Considering ambient and natural lighting, how this will impact the effect of your lighting

Before we can discuss this properly we need to understand just what the difference between ambient and natural light is and what each can bring to our lighting plan.

Firstly, the main difference is that ambient light can be either from a natural source like the sun or from a man-made source as in light bulbs, flash-lights, lamps or torches. Natural light on the other hand is considered to be just that, a natural source of light as in the sun, daylight, fire or even the moon and stars. Whether your lighting is ambient or natural at this stage it is considered to be the first layer of lighting necessary in your room or home.

Ambient or natural light is a base light that enables you to add over-layers so that your lighting has texture and depth. In the daytime ambient light can be natural light from your windows, doors or skylights, and it is important to consider the type of light you get from this first source before you make your lighting plan. Many people like to add skylights and large windows to make the most of natural lighting as it is considered to be beneficial to health and well-being.

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Another reason to capitalise on natural light sources is that the light from the sun is free and the more you can utilise it the less energy you will be consuming, something that is becoming more and more important to many people.

Obviously the lower your man made energy consumption the lower your energy bills will be and you'll be doing your bit to lower your carbon footprint. If you have a light airy room with a lot of natural light then obviously your lighting demands will be lessened and the better your basic lighting will be. You may only have to add a few statement light fittings to achieve a good all over lighting plan.

However, if your room is dark with little or no natural light then you will need to create your own ambient base layer of lighting. This is where man made ambient lighting comes in. Often places like corridors or hallways have little or no natural light source and here the source of your ambient lighting will be even more important.

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Having said that your daytime needs with regards lighting will differ greatly from your night time needs, and it may be necessary to have more than one light source for different times if day. This is where additional lighting comes into play and with the huge choice available it is possible to achieve a subtle natural look across all rooms.

Your ambient or basic light, whatever its source needs to be discreet and subdued, giving a gentle diffused light that will illuminate the whole room. The idea is to illuminate without overpowering the area.

Once you have achieved this you can then add layers of light from lamps and extra light fittings to create your own personal look. If you have a dark room where the ambient light is too low from natural sources then you will need to create a basic light using perhaps a ceiling light as a focal point.

A chandelier or a statement light fitting to not only give the right lighting but to add a touch of style to your décor. Remember at this point it is not necessary to have too much definition as this will be added with more structured lights later.

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Once you have your basic light finished to your required levels it's time to add your mood lighting. This is when you add lamps and other light fittings to give depth to your room and to illuminate the darker corners, using table lamps, floor lamps or even wall mounted diffusers.

A good addition to your basic lighting is task lighting which gives directional light to areas where it is needed. Places where you might want a little more directional light to perform difficult tasks. This task lighting might be a floor standing lamp for a little reading nook or a single spotlight trained onto a favourite ornament or picture, even a pretty floral bedroom light to give a warm glow beside the bed. Get your ambient and natural lighting right is the key to success.

Once this has been achieved you can add extra layers and depth of lighting to reach your required lighting levels.

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