When it comes to interior design, lighting is often an afterthought, and that seems a bit dull. In fact, it should be factored into the layout and décor scheme as early as possible! This is largely because when you’re outfitting a space, having proper lighting is a sure-fire way to add character and elevate its style.
With the right information, you can easily update a room’s lighting fixtures without breaking the bank or exerting too much effort. We’ve already shown you how to illuminate your home’s exterior, kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, and even those tricky underlit places. Now we share a guide on how to choose lighting for one of the most used spaces: the living room.
Read on for tips on finding the right type of light to fit your space’s purpose, style, and mood.
Pick a purpose
The first question you need to ask before you start picking out light fixtures is “why?” What are you trying to achieve with the lighting in your living room? Maybe you want to liven up the space with a little extra brightness, set a specific mood with ambient lighting, or simply want to add a statement piece of décor. Once you figure out the purpose lighting will serve in your living room, the rest of the process becomes easier.
A good idea when choosing lighting for your room is mapping out the intended layout and creating a blueprint of your current lighting. This will highlight where you have overhead fixtures, potlights, windows, and lamps so you can get a big-picture view of what’s already available to you. It can also help to take pictures of your space in the morning, afternoon, and evening so you know the areas hit with natural light and where you may need to make up the difference. This part also lets you know where you should, or should not, put things like a television or reading chair. Direct sunlight is great if you want to read a book in the afternoon, but not so great if you’re hoping to binge an entire season of something on Netflix!
Keep in mind, lighting doesn’t have to serve a singular purpose. It can be a multi-use fixture that adds to your room in more ways than one. For example, if you have a statement piece of artwork on your wall, using a spotlight or gallery lighting can call attention to this while also providing overall light for the room. Alternatively, you might not want pot lights shining directly down on you if the space will double as a home office, as this type of lighting is not the most flattering for people.
Know your layers
You’ve likely heard the words ambient, accent, and task in descriptions about lighting. These are the three layers of light you should consider. Layered lighting is key in bringing dimension and balance to a room.
Ambient, also known as general lighting, is what illuminates the overall room. Overhead lights are the most common fixtures for ambient/general lighting, but depending on the purpose of the room and your style preferences, you can opt for pendant or pot lights, ceiling fixtures, or chandeliers.
Accent, or decorative lighting, is what helps to create focal points in a room (typically this layer is brighter than ambient). Try directional spotlights, table lamps, wall sconces, picture lights, or LED track lights for under cabinets to brighten up underlit areas and place a focus on a specific object or furniture.
Finally, as its name indicates, task lighting is used to brighten spots where you perform certain tasks. Choose floor, desk, table, or sconce lamps for task-based lighting. If you’re using the lamp to read or perform activities that may cause eye strain, get a task light with LED bulbs–your retinas will thank you.
Find the right temperature
There’s more to bulb talk than LED and incandescent. First, you’ll need to determine how you want to feel in your living room. Your answer will help you figure out what colour temperature (measured in degrees Kelvin) you should try.
If you’re pining for soft, warm, and cozy, then you want a bulb with a colour temperature between 2,700K and 3,500K. This type of bulb will soften the atmosphere of the living room and make it more inviting.
For a brighter feel, try a bulb with 4,000K and 5,000K colour temperatures. This type of lighting works best for living rooms with neutral and cooler hues, like whites, greys, blues, and greens on the wall and furniture.
What if you want the “daylight” always radiating through your living room? Go for a full spectrum bulb between 5,000K and 6,500K. This type of lighting can be harsh, so it’s best to be used as a task light in areas of the living room where you do most of your work. When choosing the temperature of your light in one area, it’s important to consider the other rooms in your home. If you have an open floorplan where light from one room bleeds into another, try to stay consistent with the lighting colour—using cooler hues in the living room when the adjoining dining room uses warmer tones could appear disjointed.
Lighting stores are a great resource when trying to decide what colour temperature to choose. They can make recommendations based on your flooring, paint colours, natural light, and overall feel of the space. Those pictures you took during the initial planning stages of your lighting scheme will be of great use here, too.
Embrace the tech
Being able to control the level of lighting in your living room with the touch of a button is peak control. Whether it’s for aesthetics or functional reasons, installing dimmers can help set the mood, but it will also save you energy. You’ll just need to make sure the bulb you’re using can be dimmed.
You can also opt for Wi-Fi or Bluetooth-enabled smart lights. Once installed, you can control the lights with your phone or tablet from anywhere in and out of your home.
Whatever your purpose is for switching up the lighting in your home, you can find the style, fixture, bulbs, and tech to help you achieve your outcome. Adding lighting is not only a cost-effective way to make your living room look like it got a makeover, but it’s also a great tactic for staging a home. Strategically adding layers of light, including natural lighting, will help enhance key features of your home–and that’s appealing to more buyers if you’re in the market. If you’re ready to sell, but feel unsure about how to stage your space, you should get in touch with a REALTOR®.