What are the Different Types of Indoor Lighting?

Debra Durkee

The different types of indoor lighting are generally classified by the purpose the lights serve. There are four main types of indoor lighting: accent lighting, utility lighting, plant lighting, and ambient lighting. The careful positioning of various types of fixtures can achieve different effects.

Chandeliers provide overhead lighting.
Chandeliers provide overhead lighting.

Accent lighting is a form of lighting used to spotlight a particular area or item. Track lighting can easily be adjusted in order to give this type of lighting, especially when hung from the ceiling in front of the object on display. Many types of track lighting have heads that pivot, which can then easily be aimed at artwork, tapestries, or any other type of wall and shelf display.

Indoor spotlights can be used to highlight a particular area or item in the home.
Indoor spotlights can be used to highlight a particular area or item in the home.

The most practical type of indoor lighting is utility lighting. This type is used around workspaces, usually to illuminate reading areas, kitchen prep areas, or other counter spaces. Under-cabinet lights can provide direct light for kitchen counters, while areas such as desks or reading nooks can usually be best lit with directed lamps. The utility type of indoor lighting is also used to illuminate bathroom counters and mirrors or kitchen tables.

Plant lighting is a type of indoor lighting for the benefit of houseplants rather than people. Plants need sunlight to grow and don't always get enough of it through windows or during seasons with long periods of darkness. Plant lighting, also called grow lights, is available in a variety of types. Depending on the plant, grow lights will often give off a unique kind of light that includes a specific part of the spectrum. Some grow lights give off a high amount of red or yellow lights, while others give off more muted colors, such as blue.

Ambient lighting is typically used to provide complete illumination of an entire room. Overhead lighting from chandeliers, recessed track lighting set into the ceiling along the length of a room, or other types of central, ceiling-mounted lighting are all common types of ambient indoor lighting. Ambient lighting illuminates everything while not putting the focus on any one item or feature, allowing for a number of tasks to be performed without the need for specific lighting.

Many types of indoor lighting fixtures can be used in multiple ways, depending on how they are installed. Pendant lights can be hung over a desk or work space to create utility lighting and to illuminate one area. They can also be hung high through the center of the room, creating a more ambient, even lighting cast over a larger area. Wall sconces can be used as object or accent lighting when strategically placed to either side of a wall hanging and can also serve a more utilitarian purpose when positioned on either side of a bathroom mirror.

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