Ambient Light and How to Achieve the Perfect Balance

Ambient light is one of the most important elements in achieving the perfect balance of interior lighting. However, many people do not understand the different types of light and how to layer these light sources to get a perfect interior balance.

 Ambient Light
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In addition, the lines between light sources are not distinct; rather, they blend into one another depending on how people use them in particular settings.

We are going to illuminate some of those distinctions to help you layer your interior lighting like a pro.

Ambient Light Definition

Ambient Light idea
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Ambient light is known as general lighting because it is light that covers the entire room like a chandelier or flush-mount fixture on the ceiling in the middle of the room.

Also, ambient light comes from smaller light sources that contribute to the overall light in the room like a table lamp or floor lamp. Thus, ambient light is a foundational lighting source that is indirect rather than focused.

Ambient Light Definition
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Ambient light is distinct from other types of artificial light like task and accent lighting which are more localized forms of light.

Sources of Ambient Light

There are many sources of ambient lighting that are useful in interior design. Utilize different sources to achieve the right lighting level for different times of day.

  • Chandeliers and pendant lights – These lights hang from the ceiling and have one or more bulbs. Many of these lights are decorative. This light may not reach throughout the room, so you need other light sources to light up all the dark corners.
  • Flush-mounted fixtures – This kind of light is mounted onto the ceiling. Depending on the room size, a flush mount fixture may not offer enough ambient light and should be supplemented with other sources.
  • Recessed lights – Recessed lighting is installed inside a ceiling or wall rather than on the surface. These lights are helpful as ambient light because they are more subtle and you can use them to supplement other ambient room lighting like chandeliers or flush-mount fixtures.
  • Track lighting – This is lighting that uses multiple light sources spread along a continuous fixture or track. Track lighting is helpful for people who don’t want to wire individual lights; rather, they just wire one location and electricity is distributed through the entire track.
  • Wall sconces – Wall sconces are fixtures attached to a wall that provide more localized ambient light to certain areas.
  • Lamps – Lamps provide ambient light that people use to create balance when ambient ceiling light is not enough. Clear or cloth shades provide more ambient light than solid shades that focus the light in a certain direction.
Sources of Ambient Light
Life On Cedar Lane

Other Forms of Light

You can employ all sources of available light to help create a layered look in order to give your room depth and interest.

  1. Natural light – Many people forget that sunlight and moonlight are important sources of interior as well as exterior light. Windows bring in light during the day making the need for added light less important during certain hours.
  2. Task lighting – Task lighting illuminates an area where you perform a task like a desk lamp for studying or under the cabinet lighting in a kitchen.
  3. Accent lighting – This lighting highlights certain areas to bring more attention to it. For instance, you could illuminate certain architectural features in your home or a piece of wall art.

The Right Balance of Light

Ambient light has the largest impact on mood; this is why it is also known as mood lighting. As such, it is important to get ambient light right.

The Right Balance of Light

Here are some factors to consider when thinking about ambient light sources.


Think about where you need an ambient light source to illuminate the room. You can’t eradicate every dark corner with ambient light, but you can consider where an overall light will have the most impact. Supplement with forms of moveable lights like lamps when you can’t use overhead lights.


The color of light, both warm and cool, have a noticeable impact on mood and the feeling you get in a particular room. Most of the time, cool light, light with blue undertones looks too harsh for overall interior lighting.

Warm lighting, or light with yellow undertones, creates a cozy atmosphere.

However, you don’t want your light to veer too yellow. Therefore, as measured in Kelvins, most experts recommend ambient lights that range from 2000K, a bright white, to 3000K, a warm white.


Your ambient lighting needs will vary throughout the day. Therefore, it is vital to have a way to control the amount of ambient light in a particular space. Dimmers on overhead lights are helpful for this as are multiple light sources like lamps that can be turned on and off as needed.


All the lighting in your room should work together to create a cohesive look. Use different categories of lights but try to maintain a unified style.

