The task of lighting a room can be complicated and difficult. If you're feeling stuck, you've come to the right place. We'll provide your inspiration through our 10 living room lighting ideas. This should simplify your task and make the final decision(s) easier. After all, why shouldn’t a room have both flair and function?
Today we are going to talk about the four lighting types, how to find the best one for a living room, and then our 10 ultimate living room lighting ideas. Our hope is that you’ll come away not only with our ideas, but also with a few of your own!
Layer the light
This idea may seem a no-brainer, but because it’s so useful, it bears repeating. It’s no secret that our living rooms hold the widest variety of activities out of any room in the house, rivaled only by the kitchen (especially if it doubles as a dining room). To layer the light, you combine different types of light for the various purposes they will serve in your living room.
A practical application for a small room might include a chandelier overhead, a tall floor lamp in the corner that aims at the ceiling, a desk lamp in the corner for working on homework, table lamps on either side of a couch by the wall, an LED strip light behind the TV, a plug-in light at the outlet closest to the light switch, and a small spotlight in the closet.
Splash some color in
Whether the color comes from your decorative light source, paint on the walls, or the bulbs themselves, this addition can really make a living room really feel like home. The right touch can really change your mood for the better. (Pro tip: cast colored light in certain areas to create a special glow).
Use a mirror or two
Mirrors are a great addition to your living room because they add an extra brightness through the light they reflect. When placed across from a window, it multiplies the natural lighting of a room. If you aren’t sold on the idea already, adding a mirror or two, especially large ones, creates an illusion of extra space for you.
Incorporate adjustable lighting
Dimmer switches have long been a part of lighting solutions, and living rooms are the ideal space for application. Turn the lights up when family meetings are in session or people are working on something. Turn the lights down for romantic moments and for watching movies. Smart-enabled bulbs have become super popular and are vital if you want to control multiple lights at once. Plus, you can change brightness and color (depending on the bulbs used) through your voice or on an app. How convenient!
Put up fairy or string lights
Fairy lights are a string of small light bulbs that are usually fairly tightly spaced. Fairy lights are used more for decoration and ambiance than as lighting solutions since their bulbs aren’t particularly bright. They bring a twinkling warmth to a room that can’t be beat.
String lights, on the other hand, are a string of small, medium, or large bulbs spaced symmetrically along a power cord. Think Christmas lights used for trees or weddings. String lights are typically more bright than fairy lights and as such, can be used to light a room for romantic or extremely casual moments.
Both are convenient and easy to use. They are also a fairly inexpensive way to change the living room. Be careful to follow the following principles, though, or the magical glow you’re looking for will be replaced with a tacky, painful-to-look-at display. Those principles are:
- Choose color with purpose. You can never go wrong with warm white. Other colors are a bit more tricky to use, but doable as long as they are just one color. Multicolor lights are seldom the right choice, even for experienced designers.
- Connectable lights are king. In case you run out of lights with just one set, of course.
- Keep your lights static, always. Meaning, even if you have the option to make the bulbs flash or change color, save those settings for the Christmas tree! You’ll thank me later.
- Be inspired. Find inspiration on social media, sites that display wedding setups, and more. Make decoration(s) with string lights in or around them, or make a decoration out of your lights. Line them above a photo wall. Hang them across the living room (in an unobtrusive, safe way, naturally). Hang them from your living room wall or ceiling. Accentuate artwork or other elements. Outline the windows or opening to your living room. Anything goes, as long as you place your lights with care
Symmetry creates harmony and balance. In a living room, it helps people to relax and feel at peace. Some designers say you need some kind of central focus in the room, but you can also achieve this by other means that work even if your space is asymmetrical. Having multiple identical light sources, such as twin lamps on both ends of a couch, is a perfect example of this.
Make sure you are reading the space correctly when using symmetry. Recessed lighting is almost always symmetrical in distribution, but you might need asymmetrical distribution if your ceiling is sloped or vaulted. Ironically, both symmetrical light (light that is evenly distributed) and asymmetrical light (light that is focused on an object or area), when used in recessed lighting, can fulfill the purposes of symmetry.
So things don’t always have to match to be symmetrical. The key is to create a sense of balance and harmony. As long as you’ve done that, you’ve made symmetry your friend.
On the flip side, if symmetry feels too formal to you, try asymmetry! The benefits of asymmetric design are that it’s more comfortable and creates unique designs while keeping things casual. Since living rooms are the most casual room in the house after bedrooms, it only makes sense to use this type of design.
You can focus your lighting on your visually stunning artwork or highlight other more natural focal points in the living room. Naturally stylish lighting pieces can also help bring out the asymmetry. Whatever you choose, the change doesn’t have to be big. Often, small choices work well, if not better than bigger ones. Finally, make sure that your elements all coordinate in a pleasing way. For some, even one element awry can ruin everything.
Make a statement
Ranging from meek and simple to bold and elaborate, statement lighting is meant to catch the eye and reveal your personality. Statement lighting tells people who you are and what you like. It also serves to amplify particular qualities of your space. Thus, It can be difficult to get this just right for your living room, but we’ll help you by pointing out a few key considerations.
First, think about the role your piece will play in the larger living room design to ensure that it meshes well. For example, does the piece’s design add excitement to your living room (as it should), or does it overwhelm? Does the piece unify all the design elements, or clash (and not in a good way)?
Second, know your inspiration. Know what you want to communicate to others about yourself and your family. This will heavily influence your final choice. Third, unless you want to be changing out the piece frequently, pick a timeless option that will go in a range of designs and styles. Finally, determine how you want the piece to impact others. Will it communicate subtly or shout out to the room's occupants in a grand display of color, style, and shape?
Go for a specific look
Whether your specific look is retro, modern, traditional/classic, contemporary, neoclassical, industrial, farmhouse, transitional, minimalist, or any other popular interior design style (or you just want to bring back the neon!), keeping your whole living room in that style is crucial. That includes lights
Sure, you can mix the old with the new or make an exception to the rule for that awesome statement light. Many people do. If you want to do this too, though, you need to find a common trait between the elements or your living room will look tacky.
Focus on the feels
If you haven’t taken a look at “Why is lighting important?”, we encourage you to do so now because there we talk about how lighting affects many things, including our emotions and mood.
For the living room in particular, you want to implement softer, warmer lighting solutions that aren't harsh to look at. These will relax and invite your living room’s occupants, no matter who is there to visit. Often this will require multiple light sources to get things just right. Put floor lamps next to armchairs for cozy reading or in corners where the light will be reflected the most. Draw attention upward with pendants or chandeliers that use indirect light exclusively.
We covered a lot today, but before you go, here’s a bonus tip outside lighting: changing up your living room’s paint, furniture, curtains, carpet, rugs, decorations, and light fixtures from time to time will keep your living room looking fresh. It doesn’t even have to be a makeover for the entire living room; one or two changes will do.
Yes, lighting a living room is complicated, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. We hope you enjoyed our 10 living room lighting ideas and the principles that will help you in your search for the best living room lighting. We even have some pretty great options for you to choose from!