Illuminated Interiors: A Room-by-Room Lighting Guide
Although it's tempting to spend more time picking out color palettes and furniture layouts, it's important to remember that lighting can totally transform a space. Interior designers often refer to lighting as the 'jewelry of the home' as it creates the perfect opportunity to put the special, finishing touches on a space and pull it all together.
From the fundamentals of light layering to hand-selected product picks, our room-by-room guide will help you choose the best lighting fixtures that will not only brighten your space but also create a cohesive balance in your design.
But first, let's go over a few lighting basics:
A common lighting mistake people make is relying on a limited range of lighting types and unfortunately this never creates a pulled together look. In order to get a beautiful and balanced result, you need more than one source of light in a room.
Every room should have a mix of lighting types, including ambient, accent and task lights. All three work together to serve practical and mood-setting purposes.
Also known as general lighting, ambient light fills and brightens the majority of the room and is simply used to make an interior space visible overall. This is anything from natural light from windows to recessed lighting, track lighting, or wall fixtures.
Accent lighting is used to accentuate a particular focal point, such as a piece of wall art. It helps add visual interest to an object or area in a space and gives it that extra special something. Picture lights, wall-mounts or floor lamps are great options, and remember to use dimmers where possible to create dramatic mood lighting.
As the name suggests, task lights are used to assist you in completing a particular function and are directed toward a specific area to give more detail. This could be anything from desk lamps to pendant lights over a kitchen island. Any close-range work such as cooking, sewing, reading, and writing should have task lighting.
A Better Bulb
For a warm, welcoming light, go with 2,700 to 3,000 kelvin, usually called “warm white.” The higher you go in the color temperature range the more blue is introduced ("daylight" bulbs), and you run the risk of a caustic, harsh light that gives a sterile look to the room. Also, whenever you are using a shade whether it’s on a lamp, a sconce or a chandelier, use soft-white or frosted bulbs to eliminate the unflattering shadows created by the shade clip.
The direction your room faces plays a critical role when making your lighting selections. For example, if you have a north-facing room without any direct sunlight, a thorough lighting scheme and bit of thoughtful planning are required.
In the north-facing living room pictured, large windows and skylights generously bathe the room in as much natural light as possible.
Sum it Up
With all the incredible lighting options it's easy to get swept up in design and overlook one of the most important factors in the selection process: The size of your space and the scale of the lighting fixture. Fortunately, there's an easy formula for determining the right diameter. Measure the length and width of the room and add those two numbers together. Next, convert the sum from feet to inches. For example, if the room was 10 ft. x 14 ft., 10 + 14 = 24, so your fixture should be 24 inches in diameter. However, when centering the fixture over a piece of furniture, you’ll measure the length and width of that specific furnishing instead of the room as a whole.
Now that you have a few of the fundamentals, let's explore lighting design in a bit more detail:
Room-by-Room Lighting Guide
The living room is one of the most active spaces in a home and your lighting needs to keep up with the variety of activities that occur in this space. The easiest way to add ambient light in the living room is with ceiling lighting. A large pendant, chandelier and semi-flush mount ceiling light will all function similarly while creating a dynamic and interesting focal point in the room.
A table or floor lamp should be placed next to a couch or lounge chair to cast light directly on whatever you need it to. If you are short on space, an arc floor lamp can be placed behind the sofa, or, you can opt for an adjustable wall sconce to provide the same function while keeping the floor and side tables clear.
Track lighting is an excellent choice for the living room as it can highlight fireplaces and other architectural details. Wall sconces are also great here as they not only round out the overall light in the room but can double as wall art.
Dining rooms provide the perfect opportunity to go bold and bring the drama. As dining rooms are typically small and the lighting is the focal point of the room, it's a good use of the design budget to invest in an amazing, high-quality statement fixture.
Consider the architecture of your home and shape of your table when making your selection. For example, if you have a round table, a globe or circular fixture fits nicely, however, as you can see in the dining room pictured mixing it up creates an exciting contrast.
And as with most rooms, installing a dimmer is a must for creating a soft glow and setting the mood.
The kitchen is a place where functional light is more important than ambience. This is where general and task lighting really need to shine so-to-speak, as this space requires a good balance to help you accomplish a wide variety of tasks.
