Ambient lighting

Ambient lighting, also known as general lighting, provides overall illumination throughout a space evenly and comfortably. During the day, natural sunlight delivers ambient illumination. At night, or on cloudy days when artificial light is required, downlights, pendants, lamps and other smaller fixtures can all be sources of ambient light. Ambient light differs from the other two main forms of lighting; task lighting, which is directed on areas where tasks are completed, such as meal prep or studying, and accent lighting, which illuminates specific objects or features.

Sapah rattan pendant hanging over dining room table with timber cabinets in background
Sapah pendant in the Bellini display by Homebuyers Centre

Pathways to ambience

Atmosphere

To create an inviting and welcoming atmosphere, think holistically about your space: how do design elements like architecture, dimensions, layout, furniture and colour scheme interplay with your lighting choices? How will each room be used? Are you aiming to create a space that feels impactful and bold or cosy and comfortable? The placement, type, strength and colour temperature of your lighting choices will all play a role in defining your atmosphere.

Efficient sources of ambient lighting are pendants, downlights and uplights. These primary fixtures are important in every home and typically will be the main light a homeowner switches on when they walk into a room. In terms of location, consider where an ambient light fitting will have the most impact. Conventionally, a central location on the ceiling serves a room well, but a single light source can’t illuminate every corner of a room, which is why supplementing primary sources is important. For example, a floor lamp also provides ambient illumination but acts as a secondary source because the illumination is much gentler.

The colour temperature of your ambient lighting can shift the atmosphere of a space. Warm tones convey cosiness and are ideal for living rooms and bedrooms. Cooler tones feel more crisp, with those mimicking natural sunlight being appropriate for the kitchen and home office. Learn more about colour temperature in this Amphis blog post.

Skien pendant hanging in Metricon Homes, Bellucci uplight, Pearl wall lamp in living room next to daybed.
Left: Skien pendant hanging in Metricon Homes display. Middle: Bellucci uplight. Right: Pearl wall lamp.

Aesthetics

Ambient lighting has a practical use, but don’t forget to consider aesthetics. Think about how your lighting looks when it’s not in use – an eye-catching chandelier or pendant illuminates the room when it's lit and still adds visual interest to the space when it's not. That being said, lighting won't always be the ‘star’ of a room. This is especially true of ambient lighting, where the goal is to create an atmosphere and general illumination rather than a focal point. For instance, a simple oyster light will provide ample ambient light and allow other decor elements to be the star.

All the lighting in your room should work together to create a cohesive look. Use different categories of lights (ambient, task and accent) but try to maintain a unified style.

Ganon oyster light, Zulla LED pendant lamp, Falun outdoor wall light
Left: Ganon oyster light. Right: Zulla LED pendant lamp. Right: Falun outdoor wall light.

Adjustment

When planning the different types of lighting you will use in a room, it makes sense to begin with ambient lighting, and then identify the areas where task and accent lighting are needed. Keep in mind that it takes time for your eyes to adjust when going from strong to weaker lights – for example, having a brightly-lit kitchen and a dimly-lit dining room can tire your eyes as you move between them. Consider how ambient lighting can illuminate wide expanses of the room and ensure evenness and harmony across different areas of your home.

Your lighting needs will change over the course of the day. It may be worth installing dimmers to adjust the amount of illumination generated by your main sources of ambient lighting.

Cora dimmable pendant in walnut finish, Vega track lights in display home
Left: Cora dimmable pendant in walnut finish. Right: Vega track lights in Whitehaven display home by Dale Alcock Homes. Photography by Joel Barbitta.

For further advice about how best to provide overall illumination in your home, feel free to get in touch with an Amphis team member.