom, it’s always nice to have a comfy chair or two and a small table with a lamp to set off a cozy corner for late-night reading or enjoying early morning coffee.

master bedroom

Master Bedroom Addition by Merrill Contracting & Remodeling


The bathroom should be a well-lit space. A pair of sconces on either side of the sink (or a fixture above each sink) will usually give appropriate light for most tasks such as shaving and styling hair. New smart mirrors have voice-activated lighting that can be brighter for applying make-up or dim for use as a nightlight. Chandeliers provide ambient light but also are a decorative touch that add extra elegance to the room.

bathroom remodel in northern VA

Master Bathroom by Merrill Contracting & Remodeling

Remember that mirrors also will reflect ambient light throughout the room. Having recessed ceiling fixtures on a dimmer switch can create a more relaxing, spa-like atmosphere in the evening, while still letting you brighten the room when needed.

No matter how much time or how many resources you devote to making your home beautiful, if you don’t take lighting into consideration, you’re missing an essential element. When you’re remodeling, be sure to think about it early in the design process and talk to us about how you can have the perfect lighting plan for every room!

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