Talk to any designer, and they’ll tell you the biggest mistake people make when decorating their homes is lighting. You most likely need more living room lighting than you think. The rule of thumb is to have at least 7-13 sources of light in a room, with a mixture of task, ambient, and accent lighting. And of course, the larger your room, the more light sources you need.
Living Room Lighting Basics
You’re most likely starting with a couple of ambient light sources — base lighting like an overhead fixture or canned lights and track lighting. Overhead light sources, especially canned lights and track lighting, get a bad rap but they are important elements in your room. Bad overhead lighting can read clinical, unflattering, and even jarring (nothing you want in your living room), but there are two easy fixes!
- Use the Right Lightbulbs — we recommend 2700 kelvin lightbulbs which are the perfect ‘warm white.’
- Put Your Ambient Lighting on Dimmers — It’s important to be able to control the amount of light your room is getting. This way, you can brighten or dim your overhead fixtures depending on the task or mood you’re looking to set.
Table lamps and floor lamps are a no brainer for living room lighting, not only because they’re a decorative element for your side table or console table, but because they add light in different corners of your room. In a well lit room, you’ll have an overall brightness to the room (provided by your ambient light), plus light in darker corners that draw your eye around the space and create a warm glow.
The most complicated part of shopping for a lamp is deciding on the lampshade. Selecting the right lamp shade comes down to two things — size and material. The height of the lamp shade should be 2/3 the height of your base, and the width of the shade should be double the width of your base.
The material of your lampshade can have a big impact on the amount of brightness your lamp gives off — a darker fabric or a gold lining will cast less light around the room than a white linen shade.
Sconces are a great addition to your living room lighting for several reasons.
- They cast light at the perfect height (about eye level) which is the most flattering light you can add to your space.
- They don’t take up table or floor space, so you can bring light to corners of your room that are short on space or feel too empty.
- They’re a great substitute for wall art. Rather than finding a piece of art for an empty wall, consider adding a pair of sconces.
We also love using picture lights to add an extra layer of light to a room and to bring presence to special artwork. Not every piece of art needs a wall light, but if you want to create a focal point or really draw attention to something you love, a picture light is a great way to do that.
Of course depending on the room, you may need to add task lighting. Think of task lighting as directional light focused in a particular spot where you’ll be doing something, like a floor lamp next to a reading chair. If you do like to read in your living room, you’ll want to add a lamp next to your favorite reading spot.
A floor lamp with a metal shade that will cast light downward is a great option because it’ll really focus that light down onto your page.
We love adding lighting in unexpected ways. Consider putting small mini lamps in spaces you wouldn’t normally consider, like in a bookshelf.
Candlelight is a great way to bring warm lighting into your room, especially during darker months or when you want a space to feel festive. LED pillar candles are great for convenience or go old school with tapers in a fabulous pair of candlesticks.