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Lighting Design: Where Functionality Meets Interior Design

“Successful lighting design is fundamental to enhancing the look and feel of a home or a business,” says Randy Burkett, Randy Burkett Lighting Design.

If lighting design seems like a foreign concept to you, don’t worry. You are certainly not alone. Lighting design takes careful thought and planning. And while it may seem like a minor detail, good lighting is extremely important when designing a room.

“A lot of people just think lighting should be done once you know what you need to light up,” says David Gray, Lamps Plus. “It’s actually the opposite; you should design the room with lighting in mind.” Lighting design is essentially functional interior design.

"The intricacies of lighting schemes may not seem as exciting as selecting that beautiful wall color from a peacock’s fan of paint chips, or match the joy of discovering a long-sought-after sofa for the family room, but it matters—a lot."
— Pat Eby, St. Louis Magazine.

Lighting Design 101: A Crash Course in Effective Lighting

“Successful lighting design is fundamental to enhancing the look and feel of a home or a business,” says Randy Burkett, Randy Burkett Lighting Design.

Setting the Mood

“I agree with designers who say that lighting design is one of the most important elements in interior design,” says Grant Pierrus, Interior Style Hunter. “It takes a long time to design a space, and by using good lighting, you are able to show off and enhance the design.”

Lighting design is an integral part of the interior design process. The right lighting can create depth and space, accentuate an important architectural element or accent piece, improve functionality, and set the mood.

“The key to good lighting isn’t how bright the space is, but how much contrast there is between the things you want to be looking at and all the other things in the room,” says Gray. “In a dark movie theater you see only the seat numbers and exits with very low lighting. In a living room you may want to see the art on the wall, the books in your hand, and the objects on your shelves. In a kitchen, it’s important to see the entire counter space, but you don’t need a lot of light in the walkways. Get light where it most matters.”

Good lighting design can even help regulate our circadian system – our sleep–wake cycle. Without regular exposure to the right light, a person’s sleep–wake cycle can vary by as many as two hours per day. In layman’s terms, natural light exposure is important during the day to keep our bodies in sync.

Lighting Layers

Good lighting design has many layers – literally – and “the best lighting schemes will offer plenty of flexibility to allow for multi-purpose functions and to create visual texture,” says Pierrus.

There are four main types of lighting:

  • Ambient Lighting: This is your heavy hitter – the lighting that does the bulk of the work lighting a room.
  • Task Lighting: These lights serve a very distinct purpose, as their name implies. That purpose could be reading, working on your computer, cooking, or any number of other tasks that require more light than ambient lighting provides. Often, task lighting is much brighter light in a smaller field.
  • Accent Lighting: These lights serve a purely decorative purpose, drawing the eye to a specific accent piece or architectural feature. “A great lighting scheme will complement the interior design and the architectural features of the space,” says Pierrus.
  • Natural Light: No matter how many lights you add to a room, “you may want to consider letting in some natural light,” says Ronique Gibson, Decoist. Of course, light control is important too. So, the right window treatments are a must.

“To make a space comfortable and well-lit, it’s important to place lights in several key areas around a room to eliminate dark corners, highlight focus areas, and prevent needing a ‘lighthouse’ in one corner to provide enough light to a distant space or a facing wall,” says Gray. “The best lighting design incorporates multiple ‘layers’ of light sources that can be used together or separately to create different scenes, so a space can provide adjusted light for multiple uses of the same room.”

Window Treatments Play an Important Role

“Lighting interiors isn’t only about the electrical lights in the space,” says Pierrus. “Controlling the natural light coming into the room is also an important factor to think about.”

The right window treatment can work wonders in a room. Not only do blinds, shades, and shutters help regulate light, but window treatments can enhance your interior as well. Then, there are some room with pretty specialized functionality requirements, such as bedrooms, nurseries, and home theaters.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, adults ages 18+ need 7-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep every night, but many fall short. Our own 2017 Sleep Survey found that 45 percent of Americans age 45-64 rate their sleep as “very poor,” with only 46 percent of people getting the recommended 7-9 hours. Blackout shades, such as Room Darkening Honeycomb Shades or Room Darkening Roller Shades, “can be very helpful for blocking evening light during the summer, streetlights, as well as morning rays (especially handy if you have an early riser),” says the NSF. Blackout shades are also ideal for nurseries. Not only can these window treatments block unwanted light at night, but they “can also be useful to darken the room for daytime naps.”

Solar Shades are another great option when considering light control in your space. They are a perfect blend of style and functionality, making the most of your view. With varying degrees of openness, these shades let you enjoy your view of the outdoors while blocking glare and harmful UV rays.



Founded in 1993, Next Day Blinds is a fully integrated, full-service custom window covering company located in Jessup, MD, just 25 miles from Washington, DC, and 15 miles from Baltimore, MD. From sales and design to manufacturing, measuring, installation, and service, we do it all. Our goal is to help you create a better tomorrow by providing a superior result--blinds, shades and shutters that look nicer, last longer, and are there when you want them.