It’s amazing what lighting can do. It can transform a space. Bring good cheer. Create high drama. Even put you in the mood for romance. Of course, there are different types of lighting and they all have their place. When “layered” properly, lighting can elevate the look and feel of a living room from livable to luxurious.
Here are some living room lighting ideas to help you layer lighting like an interior design pro.
Types of Lighting
Interior design takes into account three types of lighting:
1) ambient lighting
2) accent lighting
3) task lighting
Ambient lighting is your "general” lighting or your main source of light. During the day, natural lighting provides the ambience. When it’s dark outside, light fixtures take over as your ambient lighting source.
- track lighting
- recessed lighting
- pendant lighting
- chandelier lighting
- flush/semi-flush mount ceiling lights
- ceiling fans with lights
One common mistake people make when it comes to lighting is thinking “one and done.” For example, you might have found the perfect chandelier, but that type of lighting is only one part of the three-part harmony.
A well-lit room layers ambient lighting with accent lighting and task lighting. This layered lighting approach not only makes life more comfortable, but it also helps you avoid dark corners and that “shadow effect” you get when light is not uniformly distributed throughout a room.
You can too can layer lighting like a pro.
Accent lighting—also known as directional lighting—is designed to illuminate objects and architectural elements worthy of special attention, including artwork, woodwork, pottery, sculptures, souvenirs and so on.
Picture lights, commonly used in museums and art galleries, are a great example of accent lights. What are some other types of accent lighting?
Under-cabinet lights show off countertops and backsplashes.
LED tape lights are on a roll these days as a cost-effective and flexible form of lighting that can be used in so many creative ways—everywhere from cubbies, shelves and cabinets to under kitchen islands to add a dazzling element.
Wall scones that bring a soft touch of light to overlooked covers and naturally “frame” certain elements of a room are another type of accent lighting.
Yet another essential element for properly layered lighting, task lighting illuminates areas to help you get the job done, so to speak. Whether you’re reading, crafting, or working on your laptop, lighting should meet your specific lifestyle needs. Examples of task lighting include pendant lighting, floor lamps, and table lamps.
NOTE: Integrating candlelight infuses a fourth layer of lighting to the scene. Try staggered candle holders for that much more interest. And if candles make you nervous, flameless candles are a wonderful alternative.
Living Room Lighting Inspiration & Ideas
Looking for some bright lighting ideas? Here are the top suggestions from our interior design team when it comes to achieving the best lighting for your living room space.
Add a Modern Touch
Even if you don’t have ultra-contemporary taste, modern lights for your living room can still look right at home. They can bring a light and fresh sensibility that’s always welcome. What’s more, modern lighting commingled with more traditional furnishings can be so interesting and eclectic—really adding personality to a space.
For a modern look, you might opt for:
Square shades and bases. Whether on floor lamps, table lamps or pendant lighting, it’s very hip to be square. The linear look is crisp, clean, sculptural—and simply striking.
Clear glass. Be it in your ambient lighting, accent lighting or task lighting, transparent glass is proving that less can be so much more.
Shiny metal surfaces. Whether you love high-sheen chrome-tone metal or that “tarnished” look that’s so in vogue, the glam factor of metal can really help your style shine.
Drum roll. Cylindrical drum shades on table lamps and floor lamps have always conveyed a clean, modern look. Pair with a round base…now you’re talking.
Additional living room lighting ideas:
Ample ambient. If you can, it’s always best to have two types of ambient lighting. For example, pendant lighting or chandelier lighting—in combination with recessed lighting—can ensure ample/well-distributed ambient lighting throughout your living room.
Off center. If you plan to install pendant lighting or chandelier lighting in your living room, don’t feel the need to center the light fixture in the middle of the room. To achieve the best lighting for your living room, pendants and chandeliers should actually be centered over your seating area. The result is a much more cozy and intimate mood.
High/low. If you have a high/vaulted ceiling, you can create an intimate atmosphere by ensuring your pendant or chandelier lighting is low enough to feel “part” of the room. With that said, an extension rod might be in order, as would an adapter if you have a sloped ceiling.
Mix it up. Mixing different shapes and heights of task lighting (e.g., floor lamps and table lamps) can really enhance the layered lighting experience.
Arc de triumph. Be it your budget or the fact that you’re renting a space, you might not be able to install ambient lighting. The next best thing, arc floor lamps that spread light beyond traditional floor lamps.
Create Visual Symmetry
The best lighting for your living room is a merger of form and function. And by form we mean the art of symmetry.
Symmetry can be as simple as flanking both sides of a sofa or loveseat with table lamps or a table lamp and floor lamp of like styles—or mounting a pair of wall sconces by a fireplace mantel. It’s a look that helps balance the room visually and evenly distribute light so that everyone in the room can enjoy just the right amount of light.
When it comes to bright lighting ideas, sometimes two is better than one.
Take Advantage of Natural Light
Some of us are lucky enough to have homes with great natural light. For those who have to work harder to achieve the best lighting for the living room, here are a few suggestions:
Sheer simplicity. If you must have window treatments, make them as sheer as possible, and opt for curtain rods that allow you to push the curtains to the side of windows to allow as much light in as possible.
Mirror, mirror. Incorporate lots of mirrors, including mirrors across from windows to grab and reflect as much natural light as possible. A full-length mirror between two windows is another great trick, since it “fools” the eye into thinking there’s another window there.
Full transparency. Opting for transparent types of lighting—whether ambient lighting, accent lighting or task lighting—helps lighten up a room in more ways than one, while letting a room’s natural light be the focus.