Lighting Glossary: What is Layered Lighting?

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A phrase you might encounter in the lighting design world is “layered lighting.”

Simply put, layered lighting involves the use of multiple lighting types to create a well-lit and balanced space. Think ambient lighting for overall illumination, task lighting for work areas (e.g. countertops or desks), and accent lighting for areas of interest and/or a particular object of interest (such as a piece of artwork).

Below are some of the hottest trends we’re seeing in layered lighting.Cove_Toe_Kick.jpg

LED accent lighting is emerging as a preferred method. We’ve written about LED’s many benefits, including longer lifespans and increased energy savings. Plus, when you use LEDs, you no longer need to get into crevices or struggle with tiny bulbs.

LED tape lighting is the perfect multi-purpose tool. Use it for:

  • Cove Lighting. Cove lighting is an indirect form of accent lighting, where lighting is added behind ledges, coves, and so forth in order to hide the fixture. The light is then directed across a wall or towards a ceiling to cast a diffused glow. It can create a powerful, dramatic effect.
  • Toe Kick Lighting. Adding lighting to the bottoms of your cabinets, closets, etc. (the “toe kick”) adds a fantastic glow that not only looks good, but also helps with safety. Think about trips to the bathroom in the middle of the night: the toe kick lighting can safely point the way without having to turn on an overhead light.
  • Under Sink/Counter Lighting. More and more people are using this application in bathrooms to create the illusion of a floating sink (as seen in our Waltham bathroom installation). Under counter lighting can also add a fun stretch of lighting under a bar.


  • Above cabinet lighting. Above-cabinet lighting adds ambiance. Try it with RGB (color changing) LEDs to add some fun pops of color and to cast a beautiful overall glow.

Some types of LED tape can be wet-listed, making it appropriate for use in bathrooms and outdoors (e.g. porch railings).

Another great accent lighting tool is puck lighting. Puck lights, which are small disks of light that can be surface or recessed, are also a smart choice, depending on your space and materials.

Puck lights are great for in-cabinet lighting as well as under-cabinet lighting. You can also use puck lights for lighting up shelves in closets or bookcases.


When it comes to choosing LED accent lighting, make sure you:

  • Check the warranty. What does the warranty cover? Who is the manufacturer? How long is the warranty? (It should be at least five years.) And if the warranty is for five-plus years, how likely will the manufacturer/supplier still be in business? It’s important to consider where you’re buying your products.
  • Check that it’s UL/ETL listed for your application (e.g. wet location rated, if you’re using it in a bathroom). Essentially, these certifications assure you that the fixture and bulb have gone through rigorous testing. Consider these listings to be a seal of approval. Note: most electricians will not install non-listed fixtures.
  • Check dimming capabilities. Most LED manufacturers clearly specify compatible dimmers for their product. Without the correct dimmer, LEDs can flicker, flash, and dim unevenly.

Do you need help layering light in your space? Talk to one of our lighting experts.

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