Bold and Bright:
How to Choose the
Perfect Home Lighting
Decorative lighting adds beauty to your home, but lighting is more than embellishment – its function is important too. From brightening up a reading nook or kitchen island with task lighting to setting a relaxing tone in your bedroom with sconces, you can make spaces more functional and transform the atmosphere with light fixtures. Lighting isn’t all about illumination – the fixtures themselves contribute so much to the way each room feels. Create your personal blend of home lighting fixtures in a way that’s authentic to your style and helpful for everyone in your home.
Bright Basics for Home Lighting
Before you pick out specific fixtures, start by creating a plan. It helps to assess which rooms’ lighting you want to change. Ideally, your lighting design will provide enough illumination for room-specific activities, like reading, cooking, crafting and relaxing. If there are any rooms in the house you feel could be brighter, add those to your plan.
Wattage (for incandescent bulbs) and lumens (for CFLs and LEDs) are important measurements to consider for each room. Stick with a range of 30–60 watts per square foot depending the level of brightness needed. For example, if your room is 360 square feet and you want your lighting bright for reading and crafting, you’ll want at least six 60-watt or 800-lumen bulbs in the space. You can also split that up into a combination of different wattages throughout the room, or you can opt for lower total wattages for a subtler look. If you want some versatility, install dimmer switches or use a variety of different light fixtures.
Ultimately, a blend of options lets you customize light, which is beneficial in spaces like bedrooms, living rooms and dining rooms where you may want to set different moods. In a 200-square-foot bedroom, you might have a ceiling fixture with two 60-watt bulbs and two table lamps with 25-watt bulbs on your bedside tables. Having lights at different heights makes lighting design more versatile and attractive, too. Take a look at some options to start identifying what you prefer.
Task lighting provides a small pop of bright light in a specific area, such as on the surface of a table. Because these light fixtures provide directional rather than ambient light, it's wise to use task lighting for desks, kitchen counters, reading nooks and other work areas where you need to see something specific or detailed.
Desk lamps with adjustable necks are some of the most recognizable types of task lighting. These desktop task lamps work well on bedside tables and desks, but their function goes beyond surface space. Opt for ceiling-mounted track lights or spotlights that still let you angle the fixture’s light beam in a specific direction. Wall-mounted and freestanding floor lamps and task lights with adjustable arms can meet your moderate-brightness lighting needs.
Track lights are one type of ceiling lighting, but classic flushmounts and practical recessed lighting – which sits inside the ceiling itself with little or no protrusion – are also common. Flushmounts are often made from simple ceramic or glass, but they can have a glamorous, modern or traditional design. These practical light fixtures are often found in kitchens and bathrooms, but some homes feature them in every room as a base light fixture. Track lights and recessed lighting are common types of ceiling lights in kitchens and dining rooms, but they also work well in different areas of the home – particularly in rooms that need a bright wash of ambient light, like a playroom or home office.
As one of the most iconic and glamorous light fixtures, chandeliers are a great choice for both form and function. The signature multi-arm or multi-tier structure efficiently lights the space, and looks great while doing it. Pendant lamps offer a similar look and feel to chandeliers, but without the multi-arm design. Both types of these hanging light fixtures usually offer adjustable height customization. This is a helpful design feature in dining rooms and kitchens to direct light purposefully while remaining unobtrusive in a workspace.
Chandeliers and pendants come in a range of materials, from ornate crystal to sleek metal and even natural materials like wood or rope. Their design structure can take a modern or traditional form depending on how materials and elements are used. Thanks to this versatility, they work in virtually any room of the house where you want a statement piece – even entryways and bathrooms.
These dramatic light fixtures make a design statement, and the size you choose plays a big part. The ideal chandelier size is highly variable based on placement, but as a general guide, size your chandelier based on the combined length and width dimensions of your room converted into inches. For example, if your room is 15' wide by 15' long, a chandelier with a 30" diameter will fit nicely.
Walls are a common place to install lighting, especially if you want to add a dramatic up- or down-lighting effect. Sconces can be dramatic, artistic, utilitarian or minimalistic depending on the design you prefer and how you install the fixture. Sconces found in the bathroom are usually installed above or next to a mirror to provide direct light that shines on your face. They can also provide elegant ambience in a dining room, living room, hallway or entryway. A swing-arm sconce over a bed provides a handy reading light that moves flush against the wall at bedtime.
Depending on the shape and style you select, your wall sconce can provide ambient or focused light. Sconces with shades directed upwards are ideal for ambient light because they reflect light off the wall and ceiling. Sconces with shades that direct light downwards work well as task lighting because they illuminate a specific area, such as a desk or dining room buffet table.
Sometimes lighting is more decorative than it is functional, but it still meets several important needs in your home. This can be true of accent lamps, but they can still pack a useful punch, particularly in rooms where you want lower light. Decorative, freestanding accent lamps often have a sculptural quality that draws the eye and makes a statement, and they're particularly effective at providing a soft glow. Leave an accent lamp illuminated while watching a movie in an otherwise darkened living room as a way of providing some mood lighting.
The accent lamp you choose might primarily be a piece of decor. Many accent lamps reflect a motif or design idea that enhances a specific room in your home, almost like a work of art. Accent lighting can be quite useful once the sun goes down, too. Outdoor lighting like string lights can stretch across a room or patio space to bring in a romantic wash of low light, just enough to let party guests see each other smiling during conversation. During daylight hours, these accent string lights bring a charming, decorative feel similar to that of a garland.
Lighting You’ll Love
Great lighting design is all about balance! Light fixtures might have specific jobs, but they also enhance the look and feel of a room even when they’re not switched on. When you shop for a light fixture, focus on your home’s existing style or pick out new design elements to give your place a subtle makeover. The way you arrange your lighting design can also give your home a completely new feel. By focusing on utility too, you add new brightness to your living space in multiple ways. Ultimately, the way you choose to combine and balance these elements is up to you, so have fun creating a home lighting design you love.