What is Accent Lighting?

Accent lighting is directional lighting that highlights or draws attention to a particular object or area.


Accent lighting serves as one of the key components in the layering of light within a space, alongside ambient lighting and task lighting. Its primary purpose is to create visual interest and drama in an interior by spotlighting focal points such as artwork, sculptures, or architectural details. Unlike ambient lighting, which provides overall light to a room, and task lighting, which is meant to illuminate areas for specific activities, accent lighting is used to enhance the aesthetic appeal of a space by directing the eye to highlighted areas.

By strategically placing accent lighting, interior designers can manipulate the mood and atmosphere of a space, making it feel more dynamic and curated. This type of lighting typically employs a higher intensity or contrast than ambient lighting to effectively separate the highlighted object or area from the rest of the space. Common sources of accent lighting include track lights, spotlights, wall-mounted fixtures, and recessed lights.

With the right application, accent lighting can transform a room from flat and functional to layered and luxuriously detailed, effectively adding depth and dimension. By highlighting architectural features or prized possessions, it can also reflect the homeowner's personality or the room's theme.


Accent lighting is often employed in galleries to draw attention to specific pieces of art. In residential settings, it might be used to spotlight architectural features, such as a fireplace or intricate molding, or to highlight decor elements like a sculpture on a pedestal or paintings. In commercial spaces, accent lighting can be used to draw focus towards product displays, creating an inviting setup that encourages customer interaction.


  • What types of fixtures are commonly used for accent lighting?

    Common fixtures for accent lighting include track lights, spotlights, wall-mounted fixtures, LED strip lights, and recessed lights. The choice of fixture depends on the specific requirements of the space and the object being highlighted.

  • How does accent lighting differ from ambient and task lighting?

    Accent lighting is specifically designed to highlight certain features or objects in a room, creating visual interest and drama. Ambient lighting provides overall illumination for general visibility and comfort, while task lighting focuses on illuminating areas for specific activities, such as reading or cooking.

  • Can accent lighting be used outdoors?

    Yes, accent lighting can also be used outdoors to highlight landscape features, architectural details, or garden sculptures. It enhances the aesthetic appeal of outdoor spaces and can create a welcoming atmosphere for outdoor living areas.

Practical Application

When implementing accent lighting, consider the feature or item you wish to highlight and choose a fixture that offers the right intensity and directionality. It's important to balance the lighting in the room to avoid creating overly harsh contrasts or shadows. Incorporating dimmers or adjustable fixtures allows for flexibility in controlling the mood and focus within the space. For a cohesive look, ensure the style and finish of the lighting fixtures complement the room's overall design scheme.