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Accent lighting magic; capable of transforming any space

Indoor lighting is so much more than the sum of its parts. It can be hidden to “wash” walls and ceilings with subtle light. It can be featured in oversized chandeliers that make design statements (a predicted trend for 2022), or simply become dimmable, so that when you want to show off areas while having guests, the entire house need not appear dark in hallways and bathrooms. Trends are now telling us “drop lights” are passé because they visually block open concept areas. But whether you pay attention to trends is not as important as being thrilled with the space in which you spend your life. If you’re looking to change things up, however, it’s best to survey a ton of photos on Pinterest or on design web sites to see what all this means as well as what your preferences are.

While nearly every home successfully incorporates the ambient and task layers, most fail to take full advantage of the accent layer—more of an art form than a formula, but one that is easily learned. Wisely using backlighting, display lighting, uplighting, and wall-washing techniques can do a lot to enhance your home’s visual appeal. Accent lighting reigns supreme and actually has for a very long time; you may just not have thought about it. 1000Bulbs.com’s Jessica Banke tells us about the three layers of lighting — ambient, task, and accent lighting. All are necessary to sufficiently illuminate any home. “The ambient layer provides general overhead lighting, the task layer provides directional lighting for activities, and the accent layer provides creative lighting to highlight artwork, objects, or architectural features for decoration,” she says.

Backlighting means placing light behind an object to create the illusion of depth. It is also considered backlighting when the light is positioned around or underneath the place or thing you actually want to highlight,” says Banke. “This technique can add an element of mystique to any room by creating contrast through coupling dramatic shadows with a haunting glow. The best places to use backlight accents include inside alcoves, under cabinets, beneath furniture, behind screens or displays, and underneath steps.” Today’s modern bathrooms feature backlighting under floating vanities, offering the feeling of spaciousness.

The most common fixtures for backlighting are LED tape lights or under-cabinet lights. Tape lighting seems simple enough, with the fixtures available at most big box stores or on Amazon. But not all lighting brands are created equal, so read the reviews closely. Some come with tiny, poorly-designed remotes that poop out early. Others include instructions only someone with superhuman sight can read, and all that effort you made to install them can find you swearing down the road if they don’t stand the test of time. Best to consult with a lighting expert or electrician to identify electrician-grade set-ups.

Display lighting is something you’ve seen all your life but never really thought about. Small but intense lights over fine paintings, lights inside display cases (perhaps a curio, hutch or china cabinet). Display lighting directs light onto areas or objects you want to make more prominent in a room, especially stunning when the rest of the lights are off. It’s also great for alcoves, along or under shelves, and over fireplaces. “Because displays typically only highlight one to very few things at a time, spotlights placed in downlight or track light fixtures are the most prevalent choices for display lighting, yet under-cabinet lights are most often used to show off items on shelves or in cabinets,” adds Banke.

Uplights are directed towards the ceiling. Some lamp shades can deflect light upwards when used in standing or table lamps and select wall lights or sconces mounted higher on the middle-third of your walls can also direct light up – typically to illuminate vaulted or high volume ceilings. Uplight “cans” are also great hidden in corners behind large pieces of furniture.

Wall-washing means an entire wall is flooded with light, from ceiling to floor. It can be done with recessed eyeball lights, track lights, or other directional light fixtures at or above the ceiling. They are particularly beautiful hidden inside tray ceilings — where they wash the architectural features with light that can be dimmed. You can actually add a soffit around the corners of a given ceiling to hide these and get the same effect.

Think about this: where lighting is concerned, less is always more, including what you are highlighting. If you walked into the poshest of retail stores, chances are good you’d find classy, uncluttered displays. Merchandise niches are individually lit to show off their most alluring pieces, whether it’s clothing, art, or antiques. Picture lamps placed over lovely artwork or framed photos as you walk down a hallway shout elegant simplicity. A curio with just a few precious family heirlooms or design statements make stunning backdrops for any area.

Successful accent lighting shows off elements of any room as if they were the stars of the show, and what you get back are rapt compliments from others on how “well-thought-out” your home appears. You also develop a sense of pride over what you consider important in any room.

100Bulbs, TBWS