The Right Lighting Can Make ALL the Difference 

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Light is the first thing you notice

Decorative lighting can change a room faster than almost anything else. It sets the mood instantly and catches the eye immediately.

Add in some style akin to a piece of sculpture in the space… that lights up and it will get noticed! 

But even during the day, its decorative feature will stand out (like the room above) because light fixtures typically are placed where they very visible. 

Choosing the right lighting is worth the investment knowing it can elevate your whole space.

And because there are so many options there is a price point for everyone.

Selecting the right fixtures means finding the right fit, function, finish, illumination, color temperature and style. And then getting the placement right.

That’s a lot to keep in mind but here are some designer tips on what to look for.

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The Right Light in The Right Place

a.k.a “Functionality”

There are three types of interior lighting depending on what your needs are in a space. So first identify what you need a light to do:

  • ACCENT LIGHTING

    Will bring beautiful things to life in your room from a gallery wall like above to architectural details, wallpapered ceilings, décor and collections.

  • AMBIENT (GENERAL) LIGHTING

    Is the main lighting and provides about 75% of the room’s light. Its job is to make it easy to walk into a space and navigate around it.  For larger rooms, it may it take several ceiling fixtures to light the whole room well.

  • TASK LIGHTING

    Will help you easily have the light you need for everyday activities – like reading, meal prep, or grooming. So plan your rooms to give you the lighting where you need it for the things you do daily.

    Using the right type of lighting makes your rooms easy to navigate, easy to do activities and best of all… beautiful!
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The Right Finish 

Try Two 

Be sure there are two that complement not only each other but your rooms’ overall color palette.

The room above is a perfect example of that. It has mixed finishes of matte black finish and a shiny chrome which are beautiful together. And they complement the room’s charcoal and white palette.

Two complementary finishes are more exciting than one and look more custom

Here are some favorite combinations I’ve found that work well together:

  • MATTE WITH SHINY 
    Like chrome and matte black
  • COOL WITH WARM
    Like satin nickel or matte black with satin brass
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The Right Style

Try Two

Two styles keep it interesting 
  • MORE THAN ONE STYLE DECOR?

    If you want your fixture to make a statement choose the style that juxtaposes it with the other style to make it stand out more. The room above does just that. It has mid century modern furnishings on the lower part of the room, and antique wall hangings in the middle that contrast with the mid century ceiling fixture.  

  • ONE IS BORING AND THREE IS CHAOTIC
    Have a pair of lamps in there somewhere if you have three or more lamps, (unless you are doing the highly mixed look of Bo-Ho).
  • OPEN FLOOR PLAN?

    Consider the fixture from all views to be sure it works with any other fixtures that can be seen at the same time. 

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The Right Light Color Temperature

Creates much of the mood

The color of your lighting has a big impact on not only how all the colors look in your room but the mood too.

Compare how a soft candlelight room looks and feels to a bright, cool looking space.

SOFT WHITE
2,700-3,000 Kelvin,  typical color range you’d have from an incandescent bulb.

WARM WHITE
3,000 – 4,000 Kelvin is best for kitchens and bathrooms

You can read more about light colors in my Choosing the Right Light Color Temperature blog.

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Room-by-Room Tips

Every space has its own needs and design opportunities

ENTRY

Your entry lighting fixture will immediately give your home a look and a feel so definitely play up your style here in your lighting choice.

Even if it means doing something simpler in secondary spaces like hallways or a mudroom or laundry.

The entry lighting helps set the stage for your whole home.

What you’ll want to consider in choosing the right one:

STYLE

  • It should reflect your living and dining room style it adjoins. 
  • If you’re choosing lighting for a dining room at the same time,  I try to find both before I commit since they often can be seen at the same time and they need to complement each other.

SIZE

  • Diameter:
    Add the room’s width and length, convert feet to inches for the diameter
  • Height: 
    The rule of thumb is a fixture should have 2 to 3 inches of height for each foot of ceiling height. For example, a 10-foot high entry ceiling would need a chandelier that is 20 to 30 inches in height.

PLACEMENT

  • Typically centered in the space
  • Hang the bottom of the fixture a minimum of 7 feet off the floor with an 8 ft. ceiling
  • For taller ceilings add 2-3 inches for every foot.
  • If a two story ceiling, hang at the bottom of the second floor so it lights the stairway well  
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Hallways

Lighting should be evenly spread and hallway well lit

Hallway lighting doesn’t have to be boring and common anymore. It can be simple, do its job well and still be a design asset in its own way.

