How-to Home Decorative Lighting Tips That Will Bring Out the Best in a Room’s Decor
Post updated: 10/8/2020
Since moving to the lake house, I have been slowly adding items to my living room, taking my time to add only what I like and is necessary to make the room perfect for the way we use the room.
Recently I added much needed comfy seating. Last week, I added the newest addition, a floor lamp to lighten up one of the dark corners in the room.
I actually bought two floor lamps since I couldn’t decide which one would not only look better, but provide the best light for the space. I had to see them in the room to make my decision.
I am sharing photos of both so you can see why I decided on one lamp over the other. (I love both)
Why You Should Care About The Right Lighting for a Room
Lighting a room is one aspect of decorating that many don’t place enough emphasis when planning out how to decorate a room. I am a little obsessed with getting the lighting in every room right.
Many years ago, I used to do home decorating consults. I would spend a few hours in someone’s home and help them find the best ways to use what they already owned and if needed, then help them choose new furnishings.
I noticed early on that no one seemed to care about their lighting. What they did care about was if they had a pretty chandelier or a trendy style of table lamp, but their rooms lacked ambiance, especially at night.
Talking about lighting became part of every consult I did. As it is much more than just a pretty light fixture.
The Different Types of Room Lighting
There are 3 different types of room lighting.
In this post I am going to show you easy ways to use these 3 levels of lighting in every room to create the perfect balance of Ambient(general), Accent and Task lighting. Each can effectively dramatically change the look and feel of a room.
Accent lighting is the most overlooked element in most rooms, but always the most dramatic as it draws your attention to a particular element or architectural feature.
When adding the lighting to the rooms in your home, many of us simply pick out a pretty lamp or fixture, screw in a light bulb and leave it at that.
But…. is that lamp, the shade and the lightbulb you added right for the room?
When the lighting is good and well balanced throughout a room, it can make all your decorating efforts look their best which is why I think it is so important and something every DIY decorator should care about just as much as choosing the right paint color or furniture.
Trying Out Two Different Lamps in My Living Room
Lamps are definitely a great decorating accessory, but function of a lamp, the wattage, shade (opaque or transparent), height and placement all play a key role in enhancing the beauty and comfort of your home, creating a mood, and helping you perform tasks easier.
- Think function before form when it comes to lighting.
I placed each lamp in the corner for a few days so I could see how it looked from all viewing angles and I also used it so I could see how much light it offered.
It was a tough decision, but I decided I liked the look and the light that the 71″ Adjustable Tripod Floor Lamp offered…
…over the smaller swing arm floor lamp which looks OK from this angle, but is too small and low to be useful.
The swing arm lamp is not adjustable and is too low and small in scale with the masculine recliner. It can only take a 60 watt bulb which is too dim, plus the construction of the pole is a little flimsy. If I move it to the side, the arm hits the wall.
I like both lamps, but the tripod lamp has more winning features. It is solidly constructed, adjustable up to 71″‘ high and can take up to 100 watt bulb that provides ambient light to the room, plus its size fills the corner and is in proportion with the size of the recliner.
The new floor lamp is not the only lighting in the room. It compliments the other sources and different types of light that are already present.
Like the overhead eyeball lights in the ceiling that can be either Ambient light that lights up the whole room in general when the eyeball is directed down.
If I change the direction of the baffle to face the fireplace, these ceiling lights become Accent lighting that brings attention to a focal point such as the decorations on the mantel.
In the opposite corner from the new floor lamp is a table lamp placed behind the sofa. It is on a dimmer, which makes it easy to read or can be dimmed when watching TV.
The last source of light to the room comes from the overhead ceiling fan with a light in the dining area of the kitchen.
Since we removed the wall between the two rooms to make an open concept space, this fixture plays a part in the living room. It is also on a dimmer switch so I can vary the amount of light when needed.
Pay Attention to the Color of Your Lamp Shades
One of my lighting tips is to make sure that all the white shades in the room cast the same color.
- A mix of whites and ecru in the same room can look off. Make sure that all the shades omit the same cool or warm color of light. The only variation you should see is if you have a lamp with an opaque shade. These can be added to the room as accents.
