We are IN LOVE with lighting this month, and we have recently written about all of the lighting basics you need to know in an article titled Lighting 101. If you haven’t read it…well why not?? Sign up for our newsletter to receive our featured articles and weekly inspirational kuotes (the sign-up is right there on the side nav guys!). Tangent aside, it’s important to read through Lighting 101 as we’re now going to dive deeper into lighting for interior design. As a designer, it’s not just the basics that you need to know. You need to know how lighting works in every room in the home, including all of the little nuances particular to specific rooms.
The Entryway or Foyer
Have you ever introduced yourself to someone only to discover, hours later, that there was something caught in your teeth the whole time? Have you ever been on a first date and thought: I got this, I’m hot… only to then trip over air and spill coffee all over your shirt? No? Only me? Well, the point is that first impressions are important, but they’re not always easy. Your entryway or foyer serves as the first impression of your home, so it’s vital that the lighting in this area is on point.
First, an ambient light source is required to make the entry of your home appear welcoming. Depending on the ceiling height, a large pendant or chandelier is our recommendation. Remember you’re making your first impression. Don’t choose the wrong size foyer light, and making sure your foyer light style is representative of your home’s aesthetic. If you need help, just check out our Chandelier Cheat Sheet! Lastly, a pair of buffet lights or a statement table lamp at a front console serves as a place to drop you keys when you arrive home.
Don’t forget about accent lighting! Accent lighting highlights art or architectural features for visual interest. One final tip: A stairway landing with a foyer table and a pair of matching lamps creates a lit focal point for your entry.
Pro Tip: Use a dimmer switch to always have appropriate mood lighting at your front door that isn’t too bright. If your foyer is more than one story, place a light switch on both floors so you do not have to run up and down the steps to control your entryway lighting.
Pro Tip: Place a large mirror behind an entry table to reflect light throughout the area, bouncing light into dark corners and any dead ends, like in the image featured above.
The Living Room
For many families, the living room is the most important part of the house. It’s where people tend to gather and engage in a variety of activities—from conversation to reading, to watching tv, to playing board games with a few friends. Unsurprisingly, the living room is a room that requires ambient, task, and accent lighting for balance and adaptability. Permanent ambient light should be on a dimmer and can be accomplished with fixtures (like a chandelier or ceiling mount), valence lighting built into the room architecture, or with track lighting that washes the walls and ceiling in light to create unified illumination. Placing lamps on end tables or floor lamps looking over a sofa makes it easy to read or use a laptop in the living room. The final layer of light should be accent lighting that brings out the design elements of your room. This can include downward recessed lights on statement decor or artwork, indirect light concealed behind crown molding or above casework, or even a light behind a chair to brighten a dark corner.
Pro Tip: If you’re starting a new home renovation, laying out your ceiling plan and your electrical plan is just as important as laying out your furniture plan. Often times, the best-designed homes are the ones where the lighting plan is designed along with the furniture plan so that there is cohesion in the complete design.
Pro Tip: We suggest to avoid downward recessed lighting for ambient lighting, as it draws the eye downward to the floor and your feet. Instead, bounce light upward and off the ceiling to match the tendency to perceive vertical planes (looking up). What are recessed lights fantastic for? As accent lights flanking the sides of a fireplace or showing off your wall art like in the photo below.
Pro Tip: Whenever you add accent lighting to a room, keep in mind that the focus of the light should be on the object you’re lighting and not the light source itself. Think like a magician. The object being lit is like the magician’s assistant, and the accent light is the trick. It should go unnoticed, practically invisible.
The dining room is one of the easier rooms to light because almost all dining room lighting is centered around the table. Start with ambient lighting, generally a chandelier or pendant hung directly above the dining room table. If you need help finding the right size chandelier for your table, refer to our Chandelier Cheat Sheet. Keep your ambient lighting on a dimmer for flexibility, using low lighting for dinner and parties and bright lighting for a homework station for the kids. Accent lighting can also be added to the dining room, like a pair sconces on either side of a painting or dining room console table. Love that table with acrylic chairs above? Not a surprise, so do we!
