Light Positioning: Should My Lights Point Up or Down?

Are you wondering how to position lights in your room?

Wall lights, sconces and ceiling lights can provide very different types of lighting depending on whether their shades point upwards or downwards, so you need to decide on how to position  your lights. This decision will ultimately come down to a choice between decoration and practicality, and can be made based on a number of factors.

Types of lighting

Let’s start off with defining the different types of lighting you can achieve in your room:

Ambient/General Lighting 

Usually the main source of lighting that is designed to fill the entire room with soft light.

Accent Lighting

Used to focus bright lighting onto a specific area or object such as a work of art or feature wall.

Task Lighting

 As the name suggest, task lighting is provided in work areas and is always strong and both shadow and glare-free.

When it comes to deciding how to position lights in your room and achieving these various light qualities, here’s how up and down lighting generally affects things:

Light Directed Upwards

Upwards-facing lights and light shades are commonly used on lighting sources such as wall mounted sconces, chandeliers and flush-fitting ceiling lights. When directing light upwards you will create either accent or ambient light, depending on the size and position of your lights in the room.

Upwards-facing wall lights will add depth and visual interest to your room, but will concentrate the majority of the light on one small area. On the other hand, an upwards-facing set of lights on a central chandelier fitting will provide more general, soft ambient lighting by deflecting and diffusing light off the ceiling.

Light Directed Downwards

Downwards-facing lights and shades are commonly used on pendant lights, spotlights and floor or table lamps, however they can also be used on wall lights and chandeliers if you so wish. A central chandelier with its shades directing light downwards will cast a much more focused, clear light into the centre of the room, which is particularly useful for illuminating dining room tables and the like. Downwards-facing wall lights can also provide effective task lighting when positioned over desks.  

When deciding how to position lights in your room – up or down – make sure you consider the following:

Use of the Room

What will you be primarily using your room for? If you’re choosing lights for a living room where you simply want to relax and watch TV then a centrally positioned, upwards-facing light shade would be ideal for creating the soft, ambient light needed to help you relax. If, on the other hand, you are lighting a kitchen or office space, you would be better off choosing downwards-facing light shades to focus stronger light on key work and cooking areas.

assorted pendant lamp lot

Size of the Room

If you’re looking to light a very large room, upwards-facing lights will be more effective for diffusing light further, whereas downwards-facing lights would be sufficient if you’re only lighting a small space. This would, however, also be subject to the primary use of the room.

Primary or Decorative

If you’re still undecided, think about how your up or downwards-facing lighting will be used. Would your lights be the primary source of light for that particular room? If so, you should prioritise the quality of the light and the overall light coverage to suit the purpose of the room. If, however, you already have a satisfactory amount of light being produced by an existing light fitting, you can choose to ‘layer’ different types of decorative lighting in your room including up or downwards-facing wall lights, table lamps and floor lamps.

brown wooden dining set inside room

Decided how you’re going to position your lights? Have a browse through our many different types of lighting from upwards-facing ceiling lights and chandeliers to downwards-facing pendant lights, spotlights and lamps here at Moonlight Design.

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