With the multipurpose functionality of living rooms, it is only essential that the lighting be right, though it is often one of the most overlooked aspects in the process of home decorating. Lighting is often chosen for its look (including the fixture), without understanding its purpose and how its placement affects the functionality it is supposed to offer. So, you have very bright light in very small spaces, very dim lighting in rooms with high ceilings, lots of shadows here and there, and effectively nothing to use the light for. Yes, it looks striking, but does it work for you? Here’s how to choose gorgeous, yet very efficient, lighting for your living room.
The Lighting Your Living Room Needs: And How to Achieve it
The living room is a spot where you chill, interact with friends and family, enjoy a good book, watch a good movie, or formally entertain a bunch of guests. While there are several more purposes a living room serves, these are most important. So, the lighting needs to be flexible in order to get the maximum out of it; get the lighting right, and you’ll have a room that looks different for every occasion.
How Much Light Do You Need?
To calculate the amount of light your living room needs, follow this formula:
Length of the living room x width of the living room x 1.5 = Total wattage needed in the given area
e.g. 12′ x 10′ = 120 sq. ft.
120 x 1.5 = 180
So, the living room needs 180 watts of light to make it properly functional.
The idea now is to spread out this wattage so that light is not concentrated on one specific area, but spread evenly throughout your living room.
Where Will this Light Come From?
Experts suggest that any room should have 3 different sources of light that include soft, bright, and task lighting. One light source is rarely enough, even in smaller living rooms. You need more than one source and more than one type of light, and you need more than one fixture to exude the charm that you desire of your living room, quite similar to one you may have seen on your favorite décor website or in your favorite decorating magazine. So, think floor lamps, table lamps, wall sconces, recessed lights, chandeliers, pendant lamps, and reading lights. Remember that any one of these sources will rarely be able to provide sufficient lighting for any given space, but when used in combination, will lend a luxurious appeal even to the smallest of spaces.
Quick Tip: Have independent controls and dimmers for each light source to control the amount of light in the living room, and set the ambiance at any given time. This will also save energy and its costs.
Where Will You Place this Light?
When placing ceiling lights, ensure that they are spaced evenly and at a distance of two feet from all four sides. In a large living room, this is particularly necessary. While recessed lighting does help create a mood, it is not great as ambient light (light that allows you to move around comfortably in a space). Also, it is not great in a space with high ceilings and will just waste energy. In smaller rooms, an upward-facing chandelier with a dimmer, along with other portable lamps and accent lights will provide enough ambient lighting.
To create the illusion of height, have an upward facing chandelier that reflects light on the ceiling. To create the illusion of width, place multiple wall sconces on your long wall that throw light both, up and down. Light fixtures can be works of art too, you know.
Quick Tip: In a room with a low or a high ceiling, use an arc-lamp instead of a chandelier as the central lighting for your living room.
What About Important Task Areas?
It goes without saying that areas where you are going to be doing more than just sitting, require a special kind of lighting. If you are going to read, ensure that the light source is behind, or preferably, beside you so that you don’t face any glare. Any light source directly above will cast shadows on your book and make reading difficult. In case of a study where you may be doing a lot of writing, the light source should be on the opposite side of your dominant hand to avoid shadows.
When watching TV, lighting plays a very important role. You may think that you can watch TV in the dark too, but that causes a lot of strain on your eyes. Direct light above the TV also can make viewing too harsh. The best way to enjoy your TV viewing experience is to place uplighters around the TV. Recessed light behind or above the TV cabinet or wall sconces at a suitable distance from the TV (higher if the TV is low or further away if the TV is higher) can enhance your experience.
Quick Tip: Before placing lights in task areas, use a simple table lamp at different angles and locations to get an idea of how comfortable you are with the placement of the light.
And Those Dark, Lonely Corners?
Highlighting corners is a great way of defining the size of the living room. Whether small or large, this method works to unify multiple spaces and zones in the room. In larger rooms, lighting experts recommend having some light source at least every ten feet. In such a case, use a cluster of floor or pendant lamps, or even table lamps. When using pendant lamps, having some sort of artwork below would work well to create a focal point.
Quick Tip: Placing some decor accessory, such as a couple of pots or even a tall plant in these dark corners, along with a light, will add a designer look to your living room.
How Can You Get More From Less?
Often, you would have noticed that when sunlight is reflected against a light surface, it illuminates a room better. The same goes for artificial light. To create the illusion of more light, place wall sconces against light-colored walls, and you will find that the wash it gives the wall allows your living space to look larger. In a room with darker walls you will need more ambient lighting to give the room a brighter feel. Because dark walls don’t absorb light, they will not reflect it either, and in such cases, accent lighting will not be enough.
Quick Tip: For greater appeal or a more ornamental look, use dim bulbs in elaborate wall light fixtures.
How Can You Create Some Drama?
The living room is also where we like to display the best of our tastes in home décor, and highlighting this taste is best done with accent lights. So, whether it is a pendant lamp right above your choicest sculpture or a picture light above your favorite painting, what you need to consider is the wattage of the bulb. It should not be so bright that it drowns out the appearance of the artwork, neither so dull that its presence goes unnoticed. And you know what? Sometimes, you just don’t need any artwork, because you have the most gorgeous wallpaper or an amazing texture paint, and that’s all you should highlight by fixing a wall sconce on this wall or multiple pendant lamps against it.
Quick Tip: Instead of using recessed lighting on ceilings, use it behind units and under cabinets for a more dramatic effect.
Can You Use Lights Beyond their Primary Function?
With task, ambient, and accent lighting taken care of, how else do you think you can use light? In big living rooms, divide areas by placing lights in between them. For instance, if your living and dining area are in one space, place a strip of lights, some recessed lighting, or hang a series of pendant lamps to demarcate the two areas and create an interesting visual break. This can also serve as ambient lighting if you want to illuminate just the passage between the two, and as accent lighting if you want to set a mood with the lights. Remember, every light source can fulfill more than one purpose; but you must spend time to learn how to get the most out of it.
Quick Tip: If possible, instead of ceiling fixtures, go for muted floor lighting (possible even with small LED lights that you can just place on the floor). The effect will be more dramatic.
If you are still unsure about lighting up your living space, you can do one of two things. You either stick to portable light sources initially, to understand your lighting needs. Or you hire a lighting expert so that you can truly maximize your efficiency in your living room. Both options are worth the time, effort, and funds invested.