Lighting is one of those areas of home decor that’s one of the most overlooked. Sure, people see lighting as a must-have, but more of a must-have because we can’t be living in darkness, than a must-have that gets your pulse racing like a velvet-trimmed cushion or a transfixing piece of art might.
Now things have changed somewhat in the last few decades. Lights have become much more of a statement in the home and designers have experimented with size, scale and shape, not to mention fabric and finishes. Yes, lighting has earned itself some serious design cred, but how do you find the best combination of light sources to create what interior designers call ‘layered lighting schemes’? Because when your lighting works at every level – literally – and balances form and function, that’s when your room can be totally transformed. Stuck for ideas? Let’s tackle living room lighting ideas first, with our top eight suggestions for how to illuminate it like a pro.
1. Create Ambience
Living room lighting ideas start with how to build mood and atmosphere. It’s a room that’s probably going to get used every day of the week and at morning, noon and night, so you’ll want a different level of ambience at different times of day. This is where the question of how to use your lighting matters as much as what you choose to use. Dimmers and lighting control systems are great ways to get all of your light sources to work together. Dimmers are easier and cheaper to install. In the day, you might want your room to feel alive and bright so you could have your living room ceiling lights on full, but a wall or table lamp dimmed slightly. In the evening, you can turn up the softer lamp light so it’s still illuminating the room but in a more soothing way than earlier in the day. A dimmer can do all of that for you. Lighting control systems will do the same, but mean you need to programme which lights you want on, at what time, and at what intensity. This way, you’ll have ready-made ambience waiting for you every day, finely tuned for every moment.
2. Layer your Lighting
This goes back to the point above about the interior designer’s layered lighting trick. Lighting is a brilliant way of creating texture in a room. If your living room lighting design stopped at ceiling lights or wall lights, it would feel flat. Even if your living room is on the smaller side, you need to bring in at least three different sources of light so there’s illumination at every level. Start from your ceiling by considering spotlights or chandeliers, working your way down to just above eye level with wall lights and then to table lamps, LED strip lighting along bookcase shelves, floor lamps and candles.
3. Choose a Centrepiece
Another living room lighting idea is to look at your scheme and choose one showstopper. You don’t want all of your light sources competing for attention. Think about your lighting alongside the rest of your living room’s interior design rather than in isolation, because you’re likely to have a furniture centrepiece (possibly the sofa or footstool) and one from the accessories side too (perhaps a rug or mirror above the fireplace). If you have multiple look-at-me lights too, the room will become overly complicated in a nanosecond. The goal is to enter and have your eye immediately drawn to one thing and then to easily move around the room to one or two other key points of interest. So choose your lighting one wisely – it’s going to get a lot of attention.
Image Credit: San Francisco Designer Showhouse
4. Make a Statement with Modern Lighting
On the subject of centrepieces, highly architectural or razor-sharp angled, modern living room lighting is a surefire way to get your lights noticed. Whether you decide to go for an oversized, low-hung pendant in the middle of your room or an avant-garde table lamp, new-age lighting is as good as art. That’s two interior design boxes ticked in one swoop.
Image Credit: Elicyon
5. Illuminate dark living room corners
Dark living room corners usually sound like a bad thing – but not always. In a living room, a dark corner can be the perfect excuse for styling out a cosy reading nook. Find an armchair that suits your scheme and then think about a floor lamp that you can prop just behind, or one with a base that’s designed to tuck underneath so the shade sits right above your seat and your book is in the spotlight. Who says lamps can’t be task lights? Plus, when you’re not with a book in hand, you can use it to highlight your gorgeous armchair so it becomes even more feature-worthy.
Create a cosy reading nook with a favourite chair and a stylish floor lamp.
Image Credit: Greg Natale
6. Use Sculptural Sconces
Sconces (or wall lights) – call them what you will, but what once began in medieval times as a holder for placing your flaming torch to guide you up the stairwell is now some of the best lighting for living rooms. Much like how you can use ceiling lights and lamps as decorative accents, sculptural wall sconces can achieve as much aesthetic appeal as a framed piece of art. Designers like Kelly Wearstler and Arteriors are two of our go-tos for elegant and evocative creations.
A smart wall light is the perfect solution to smaller spaces like hallways and powder rooms or place one on either side of an art canvas to draw focus.
Image Credit: Light On White
7. Keep it Simple with Contemporary Lighting
If you’re finding that your lighting choices are getting carried away with themselves, reign it back in by swapping some of your options for more pared-back contemporary designs. While contemporary living room lighting can be quite daring and boundary-pushing, a large amount is understated and of the less-is-more school of thought. Simple doesn’t have to mean boring though. Look out for classic shapes like circles or slim rectangles but in contemporary finishes and materials like marble, brass or matte black steel. Look at Kelly Wearstler again here – her Melange flush ceiling light and matching sconce are the perfect examples of refined and subtle contemporary living room lighting.
8. Light your Wall Art
Much like how you can use a floor lamp to illuminate a favourite armchair, the same can be done by downlighting artwork. Do as the galleries do and use a specific picture light that’s designed to cast the beam downwards but in a controlled way (hence the shade) to stop it scattering. Lighting your wall art is best for oils or canvases though. Anything framed within glass won’t work as the glass will reflect the light source and make it harder to see the art – the opposite of what you want. If you’d rather light your art in a way that’s less traditional, go for a wall light with a downcast shade that can be angled like this one by Aerin. You could even put it on the top left or right corner of the art and twist the shade to throw the light diagonally across – if you’re somebody who likes to do things differently…