Indirect Lighting 101 August 02, 2017 00:00

Have you ever stepped into a room and noticed the lighting was, well, just not right?

Maybe it was a friend’s kitchen or an over-lit hotel bathroom. No matter where it was, you probably felt uneasy. On-the-spot. Just plain uncomfortable.

The truth is, most of the time you experience this type of feeling it isn’t actually because of the room’s brightness. Instead, the true culprit was more than likely the wrong type of lighting.

To help ensure your home doesn’t leave your guests feeling this way, take a few minutes and enroll in Indirect Lighting 101.

Direct vs. Indirect: What’s the difference?

When it comes down to the various types of lighting, interior designers have two general options: direct lighting and indirect lighting.

As the names suggest, the core difference between the two is how the light travels from the fixture to the target.

If, for instance, a vast number of recessed lights pour illumination straight down onto the kitchen below, this type of lighting would be considered direct.

If your living room is brightened up by a series of shaded lamps and upward-facing sconces, this space is using indirect lighting instead.

Ultimately, if you can see the actual bulb that’s producing the light, then the area you’re in is being lit by direct lighting. And if you can’t see the actual bulb, then it’s more often than not going to be indirect lighting.

Direct or indirect: Which is right for me?

So, the question is: what type of lighting is right for my home?

And the answer is: it depends.

Want to brighten up a particular area to make it easier to perform certain actions like chopping food or working on the computer? Sounds like a job for task lighting and you’ll want to focus on a direct lighting fixture.

What about providing a space with more general illumination? That’s got ambient light written all over it. Indirect lighting can gently accomplish this aim without making you and your guests feel uncomfortably “on-the-spot”.

Need a little accent lighting to add some flare to your décor? Both types can be useful, depending on what your creative aim is. If you want a spotlight effect on, say, a beautiful vase then direct lighting is certainly the way to go.

If you’d rather highlight an architectural aspect like perhaps cabinetry or an interesting staircase, indirect lighting might be better suited for your goals.

What kinds of indirect lighting are there?

In the world of interior design, there are two major categories for the different types of indirect lighting available. Each have their own pros and cons as well as their own unique stylistic character.

  • Indirect Fixtures – This is by far the most common type of indirect lighting. Think of a lamp. Almost any lamp will do. What do you see? The light itself and, of course, the lampshade.

A lampshade or any other semi-transparent encasing for that matter is one way that direct light is transformed into indirect light. It helps to tone down the harshness of the radiation while still giving your space an uptick in brightness.

It’s generally an exceptionally versatile method of injecting some indirect lighting into your home without having to worry about installing mounted fixtures. After all, what could be easier than plugging in a lamp?

  • Reflective Lighting – While not quite as popular as the other subcategory of indirect lighting, the visual effect of reflective lighting can be incredibly powerful.

This type of indirect lighting will typically use a structural surface as it’s diffuser. So, whereas indirect fixtures may shine their light on an enclosure attached directly to the light itself, reflective lighting may use a wall or the ceiling instead.

This is one of the best ways to create beautiful and unobtrusive illumination in your home. Upward facing pendants and chandeliers, wall sconces, and LED light strips along structures like cabinets are just a few examples of reflective lighting.

Indirect lighting tips

Properly wielding the power of indirect lighting in your home’s décor can be tough at first. But once you get used to the unique benefits and characteristics of this particular lighting style, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it.

Here are just a few tips to get you started.

  • Have a purpose in mind – Throwing any design element into a space without carefully considering the feel you’re going for is bound to lead to a room that clashes.

This same principle applies to lighting. If you want an area to be brightly lit so you can see all the fine details, direct lighting might be better suited to this area. Indirect lighting isn’t suited for spaces where you prepare meals, read magazines or books, or work on the computer for long periods of time.

  • Consider the fixture – Many indirect lighting fixtures have decorative aspects built right into them.

Pendant lighting is encased in decoratively painted glass enclosures. Chandeliers are wildly eccentric and structurally beautiful. And even a simple lampshade can add character to any space.

When you’re picking out a new source of indirect lighting then, be sure to think about how the design of the fixture itself is going to contribute to your home’s style.

  • Mix and match carefully - A well-lit room (both in terms of illumination and style) is accomplished with a mix of both direct and indirect lighting.

  • Having said that, indirect lighting can easily be washed out completely if you already have a fair amount of direct lighting. Finding the right balance of the two is key to getting your lighting just right.

    What’s your favorite way to use indirect lighting?

    What kinds of indirect lighting tips and tricks do you use to give your home some extra style? Let us know in the comments below and brighten up your home with the always-versatile Flux Smart bulbs.