How to Light a Living Room the Right Way

Caged by Visual Comfort

Your living room is the greatest multitasker in the house. It serves as a place to gather a crowd for special occasions, a place to do homework on a weeknight, a place to read a book on Sunday morning, as well as a place to simply relax and watch TV. And while you’re doing all those things, it’s also a place to munch on your favorite foods.

As you can imagine, it can be challenging to light a room with so many functions. The room itself may even be divided up, which means you may need reading lamps for a cozy nook, accent lights for your shelf of family photos and a chandelier for your main seating area. Confused already? That’s okay. The following tips will guide you through how to light a living room you love to…well, live in.

How to Light a Living Room in 4 Easy Steps

Step 1: Determine your lighting goals.

The type of lighting you use in your living room depends on several important factors. Ask yourself these questions before you get too deep into the planning process:

1.     What’s the square footage of my living room?

2.     How will this room be used?

3.     Do I have artwork or architecture I want to show off?

4.     Is there a lot of natural light that comes in during the day?

5.     Do I want the luxury of adjustable lighting?

6.     Is energy efficiency a concern?

7.     What’s the overall design of my home?

Step 2: Put your general lighting in place.

Why?

General lighting includes the fixtures that provide the overall illumination for your room. In other words, you need general lighting. Not to mention, these are the pieces that primarily control the mood. Many even feature a dimmer switch, so you can adjust the level of lighting with the function of the room.

What?

The majority of general lighting will come from your ceiling lights. These are your chandeliers and oversized pendants. However, wall sconces and floors lamps can also provide ambient lighting in a large living room.

Where?

To get the most benefit from general lighting, you’ll install these fixtures overhead. Even wall sconces and floor lamps should be positioned well above eye level, so they are out of the way. You need to be able to navigate around them.

Step 3: Establish your task-lighting needs.

Why?

Once you’ve determined all the ways in which you do (or could possibly) use your living room, you can establish specific areas that need task lighting. Whether you’re reading, writing or reciting lines from your favorite TV show, task lighting will give you the direct light source you need to enjoy the moment.

What?

The best fixtures for task lighting cast light directly down. These are your floor lamps, desk lamps and pendant lights. You want your task lighting to be adjustable or, at the very least, portable. One more thing: Be careful of any table lamp or floor lamp without a shade, as these can easily create glare.

Where?

Glare is one of the main reasons it’s important to correctly position your task lighting. You’ll want to make sure there is no light shining directly on the screen of your TV. Of course, you’ll also want to put task lighting where you need it most: next to a comfy couch or on a desk in the corner. Establish all the places you’ll be performing a “task” in your living room.  

Step 4: Add accent lighting, as needed.

Why?

First and foremost, general lighting can’t do it all. While it will supply the majority of your living room lighting, you’ll need to fill in the voids with smaller – and, sometimes, more inconspicuous – pieces. That’s where accent lighting comes in.

Accent lighting is also the best way to draw attention to a particular point in the room. Whether it’s a textured brick wall or a family heirloom on display, use these focused fixtures to shine a light on what you love.

What?

There are a number of fixtures you can use as accent lighting. You may need only one type of fixture to get the job done, or maybe you need a combination. The most popular choices include:

  • Wall sconces
  • Track lighting
  • Table lamps
  • Hidden fixtures

Where?

Look around your living room. Wherever there are dark spots or unique features to highlight, there are opportunities for accent lighting.

Lighting Inspiration for Your Living Room Design

The general lighting will be the most impactful decision you make when figuring out how to light a living room. You have a lot of options when it comes to design style – from elegant traditional lighting to artful art deco. To help you narrow down the selection, we’ve curated 10 ceiling lights that are guaranteed to inspire you.

Here they are, broken down by design style:

Traditional

Crystal Cube Chandelier by Visual Comfort

Crystal Cube Chandelier by Visual Comfort

Looking for a little glam? Between the elegant curves and polished metallic finish, this chandelier delivers exactly that. You may also like the geometric accents, which add a modern edge.   

Jasmine Chandelier by Schonbek

Jasmine Chandelier by Schonbek

Your living room will fill with mesmerizing, rainbow specks, as light bounces off the chandelier’s prism droplets and shiny silver finish. The crystal embellishments and candelabra design scream classic traditional, but the overall design is simple enough for a modern space, as well.

Industrial

Dakota Chandelier by Crystorama

Dakota Chandelier by Crystorama

Though a versatile design, the Dakota is at its roots an industrial fixture. It comes in a rustic charcoal bronze finish that looks like it could have been pulled from a factory floor. Meanwhile, the exposed bulbs are arranged, so that they send light in all directions throughout your living room.

Divergence Pendant by Hubbardton Forge

Divergence Pendant by Hubbardton Forge

This abstract pendant light serves as, both, a wondrous work of art and a functional fixture. Its mixed metals are true to industrial chic, as are the filament bulbs. But you’ll love it in your living room, because it gets people talking.  

Mid-Century Modern

Tryst Pendant by Frederick Ramond

Tryst Pendant by Frederick Ramond

The Tryst will make your living room “sky” light up like the Fourth of July. Similar to an actual starburst, this sputnik pendant shoots light in all directions. Even a large room will be well-lit. Choose from the burnished gold for a warm, mid-century modern fixture or burnished nickel if you like more sheen.

Coronet Pendant by Maxim Lighting

Coronet Pendant by Maxim Lighting

Add sleek geometry to your mid-century modern home. If the intersecting rings don’t send you to the moon, maybe the satin brass finish will. It’s warm, neutral and elegant for all interior designs. This petite pendant could serve as the central piece in a small living space or as task lighting for your reading nook.  

Vey LED Chandelier by Elan Lighting

Vey LED Chandelier by Elan Lighting

The Vey chandelier was made for vaulted ceilings. Its nine-light LED design will fill your headspace, while providing bright illumination that won’t disappoint. Not to mention, the mix of quality materials and geometric intrigue make this an eye-catching sculpture in your clean, mid-century modern home.

Contemporary

Caged by Visual Comfort

Caged by Visual Comfort

Is it rustic? Modern? Is it contemporary? The Caged pendant is all of the above. Plus, it pairs well with other contemporary fixtures, which you may need to round out your living room lighting. While the natural paper cube shade is cool and contemporary, it softens the light behind it to create a warm, cozy glow.

Cityscape Pendant by Hubbardton Forge

Cityscape Pendant by Hubbardton Forge

If you’re lucky enough to have high ceilings and a large living room, you’re lucky enough to enjoy this oversized ring pendant. It sends light straight down, almost like a spotlight in the middle of the space. You’ll be able to make good conversation, read, or relax under the Cityscape pendant.

Zuma Chandelier by Frederick Ramond

Zuma Chandelier by Frederick Ramond

Dress up your main living space with the Zuma pendant. It’s as sophisticated and in-style as a little black dress, thanks to a sharp satin black finish and tantalizing gold fringe. The lightweight chains flow down like a captivating waterfall. Let them hang by your plush velvet sofa or winged-back reading chair.

Live in a Well-Lit Room

The living room wears a lot of hats and has the greatest potential for bringing people together. To make sure you get the most out of this multi-functional space, give it the smart, comprehensive lighting scheme it deserves. By following these tips, you’ll create an inviting space that you can live in for years to come.

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