Ambient Light Inspiration

There are many ways to add different forms of ambient light. We have rounded up some pictures of rooms with different sources of light that add warmth and depth to the overall design.

Ambient Lights for Living Room

Ambient Lights for Living Room
Swidany Int. Trading

Consider the light in this living room; it has four sources of ambient light that contribute to the overall balance in the room and provide different functions.

The gorgeous chandelier provides an impressive focal point in the room as well as soft light throughout the room. The large window brings the advantage of natural light, but this will decrease as night descends. The lamp beside the sofa functions as both ambient and task lighting for reading or small detail work.

Ambient Dining Room Light

Ambient Dining Room Light
Caffe Latte Home

In a modern dining room like this one, too many extra lighting sources add visual clutter that detracts from the design. This dining room has a stunning chandelier to provide the majority of the ambient light in the room. However, the designer has also added inconspicuous recessed can lights to light up the dark corners as needed.

Bedroom Ambient Lighting

Bedroom Ambient Lighting
Amber interiors

A combination of different kinds of light in the bedroom is essential for general tasks and bedtime preparation. The chandelier provides general light and a focal point. The bedside lamps have a cloth shade so these give general light as well as task lighting for reading.

Ambient Lighting in Open Floor Plans

Ambient Lighting in Open Floor Plans
Homes to Love AU

Open floor plans are popular in the current era. They provide flexibility in the way you use your space and have a light and airy style. However, the lighting sources must be adequate to keep the space illuminated.

This open room utilizes both track lighting and a pendant light. Also, the homeowners have made an effort to incorporate as much natural light as possible with large windows and skylights.

Ambient Wall Lighting

Ambient Wall Lighting
Focal Decor

This dining room features an LED chandelier that provides light for the table but is not sufficient for the overall room. Wall lights are a soft form of ambient light that works to light up the areas that the chandelier does not reach. Wall light works well with contemporary and minimalist design styles.

Other Light Varieties

The lines between light sources become blurred because lights provide many functions rather than a single one.

Decorative Lighting

Decorative Lighting

The light behind this headboard is both decorative and ambient. However, because the purpose of the light is to highlight the interesting shape of the headboard rather than to provide overall light, it should be considered decorative.

Task Lighting

Task Lighting

Under counter lighting is another form of lighting that blurs the lines between light varieties. It does contribute to the overall light in the room; however, because it is meant to light a certain area for specific tasks, it should be considered task lighting.

Focused Cabinet Lighting

Focused Cabinet Lighting

One beautiful way to highlight a particular architectural feature like a shelving unit is to add lights to draw the eye.

Back Lighting

Back Lighting

Another good use of decorative lighting is to illuminate a special collection that you may own. This lighting is ambient but its purpose is to accent certain items.

Accent Lights in the Bedroom

Accent Lights in the Bedroom

All kinds of lighting is important in the bedroom as there needs for ambient light and more focused light for nighttime preparation. The accent lights behind this headboard highlight the unique design of the headboard and nightstands but it also contributes to the overall light in the room.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)FAQ

What is the use of ambient light?

Ambient light is the most foundational of all lighting varieties in interior design. Ambient light is also known as general light because these light sources provide light that washes over the entire room.

How do you add ambient lighting to a room?

You can add ambient light to the room in a variety of ways. Add a chandelier, pendant light, or flush-mounted fixture to the ceiling in the middle of the room. Also, add lamps with shades that allow light to pass through around the room.

What are the 3 main types of lighting?

The three main types of lighting are ambient lighting or general lighting, task lighting, and accent lighting.

What is ambient light in art?

Ambient light is also a well-known term in photography. In this discipline, ambient light is any lighting that the photographers do not add to the picture. This can be both artificial and natural forms of light.

Ambient Light: Conclusion

Ambient light is a decorative and necessary form of light throughout our interior spaces. This lighting is provided through many sources both hidden and visible.

However, it is just one of the types of lighting that you need to create a layered and complex room. In the end, using a mixed method is the best way to achieve effective interior spaces with depth and visual interest.