Lighting is an essential element of any interior and can certainly make or break a room. It?s important to understand the basics of functional lighting vs. decorative lighting to achieve a balance between the two.

The key to creating a successful interior is by incorporating elements that add visual interest. Just as you would introduce colour, pattern and texture into a space, layering lighting to create interesting scenes is equally important. Lighting can be layered by uniting ambient, accent and task lighting to achieve a balanced, visually pleasing space.

Functional lighting refers to general (or ambient) lighting and task lighting. Decorative lighting refers to lighting that is not only decorative but also helps to create a mood or ambiance within a room.

When addressing how best to light up your space, consider your needs. Think about what activities take will place in the space and what atmosphere would you like to create??For example, a bedroom requires general lighting bright enough to illuminate the entire room, but it?s also important to be able to create a softness in this space for relaxing, (this is considered mood lighting). In addition, you will require a reading light beside the bed, (this is considered task lighting, however, a lamp can offer both task and mood lighting).

Lighting Inspo.

Below is a chart to help you understand the basic forms of lighting.

  • The best form of lighting. Why? ? high colour rendering (colours are shown in their true form), constantly changing (daylight changes throughout the day), daylight is ingrained in the way that humans have evolved and how we interact with the outside world.

  • General lighting is usually applied through soft, uniform light, and is the base layer to any lighting scheme.
  • Usually found in the form of wall or ceiling fixtures

  • Task lighting is also referred to as ?functional lighting?, and is applied to areas where higher light levels are required to perform tasks such as reading.
  • Usually created through the use of desk/floor lamps or reading lights

  • Used to highlight an area to create a dramatic effect or accent a particular element in a space.
  • Usually created through the use of LED strips integrated into joinery eg kick plate of a vanity
  • Can also be created through the use of floor and table lamps




  • Low voltage (12 volt) down lights are the most commonly used form of illumination.
  • Lamps for downlights are available in a variety of different light sources such as fluorescent, LED and halogen. LED lamps are energy efficient and have a long life.

  • Great for general illumination.
  • Used in areas where you may not be able to recess into the ceiling for downlights.
  • Lamps are available in a variety of different light sources such as fluorescent, LED and halogen.


  • Create a visual statement.
  • Decorative element for a space
  • Used in addition to downlights or other ceiling fixtures
  • Create a visual statement
  • Decorative element in the space
  • Can be used both as an accent and task light



  • Can be used to illuminate an existing room without having to change fittings that are hardwired or permanent features and fixtures.
  • Place in corners to make a room feel larger, or dividing up spaces when placed between two sofas for example
  • Can enhance and create focus.


  • Can be used to illuminate a corner.
  • Can be used as a task light beside a chair for reading.
  • The ideal positioning of the lower edge of the lampshade should be at eye level when you are seated – varying between 970 mm and 1007 mm above the floor.
  • It gives three forms of lighting; uplight / downlight, task light or ambient background light. This is especially useful if the lamp is attached to a dimmer.
  • Uplights are usually either wall mounted or in-ground fittings. These can be used to highlight architectural elements such as a wall or a ceiling.


  • Halogen lights are a type of incandescent light that uses a tungsten element.
  • Halogen lights are more efficient and longer lasting than incandescent bulbs.,
  • They are frequently used in downlights however in large spaces, results in higher levels of energy being consumed than necessary.
  • Like incandescent bulbs, some varieties of halogen lights are being phased out by the Australian Government.
  • Predecessor to the halogen lamp
  • Have now been phased out and replaced with Energy saving alternatives.
  • Produce warmer, more yellow light.
  • LED alternatives in the shapes of traditional incandescent are now available
ENERGY SAVING (Compact Fluorescent)
  • CFLs are cheaper and much more efficient to run than incandescent or halogen lights.
  • CFLs shouldn?t be used in fixtures unless especially designed for themYou can choose CFLs in a variety of shapes and sizes, and in different colour temperatures. For example, warm white for living rooms, cool white for bathrooms and kitchens, or bright daylight for garages.
  • Lamp lifetime of about 20,000
LED (Light Emitting Diodes).
  • Highly efficient – 4 to 7 times more efficient than the typical incandescent or halogen equivalent.
  • Long lasting – a lifetime of about 30,000-50,000 hours.
  • Environmentally friendly
  • Work well in cold conditions
  • RGB options
  • More variety in luminaires available in LED
  • Most manufacturers are moving all fittings across to LED
  • More expensive to buy but cheaper overall when considering lifetime energy use costs.


  • Dimmer controls allow you to sculpt the mood of a room from efficient to intimate.
  • Once dimmed, help to create a layered lighting effect when combined with decorative lighting such as lamps.
  • Allow you to create pre-set lighting scenes inside a room. Scenes can be adjusted with the touch of a switch from a box or with hand held remote controls. Some can even be controlled from a mobile phone or another mobile device.
  • Automatically offer convenience and energy saving as lights switch on when they detect a motion and switch off when the area is not occupied for a specified amount of time.


? Generally furniture in a room will be moved around from time to time so it?s important to have a range of freestanding lighting options that can be moved around.

? It is good to allow for varying intensities of light. Incorporating a dimmer switch will offer flexibility. This is will provide both task light and mood lighting in one.

? It?s worth noting that rooms decorated with dark, deep hues absorb light, these spaces will require more lighting and light, neutral painted space.

? Dark flooring will also absorb light while light floors will reflect it. If you have any LED strip details be mindful if your floor or surfaces are polished as this will reflect the dots of the LED. If this happens you can use a diffuser to remove the dots.

? When selecting a colour temperature of a lamp, always choose 3000K (for general light and task light) or 2700K (accent light) as these are the warmest coloured lamps and will help to make your room feel cosy.

With thoughtful consideration and clever planning, you can create a balanced lighting scheme with flexible lighting effects that will greatly enhance the look and feel of your home. Feel a light bulb moment coming on?

We would like to thank London based lighting designer Erin Slaviero, of for offering us some insight into the wonderful world of lighting design.

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