Accent Lighting

Adding focal points and balance to a room

Accent lighting can add some much-needed depth and texture to rooms when the ceiling lights don't cut it. Accent lighting is used to highlight a chosen area or an object in a room, such as artwork or plants. It can also be used to spruce up the emotion in a room by providing pools of light in some areas and casting shadows in others.

Before buying an accent light, decide what the focal point in your room is going to be. When lighting a glass cabinet, for instance, you'll want to place the light correctly to ensure that it accents the pieces inside and not the cabinet itself. If used on artwork, accent lighting should illuminate the entire photograph or painting, without casting a glow larger than the piece itself. Light bulbs can range from incandescent to halogen or fluorescent, but whatever you choose should be sufficiently bright. Be careful with fragile pieces of art. The UV rays emitted from light bulbs can cause damage.

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These fixtures cast light on whatever is below them. They can be wall-mounted or recessed and can be in a fixed position or on a swivel. The classic style, a downward-facing glass shade with long stem, is constantly being reinvigorated with new materials and designs. If you decide on recessed fixtures, choose a position where the focal point is unlikely to move, or you'll end up with accent lighting but nothing to accent.


With uplights, light is directed towards the ceiling and bounces back, creating a blanket of soft illumination. Wall sconces make ideal uplights because of both the wide variety of styles available and the out-of-the-way placement that's possible with wall-mounted fixtures. Unique uplight sconce styles include faux candles, hovering bowls and flower-inspired designs. Tall, thin lamps are also common uplights.


Indoor spotlights can take the form of wall- or ceiling-mounted fixtures, flexible lamps or swiveling floor lights. Most spotlights can rotate and flex, allowing light to be directed virtually anywhere in the room. Spotlights that aren't mounted, such as clip-on spotlights, have the added benefit of being easily moveable.

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