From meal prep and cooking, to work and schooling, the kitchen is undeniably the hardest-working room in the home. A solid combo of recessed lighting, pendants over the island, and under-cabinet lights will make sure it’s properly illuminated for any function.
Recessed lighting is the most popular go-to for ambient kitchen lighting as it provides an even and more customizable lighting scheme. And if you’re worried about it being overly bright or harsh, you should add dimmers to give you a range of lighting scenarios.
Let's talk lighting over the island. Pendant lights are the perfect way to make a beautiful statement and add a wow-factor to the space. You'd be amazed at their ability to transform a kitchen from so-so to showstopper.
Extra tip: Pendant lights should be placed at least 30-32 inches apart and 30-36 inches above, with a minimum of six inches from the edge of the island.
To help with the shadows that general ambient light can cause, under-cabinet task lighting will illuminate work surfaces and cabinetry so you can easily read recipes, make lists and prep meals.
Strip lights and puck lights are great options.
Often an under-prioritized space, the bathroom deserves just as much attention to detail as the other areas of the home. A thoughtful balance of ambient, task and accent lights in the bathroom lighting design is absolutely vital in achieving a beautiful and functional space. With all the bathroom lighting options available, it can be difficult to know where to begin, so here's a suggestion: start at the top and work your way down from there.
Good lighting options for the bathroom ceiling are flush mount fixtures or recessed lighting for overall brightness. Next, you’ll want to decide between a fixture above the mirror or sconces flanking either side. You might also consider under-cabinet lighting for the vanity or for a space-saving option, go for lighted mirrors.
And don't forget to light the shower and bathtub spaces!
To create a romantic and luxurious vibe, consider installing a sculptural pendant lamp or a chandelier above the tub as seen in the gorgeous bathroom pictured here.
Finally, dimmers are a must to create a relaxing, spa-like retreat.
Extra tip: be sure to choose frosted or opaque bulbs - clear bulbs can create unflattering shadows.
The bedroom is unique in that we spend our time in it when it is completely light, dark and everything in between. The bedroom lighting scheme will have to accommodate the variety of lighting needs that occur from dawn till dusk.
To begin, start by building your lighting foundation with ambient lighting.
For activities that require a more focused light such as reading in bed, task lights in their many varieties will fit the bill. Directional wall-mounted sconces, low hanging pendant lights and table lamps just to name a few.
Bedroom accent lighting can pull double-duty as it can both be used to highlight features within the room and the subtle glow it provides on its own can act as ambient lighting in the evening. Wall sconces on dimmers are a perfect choice and you can always take the cozy atmosphere up a notch by adding a few candles.
Extra tip: Choose warm-colored bulbs. Blue-toned and bright white lights increase alertness and suppress the production of melatonin, they're not an ideal option if you’re trying to relax or fall asleep.
Outdoor lighting is not just for dining alfresco, it also provides safety and security. For general, ambient lighting look to overhead styles like all-weather ceiling lights and hanging pendants inside outdoor structures like covered patios.
One of the most versatile options in exterior lighting is an outdoor wall sconce.
The fixture itself can add visual interest, and you can choose styles that provide uplighting, downlighting or both.
They work well when used in combination with ceiling lighting to fill in gaps in illumination, and look especially great when flanking the front door as seen in the modern farmhouse design pictured here.
For additional style and safety, pathway lighting is not only very useful but makes an impressive statement. Whether they are lining the driveway or creating an illuminated trail to your front door, path lights are where function and form meet. Ground lights, too, can be used to highlight landscaping features such as uplighting trees and plants or spotlighting an outdoor fountain. And don't forget the accent lights- this includes fun options like outdoor lanterns, string lights and if you have pool, opt for floating lights!
A common question from clients is, "Do my exterior lights need to match?" It is ultimately up to your style preference, however a cohesive design creates a pulled together, unified look. Fortunately, many lighting manufacturers have design style collections, making it easy to choose from curated products designed to go together.
Any experienced interior designer will tell you that a solid lighting plan is essential when you’re decorating a space, and when done well, it creates the right atmosphere to truly make your design shine.
Do you need help planning your lighting design? From a whole-house lighting scheme to personalized product picks, Spaces by Juliana offers online design services and consultations that will help you get your lighting game on point. Contact us today, we'd love to hear from you! And don't forget to subscribe for the latest in interior design trends, tips and tricks!
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