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Ask an Expert: What Provides More Light, Uplights or Downlights?

Q: When shopping for lighting fixtures, there are many references to uplighting and downlighting. Which provides more general light in a room?

A: In general, uplighting or downlighting indicates that the fixture provides focused, directional light, as opposed to something more ambient. To tackle this question, I turned to YDesign Group lighting specialist Rory Edwards.

Uplighting

“When it comes to larger spaces with vast walls, uplighting has the upper hand,” Edwards said. This is because most uplight fixtures have wide beam spreads, creating a more ambient element.

Athena LED Floor Lamp by Naoto Fukasawa, from Artemide Lighting

Lightnet, University of Southern California’s lighting website, describes some additional effects of uplighting: “Throwing light upwards can help ‘raise’ a ceiling or enhance the architectural structure or interior design features; or it may be used to boost local ambient light levels.”

If you’re overall goal is general, ambient lighting, a uplit fixture will help get you there.

Downlighting

Downlights, on the other hand are excellent for task lighting, making them the ideal choice over kitchen counters or workspaces.

CU-Beam LED Linear Pendant Light from Dyson

“Downlighting can also be used when doing landscape lighting, by incorporating path and step lighting into an outdoor space.” Edwards said. So in this case, not only do downlights invite you with a welcoming glow, they also offer a means of safety and comfort even in the darkest of nights.

Rusty Slot 50 Outdoor Bollard from SLV Lighting

Up and Downlighting

When using the two lighting directions together, a nice layering effect can shine through. “Bringing together both task and ambient lighting, you can achieve the best of both worlds,” Edwards says. “But be sure to watch for a shadowing effect, as that can be a pitfall when using up/down lights.”

Up/down lighting is especially prevalent outdoors. It plays up decorative elements and wall washing of a large exterior space with the uplighting, while also providing the visibility needed to navigate with the downlighting.

Lab Outdoor Wall Sconce by Francesc Rife, from Marset

Often overlooked in DIY renovations—and underestimated in the grand scheme of a design plan—is lighting and how it can transform a space with a flick of a switch. Lighting can add depth and create a mood that was not there before, effects that are often dependent on where the lighting is focused.

The late Albert Hadley once said: “Design is defined by light and shade, and appropriate lighting is enormously important.” Moving forward in the great designer’s memory, the next time you walk into a new space “stop and smell the roses,” so to speak. I assure you, you’ll begin to notice how impeccable (or disastrous) lighting is what makes or breaks the space.

Which will you have in your next project? And perhaps most importantly, in what direction?

Dannica Hill

Dannica Hill

Dannica is a Returns Authorization specialist located within the Customer Service department for both YLiving and YLighting. When it comes to design, she enjoys mixing textiles and mediums to create refreshing and innovative design. Dannica is always seeking the newest and greatest in the industry. Outside of work I enjoy spending time with my family and participating in anything sports related.

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