Living rooms require three types of lighting: ambient, task, and accent. Ambient light provides a room with overall illumination, task lighting directs light to certain work zones, and accent lights highlight specific objects. Within those basic requirements are a world of options. Whether you want something fun like this room from Jonathan Adler, or something more subdued, there’s a virtually endless supply of living room lighting ideas for every taste and setting.
A Robust Assortment
A mix of different types of lighting, placed at different points in the room, is essential for creating a proper living room lighting scheme. While the first thing you tend to see in this room in London’s Cheyenne Terrace is the central statement fixture, there are also three table lamps, one-floor lamp, five pot lights, and an accent light in the ceiling on the window side of the room. They all combine to create a layered and robust lighting scheme, free of shadows.
Two in One
When it comes to overhead (ambient) lighting, it’s always a great idea to use two different kinds. In this elegant living room by Su Hodges Interiors, pot lights provide the majority of light (which is spread across the ceiling), while a transitional hanging fixture emphasizes the seating area in the center of the room.
In a large room, a single overhead fixture may not be enough. In most cases, pot lights are a good solution, but if recessed lighting isn’t for you there is another possibility. Consider hanging multiple fixtures throughout the room, like designer Kari Wilbanks did here. They key to making this look work is to stick with fairly simple fixtures that have clean silhouettes, and to hang them on a grid rather than in random spots throughout the ceiling.
Lighting around the perimeter of a ceiling can provide accent light as well a unique detail not common to most living rooms. Not only does the accent light in this room from Creative West Architects accentuate the architectural details of the ceiling, but it adds an aura of elegance to this sophisticated space. When it comes to living room lighting ideas, don’t be afraid to think outside the box.
Consider an Arc
No ceiling lights? No problem! You can still create a central light source with an arc floor lamp. The arcs on these types of lamps are generally fairly high, ensuring that no one will bump their heard when walking underneath, but considered placement is still important. Keep in mind that these lamps are quite modern and work best in contemporary settings.
Make a bold statement with unique sconces. The modern sconces in this room by Disc Interiors are adjustable, allowing the user to change the size, as well as where the light is being directed. Even more importantly, they provide a unique, sculptural element that sets a modern tone for the space.
Including accent lights in built-in shelving is a great way to highlight special objects and accessories. In this room from Juliette Byrne, the eye is immediately drawn to the lit up shelves, making for a bright and beautiful focal wall.
While it’s nice to have an end table at both ends of a sofa, it isn’t always possible (or preferable). When this is the case you can still have visually balanced task lighting by using a table lamp on one side and a floor lamp on the other, as seen here in this photo courtesy of Barbara Brown Photography. This way people sitting on both sides of the sofa get an equal amount of light.
Mix and Match
Living rooms require a lot of different light sources, but there’s no rule saying they all have to match. Notice in this room by SFA Design that the chandelier and sconces are classic, but the table lamps are modern. Mixing old and new is a great way to give a room a real sense of character and personality, so don’t be afraid to mix styles and eras.
Hang a Statement Fixture
Living rooms with high ceilings can be difficult to decorate and to light. In order to make the most of the high ceiling consider a large central fixture in a take-notice style. The key to hanging fixtures in rooms with high ceilings is to make sure they are low enough that they feel like they’re part of the room and you don’t have to strain your neck to look up and see them. The Sputnik chandelier in this living room by Robert Dana Design is large enough and low enough that it feels like a part of the seating area.
Maximize Space and Function
Combing a light fixture with a ceiling fan can be a great way to maximize space and function. While ceiling fans are certainly not as popular as they once were, in warmer climates they are sometimes necessary. Rather than trying to overdo it and installing both overhead lights and fans, consider two-in-one options to maximize space. In this mid-century modern room, the old-fashioned ceiling fans fit right in.
Highlight Architectural Details
Highlight architectural details with recessed or strip lighting. In this living room by K2 Design, the exquisite coffered ceilings are accentuated by accent lighting which calls attention to their beautiful details.
Think Beyond the Room
When thinking about living room lighting you have to also think about how it connects to other spaces. This upstairs room by CWB Architects has a staircase behind the sofa, with pendants hanging over it to provide light. The designers chose simple globe pendants which don’t just light the staircase, but also play a decorative role in the living room.
Trust Your Instincts
When it comes to living room lighting the most important thing to do is have a little fun and trust your stylistic instincts. While the lights in this room from Jonathan Adler are all a little wild, they work together beautifully as part of this fun, eclectic room.