Sometimes the light fixture is the only decorative piece in a hallway so make it count even if it’s simple in style

CEILING FIXTURES

  • Use a flush mount style if the ceiling is a standard 8 ft. 
    And a semi-flush on 9 ft ceilings.

SCONCES

  • Varies but a general rule is the middle of the sconce should be 60” above the floor.
  • If they are on both side of the wall alternate them unless you have an overly wide hallway
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Living Room

Consider mood and functionality

Your living room will likely have several lighting requirements to give it the ambiance and the functionality you want

Such as soft light for conversation or watching TV, brighter lighting for reading, and accent lighting for art, or an architectural feature.

Tips to guide you with common lighting needs in living rooms:

LARGER ROOMS

  • Place lamps in a triangle or a square so the light is evenly distributed.

CEILING LIGHTS

  • Should hang at least 7 feet off the floor at their base. 

READING 

  • Place a lamp behind every reader’s shoulder, about 48” above the floor

ACCENT LIGHTING

  • Major artwork will come alive at night when it is lit instead of receding into the shadows around the perimeter of the room .
  • The most effective accent lighting is a small can fixture attached to the ceiling that points right on the art or a halogen track light.
  • You will be unaware of the light source and only see your art beautifully highlighted.
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 Dining Room

One of the three most important lights in your home

Your dining room chandelier will stand out as much as your entry light and any living room ceiling fixture or large arched floor lamp. So it’s a prime place to make a design statement that can elevate your entire space.  

But getting it right is more than the style you’ll also need to make sure it
  • Fits your room size
  • Fits your table size and shape.
  • Is placed right

Tips to help you make a good choice for your dining room fixture:

DIAMETER

  • 1 foot narrower than the table

PLACEMENT

  • Bottom of fixture 30-36 “ above the tabletop in a room with an 8 ft ceiling
  • Centered in the room and over the table.

  • If a buffet makes the table offset, move the buffet and use it as a sofa back or entry piece.

  • Then add tall narrow plants in 2 corners of the dining room. In smaller spaces, use smaller plants on taller plant stands to control the width

SHAPE

  • Round fixture over a round or square table

  • Round fixture over rectangle table

  • Rectangle fixture over long rectangle table or several smaller round or square fixtures  

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BEDROOM

Mood and Function

There are so many choices now, the options can almost be overwhelming, but done right they are stunning!

The bedroom above has a feminine but dramatic vibe and the delicate sconces add just the right glam touch. 

HINGED ARM WALL SCONCES

  • Interesting new look
  • Make  good reading lights
  • A great solution if table space is limited

CHANDELIERS

  • Always a fabulous look if you have a 9 foot high or higher ceiling
  • Can be centered in the room or over the foot end of the bed
  • Keep any nightstand lighting fixtures very simple 

TABLE LAMPS 

  • Especially if you have a low modern bed it’s OK if the bedside lamps are higher than the headboard.  It just means you need something over the headboard to balance it out. 
  • Bedside table lamps should be 28-34” high. Not the smaller accent size lamps seen in many stores.
  • Be sure a too-short bedside table is not sabotaging your lighting efforts.

PENDANTS

  • A beautiful look, saves on table space although typically not suitable as a reading light.
  • Another great solution if your space is limited.
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 BATHROOM 

Multiple Lighting Needs

Bathrooms have several lighting needs and are there own specialty but here are common needs:

VANITY

  • To avoid heavy shadows on the face for grooming. place vanity lights on the side instead of overhead

SHOWER

  • Overhead lighting in the shower itself is always best.

TUB

  • A chandelier is a great look if you have a tall enough ceiling so the base of the fixture is not reachable when standing in the tub. This will vary by regional codes so check yours

    TIP
  • Include a night light.
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BONUS TIPS

For any room

LAYERED LIGHTING

  • Balance out overhead ceiling lighting with lamp lightings so it feels cozier,
  • Add accent lighting to artwork or a display shelf for interest.
  • Layered different lighting will add so much life to a space it will draw you in.

HIDING CORDS

  • In a great room where seating is not against the walls, run the lamp cords under the seating to hid them as much as possible.

DIMMERS

  • The first thing that people respond to in a room is the mood created by the lighting. So dimmer switches will give your spaces many moods and uses.  
  • For instance, a brighter light level in the bathrooms for grooming and low, spa-like lighting for tub soaking.
  • Brighter lights in the bedroom for dressing and reading and lower lights for TV watching or a romantic feel.
  • In general, lower light levels make a space feel cozy and brighter ones more spacious and vibrant.

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