- I am in search for a new lamp shade for the lamp in the above photo. I have had it for about 8 years. Notice the inside of the shade is becoming yellowed with age which is effecting the color when the light is on. I want it to be very white so the light it emits is soft white light.
Room Lighting Examples
Here are a few of my favorite home lighting tips and tricks with easy to understand illustrations.
For instance, you may have a ceiling light in your bedroom that creates overall ambient light can sometimes be harsh. Try to create balance and a more cozy feel with bedside lamps that work as task lamps and may provide all the lighting you need in the room.
To add mood, add opaque shades to these bedside tables to cast the light down onto the table or your reading material.
To add drama to any room, place one or two can lights (uplights) on the top of hutches, shelving units or cabinets.
You can find them in the lighting department of any home improvement store for under $10.00. They can make a dramatic difference and one of the least expensive ways to add interest. See resources for these at the end of this post.
Inexpensive puck lights or stick on strip lighting can light up the inside of any cabinet. If you have glass shelves you will only need to add the light to the top – the light will travel through the glass.
Have you ever been in a kitchen at night that has under the cabinet lighting? It makes the kitchen seem so special and cozy. Puck lights and the strips work well here also if you don’t have any electricity. They make them for closets also.
Lighting Tips To Keep In Mind When Decorating
Ambient Lighting – Is general all-over lighting that has a shade to diffuse and soften the light.
Task Lighting – Task lighting does just that, it assists you while doing something. A reading lamp, an under the counter kitchen light, a desk lamp that is focused on your work surface so that it clearly illuminates what you are working on.
Accent Lighting – Accent lighting highlights something in a room. Directional ceiling lights, wall scones and picture lights attached above a picture frame, a can light on the floor that accents a plant or a piece of art
- Mix styles and heights – A center of the room overhead lighting fixture can cast harsh shadows around the room.
- Instead of relying on it to illuminate a room, add another source of lighting, such a table lamp. Every room should have at least three sources of lighting which should come from varied heights (ceiling, table lamp, floor lamp, or task) to assist in evenly dispersing the light throughout the room.
- Match shade color – Look at what color your white lamp shades cast when the light is on. Is it more ecru or white? Choose the color you like better and try to buy shades that will all cast the same color of light through the shade.
- The only exception is of course if you have one shade that is a color and/or a metal or opaque shade where the light is cast up and down and not through the shade itself.
- Use dimmers – If you are handy around the house and can install a dimmer on the wall switch that controls a light, do it. They are not expensive and allow you to vary how bright the light will shine with a simple dial, toggle or slide.
- For instance when cooking in your kitchen you may need a lot of light to see what you are doing, but when you sit down to relax and enjoy your dinner, being able to dim that light to eat in a more relaxed state can create a more pleasurable meal, especially if you like to add candles to your table.
- Same goes for a bathroom, having the light on a dimmer allows you to dim the lights to take a relaxing bath, but turn it all the way up when you are applying makeup.
- No electrical skills? You can use a plug-in style dimmer for any lamp that is plugged into a wall outlet. They cost about $13.00 and are simple to install and use.
- Create a triangle when placing fixtures around a room – When placing light fixtures in a room, I try to follow the triangle or square method of placement. For instance, in my living room I used a triangular pattern to disperse the light evenly throughout the space.
- Try out different styles, wattages, and types of light bulbs – I am a fan of 100 watt halogen light bulbs, but they are getting hard to almost impossible to find.
- I have tried many different types, some emit nice clear white light, others can be too blue or yellow. The color can make a HUGE difference in how your room’s wall and fabric colors look at night. Experiment until you find what brings out the best in your decor.
Try This Tonight
Why not take a stroll around your house tonight? Look to see if you have ambient, accent, and task lighting in each room.
- Is your light balanced throughout each room or is one corner or side in the dark?
- Move your lamps around, change the shades from transparent to opaque, experiment with different types of bulbs and wattage, place a lamp on a pile of books to create more height.
- How about adding a dimmer switch to a fixture. Did you know that even existing lamps that you own can have an easy to install dimmer socket added? You can buy them here:
- To find more lighting resources and ideas you can visit, The American Lighting Association’s website. They have many tips and ideas on all things home lighting.
My Lighting Sources:
Moss Spheres on coffee table