Modern lighting designers describe four or five types of light. These definitions are useful to us as we try to recreate the atmosphere of an old house.
Ambient light is all around us, is not from an obvious source and is so soft that it creates hardly any shadow. Daylight, or diffused sunlight, is the most obvious source. For the period house-owner, it is a good base which can be supplemented with candles or electric lights which perform another role such as task lighting.
To add ambient lighting, use uplighters or hide lights above cupboards. These lights should be dimmable.
Accent light complements ambient light by adding interest. It is very directional and focused over a small area. Use it to highlight features such as pictures, objects or a feature such as a cornice.
Use task light wherever and whenever you are doing something - reading, cooking, studying, washing and so on. As with accent light, it is highly directional and focused over a small area. The difference is that the source of the light should be hidden with a shade to prevent glare.
Decorative light is light where the subject is the light fitting itself - a sparkling chandelier or a beautiful Tiffany-style shade, for example.
Some specialists also highlight the role of moving light, provided by candles or a real fire. Performing both accent and decorative lighting roles, it adds interest to a room. For the period house owner it can create atmosphere.