Lighten Up! 7 Tips for Choosing Interior Lighting Like a Pro

Posted by Laine Smith on 2/16/16 6:09 PM

Topics: Home Ownership

Proper interior lighting is an art. Even the most expensively decorated room can feel drab without sufficient lighting. From chandeliers and table lamps to recessed ceiling fixtures and natural sunlight, here’s a list of the best tips for lighting your home like you hired an interior designer.

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Layer It


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First off, you need to layer several of the four lighting types to achieve the best effect:

  • Ambient – is overhead lighting that is indirect and evenly illuminates the entire room (i.e. natural light and overhead fixtures)
  • Accent – is used to highlight a specific feature, like a fireplace or piece of artwork (i.e. track lights or adjustable recessed lights)
  • Task – is concentrated lighting that is meant to be functional (i.e. a table lamp next to your reading chair)
  • Decorative – is lighting in which the fixture is the focal point of the room (i.e. a statement chandelier or pendant)

Not every room needs each type of lighting but a mixture helps create function and visual interest throughout.

Make Your Table the Brightest Spot of Your Dining Room


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A chandelier or pendant above your dining room table draws guests in. When choosing a fixture, aim for one that is one-half to three-quarters the width of your table. For hanging height, a lower-hanging fixture is more intimate and a higher-hung fixture feels more on the formal side.

Use the Right Amount of Wattage

A general rule of thumb for calculating how much wattage is needed for each room is to configure the square footage of a room and multiply by 1.5. For instance, a room that is 225 square feet needs at least 337 watts to ensure a sufficiently lit room. Remember, the watt estimation isn’t meant to be used in one fixture; layer!

Add Bathroom Task Lighting


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A common bathroom lighting mistake is solely using a downlight over the sink, which casts shadows and is overall inefficient for tasks like shaving or applying makeup. Flank your bathroom mirror with sconces at eye level to provide even light distribution.

Dim It Down

You can make do with what lighting sources you currently have by installing dimmers. It’s a fairly simple DIY job and a breeze if you want to hire an electrician. Not only do dimmers allow you control the illumination and overall mood of a room, but they save energy and extend the life span of bulbs.

Add Warmth & Practicality to Your Kitchen


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The kitchen is the heart of the home, a gathering place and a place for function. This means that your lighting sources need to create a practical workspace and a spot for entertainment. Task lighting is essential beneath your overhead cabinets and your kitchen island, so invest in under-cabinet strip or puck lights, a pendant over your island and table lamp (away from any water sources, of course).

Spread Out Your Wattage

Another common lighting mistake is trying to use one or two ultra-bright ceiling fixtures to illuminate an entire room. The result is an abrasive effect and a cast of shadows and glare. Spread out your minimum necessary wattage through each type of light source.

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