Each type fills one or more roles, so no one solution is really objectively better than another.
Ambient—or general—light (as it’s commonly called) is any light that illuminates the majority of a room, ideally with a uniform amount of light. Natural light falls into this category, as does ambient lighting (artificial ambient light). Chandeliers and other ceiling lights, table lamps, track lights, recessed lights, and wall-mounted fixtures all create ambient light.
Ambient lighting serves two purposes: to illuminate an entire room and to eliminate as many dark areas and shadows as possible. Ambient lighting is usually indirect (light is diffused or reflected throughout the room), but can be direct (light is focused on a particular object or area in a direct way). Its major downfall is that it is typically ineffective for completing tasks.
Task lighting is any artificial light that helps you complete tasks. As a rule, this type of lighting is always direct. Lighting solutions in this category include floor, table, and desk lamps (including those with magnification features), wall-mounted lights with a swing arm and other adjustable task lights, hanging pendants, wall sconces, downlights (including recessed lighting), and light strips. The adjustable options are particularly useful because they can hide when not in use or perfectly eliminate shadows on your work—with the right angle, of course.
Accent lighting is similar to task lighting in that its purpose is to highlight particular objects, such as art or photos, through the use of focused light. Strip lights, directional recessed lighting, track lights, and wall lights are all functional options that are particularly helpful.
We’ve covered just about everything with those first three, so what is decorative lighting? Decorative lighting emphasizes the aesthetic qualities of your room both through the use of great lighting and through artistic fixtures. Thus, ambient, task, and accent lighting can also serve as decorative lighting. Our favorite is to use the lights to make light decorations for living room.
What is the best type of lighting for a living room?
The word “best” depends heavily on both personal preference and specific defining principles.
Personal Preference in lighting
Although personal preference is quite subjective, it’s an important part of finding “the best” solutions. If you’re not happy with something, then it’s clearly not “best” for you!
Some people ask, "how do you light a living room with no overhead light?" (Shocked? So was I. But yes, it's a thing!) Ceiling lights are not “best” for them, but might be “best” for someone who asks, “How do I get good lighting in my living room?”
Three principles that define “the best” in lighting
Principle 1: The number of necessary lights and their distribution
You can calculate the exact number of lights you’ll want through online tools, but ultimately their impact on the room and whether that satisfies your needs (personal preference) will guide the final decision. As for distribution, this depends on the specific defining principles outlined below.
Principle 2: The type and purpose of chosen lights
Each light should be chosen for the purpose you intend them to serve. Ceiling lights, such as chandeliers, pendants, and recessed light fixtures, are typically chosen for ambient light. They aren’t the only solution, though.
Natural light from windows, floor and table lamps, wall sconces, LED light strips, string lights, portable lights, lanterns, spotlights, and combinations of the aforementioned are all acceptable substitutes for ceiling lights. If, however, your purpose requires focused light, go for lamps, light strips, adjustable task lights, wall sconces, downlights, and track lights.
Principle 3: The style of your lights, including pertinent characteristics
Choosing a style is very important to getting lighting right. The most common styles are traditional/classical, neoclassical, modern/contemporary, industrial, geometric, oversized, and the unique. Oversized lighting and power clashing styles are gaining popularity, though. If you choose the latter, make sure you get honest feedback before settling on anything.
As to characteristics, the warmth, intensity, brightness, and color of your lights are all vital to how a room looks and feels, so please take them into consideration.