Layered Lighting In Interior Design

Commercial lighting designs have evolved over the decades. Currently, there are myriad lighting solutions tailored for every type of workspace. However, regardless of the many options, there isn’t any specific or single lighting solution that can completely illuminate every corner of a room. That is why you would want to implement layered lighting in your interior design to establish a balanced lighting architecture in your workspace.

At its very essence, layered lighting focuses on using multiple sources of light for a seamless transition from bright to matte lighting effects.

What Is Layered Lighting In Interior Design?

As evident from the name, layered lighting refers to the different layers of light. You can usually pinpoint these lights from their degree of importance and the subsequent optical impact they leave us with. Every layer is tasked with meeting some visual goals, and collectively they help establish a balanced appeal to the entire lighting architecture of your workspace. The key is to strike the right balance that doesn’t overwhelm the viewer and only soothes them, instead.

Let’s explore the different layers of lighting architecture and learn about its utilitarian as well as aesthetics purpose.

Focal Layer

This is the first and the most crucial layer that is primarily used to underline a range of vertically flat structures. You would also want to use the focal layer to emphasize the various architectural elements of your room like the paintings, displays, or any other memento or artifact of importance. This layer is perhaps the most aesthetically pleasing among all the different lighting layers and it also plays a crucial part in examining the appropriate brightness of the said workspace.

For a better insight into the importance of this lighting layer, it is critical to understand the relationships we share with lighting designs. Being humans, we are usually expected to notice and respond to brilliant layers of vertical light and that is exactly what the focal layer is all about. An area that ensures complete illumination of all the vertically flat artifacts (like the walls, whiteboards, displays, etc.) is likely to exhibit superior and consistent influence on the viewer. The illumination is also significantly stronger than what you would expect if you lit the horizontally flat areas like the floor, desks, chairs, etc. Intuitive layered lighting in interior design can only be achieved by appropriately identifying the focal elements and the right visual artifacts. While implementing focal lighting design in a layered approach, you would want to ensure that the source of the focal light is invisible. This way, you will successfully underline the object in question without adding any focus to the lighting fixture. The approach is not only balanced but also optically appealing.

Task Layer

The task is the second but yet another crucial lighting layer. The layer derives its name from the different tasks we perform in our workspace. This can be anything from working on your computer, writing something on your desk, or eating something on your cafeteria table. Either way, if you are performing a task, the key would be to light up the task area. In most cases, the task area is either a desk, table, or any other moderately high and flat area.

When you add task lighting to these crucial points, you inadvertently offer employees the opportunity to focus on their tasks at hand. Since task lights are primarily used to light up vital points in your workspace, you would want to use them optimally and in a balanced approach.

One of the defining benefits of the task lighting layer is that it is not just aesthetically pleasing but also highly energy-efficient. When you employ task lights in some specific areas of the workspace, you almost entirely eliminate the requirement of illuminating the entire office. This is a sustainable approach and it also reduces energy consumption, paving the way for an eco-friendly workspace.

You can employ task lights in almost every type of workspace. Since every layer has a defined and specific role, they also need to have specific controls. For instance, dedicated switches for various groups of lighting fixtures in one spot will enable different lighting layers that will in turn establish a balanced composition in the area, leading to a perfect ‘scene’ that can be leveraged for varied types of operations.

Avoid several rows of basic switch design. Instead, incorporate pre-defined scene controlling devices to control multiple lighting zones from one specific spot. A standard scene controller can successfully control up to five or more lighting zones. This design focuses on presets where you can recall the settings without having to manually tweak them individually. You can also establish the individual zones at varying levels and establish the entire architecture as one single scene. With these lighting systems in place, you can also successfully integrate home theater and other types of audiovisual gear in the workplace.

Daylight Layer

This layer is usually employed in areas or rooms that have plenty of natural lighting. The key here would be to reduce artificial lighting and use them only when necessary. Daylight layers can be teamed with accent or task layers to establish the right lighting balance. Over time, they also help to reduce energy consumption if you manage to install the fixtures and controls appropriately.

You would want to add a daylight layer to reveal the true shades and tones of your workspace. In most instances, the daylight is further backed by a sweeping city view and ample ventilation, both of which collectively enhance your comfort and focus.

Daylight layers are known to establish a lasting positive impact on individuals. Not only does it reduce stress, but it also helps to foster positivity and boosts focus and control. If you are employing daylight layers in your workspace, you would want to back it up with some glare reduction features and additional fixtures to prevent unwanted heat buildup.