Pro Tip: Want to make your dining room a bit more modern? We love a kitchen island light fixture instead of a classic chandelier. Why? Not only is it edgy and in style, but it also better distributes light through the dining room due to its large rectangular house structure. Just check out the image above!
Unlike the dining room, the kitchen is one of the most complicated and difficult rooms to light because there’s so much going on. Handle ambient lighting first by centrally placing a ceiling-mounted fixture, a small chandelier, or a kitchen island chandelier or series of pendants. Make sure not to skip out on ambient lighting, or your kitchen design will be filled with shadows from all of the downward task lighting. Ambient light in the kitchen provides a soft, warm fill effect.
Most of our lighting strategy for kitchens, however, does concern task lighting. Think of all of the tasks you complete in the kitchen: cooking over the stove, washing dishes over the sink, chopping vegetables over the counter, eating at the breakfast nook (look at the breathtaking image below)…we could go on. For specific stations, like the sink, use pendant or recessed lighting to provide a strong downward task light that allows you to properly see what you’re doing. Most kitchens then use undercabinet lights to provide task lighting for the counter space. As a big midnight snacker, I’m also a fan of in-cabinet lighting, although it’s definitely not a necessity.
Pro Tip: For undercabinet lighting, use florescent lights instead of LED lights. Although they’re not quite as energy efficient, they provide a warm, diffusive, and dimmable lighting option instead of the harsh directional light of an LED that creates myriad shadows in your kitchen space.
Pro Tip: You might be thinking: Okay, but my kitchen doesn’t look like this. For an open concept kitchen where dining nook, kitchen island, and formal dining room lights are all visible, you have to up the ante on your design strategy. Our recommendation is to create a space that includes a dimmable chandelier over the dining table, pendant lights above the island, undercabinet lighting on either side of the sink as makeshift task lighting, as well as table lamps in the dining room. For open concept kitchens, accent lighting can also be useful: aim spotlights toward the ceiling for soft overall illumination. We pulled some designs, featured above and below, that we’re DYING over!
It feels like for each room we talk about, we say the same thing: Lighting is SO important in this space. But it’s true! And the bedroom is no exception. Almost all bedrooms include task lighting on the bedside tables, but we challenge you to make your lighting choices go further than that. Add task lighting on a dresser for a soft light when getting ready in the morning, or add accent lights to showcase works of art or photographs you keep in your room. Soft recessed lights can be great for overall illumination by bouncing lights off of the walls. If you choose a beautiful chandelier or wall mount, make sure that they are dimmable, otherwise your ambient lighting will cause harsh shadows and eye strain when you are in bed looking up at the ceiling. Side note: look at the beautiful image above, do you see what some subtle asymmetry can bring to a room?
“One look I really think is on-trend right now is bedside lights hung from the ceiling. We did this in our guest room and it turned out amazing.”
Two of the most important aspects of bedroom lighting are bedside lighting and closet lighting. For bedside lighting, the reader in me likes wall-mounted light fixtures with adjustable arms (or in a kids room, above each headboard) so that the light can be directed on the reading material. Regardless of what you choose, each bedside light should operate on its own switch, either directly on the fixture and with a two way wall switch accessible upon entering a room. For closet lighting, go with recessed lighting that will accentuate the vertical nature of your clothes hanging up.
For most, the bathroom is the where we get ready for our day. It’s the special place where we go to wash off, get ready, and prepare for the outside world. And for all of the selfie-takers out there, we know that lighting is crucial when it comes to looking at yourself. The key to bathroom lighting is balance. For your ambient light, make sure to use a dimmer switch; a bathroom needs to feel different depending on the time of day. In the morning, a bright light awakens and rejuvenates the body, but at night, a low soft light can provide a soothing, spa-like illumination.
The trickiest part of the bathroom is lighting the mirror. We always opt for triangulation: two sconces flanking both sides of the mirror like in the photo above (NOT just one, which we see all the time) to ensure the lighting on your face will be even. Then add a third sconce to the opposing wall to even out the ambiance. In general, use fixtures that move light upward and out instead of down and in.
Do you have any lighting questions you’d like us to cover? Ask your questions in the comment section below!