Decorative Layer

This layer is ornamental in the truest sense. You can compare it with jewelry for a clearer insight. As with jewelry that is primarily used to accessorize your attire, the main role of a decorative layer is to accessorize your existing lighting statement.

The decorative layer plays a crucial role in enhancing your workspace’s interior décor. It helps to establish the appropriate visual glow that you would otherwise miss if you just focused on the building’s ceiling. Even though decorative layers are elegant and pretty, they have one major problem: low illumination. With that being said, you would still want to use a decorative layer of light as ambient lighting.

You would want to use the decorative layer of lighting as your primary source of ambient light. Explore the different decorative lighting options and select the appropriate fixture that not just illuminates but also reduces glare. Typically, you would want to employ a lighting fixture with the right uplight instead of fixtures with conventional lighting elements, because the latter are often deemed to emanate ambient light poorly.

You can also use the same lighting fixture for focal and task lights. For instance, recessed luminaires are an excellent task lighting fixture and can be used to highlight wall displays. Alternatively, you can also interchangeably use decorative and task lights. Some common ornamental lights like floor lighting fixtures, lighting pendants, etc. can successfully double up as task lights. Either way, you will have plenty of combinations of decorative and task layers for a perfectly well-balanced interior lighting architecture.

Ambient Layer

The ambient layer is yet another crucial lighting layer for your workspace interiors. But what role does ambient lighting play in interior design? Typically, this light can be best defined as a form of background light that effectively elevates the mood of your workspace. These lights have low contrast and they, thus, enable seamless visual recognition and maximum mobility regardless of the space size. Do note that, unlike the other layers, ambient lighting is usually considered as the final lighting layer because more often than not, the need to establish an ambient light is eliminated after the other layers of light are well implemented.

When implementing ambient light in your workspace, make sure the degree and intensity of the light is significantly less than that of the first focal lighting layer. This will add to the contrast in both layers leaving the space with a more amplified and intense lighting impact. The room is also likely to have a bright and comfortable lighting environment, thanks to the mood-elevating ambient layer.

How To Implement The Right Lighting Design Principles? 

Even though layered lighting is recommended for workspace interiors, you need to be mindful of using multiple light sources because it often makes the space appear busy. Additionally, it may also increase costs which may not always be feasible for all organizations. The solution to this problem would be employing a single lighting fixture and then backing it up with at least two layers.

One of the best examples of this would be a general lighting solution where a single lighting fixture is used as a task light. You can back up the task light with an ambient layer for a comfortable and yet focused feel in the room. This lighting style can be leveraged in workspaces as well as retail outlets or any other type of public and private space. General lights are also highly cost-effective and are extremely convenient to install and operate.

To establish a dramatic appeal in the room, you can combine a general lighting fixture with a task and focal layer. This will enhance the overall architectural experience of the space while also elevating the mood and the style. You can add focal lights near displays and whiteboards with the intent of sharing information with your employees. Additionally, you might also want to use it near your reception area or lounge to establish an inviting lighting architectural design.


Layered lighting in interior design can unify multiple lighting decisions and harmoniously weave them into a single, visually pleasing unit. These lighting designs help establish a balanced approach in workplace environments and they also pave the way for sustainability. Even though simple layers of design are far less complex than multiple layers, either way, your key would be to achieve a tonally soothing composition.

At the same time, you would want to consider the energy-efficient factor while employing these lighting designs in workplaces. Even though most layered designs like the task layer are energy efficient, others like the decorative layer aren't quite energy-efficient and need to be mandatorily backed by another layer to establish a sustainable and yet aesthetically pleasing lighting design.

Always remember that despite being functional, a workspace lighting architecture should also reflect some facets about your organization. The key to achieving this is by creating a well-illuminated and comfortable lighting area that has ample lights to help you read, work, and relax.

The right layered lighting approach will only amplify the various roles your workplace is expected to play. Typically, we recommend natural light as the base. Keeping the base unchanged, you can focus on adding a combination of task and ambient lighting, or focus, task, decorative, and accent lighting in your interior design. For instance, you could add task lights to the workstations, desk lamps, displays, etc, and back up the rest of the space with beautiful accent lights standing right above your floor. The result is a visually inviting room where you can focus on the tasks at hand and also relax when needed. The role of layered lighting in interior design can never be undermined and with the right layer, you can successfully establish a perfectly balanced lighting architecture.