Whether it’s a hub for a busy family, or your bolthole to kick back and relax, the living room is an essential part of a home. And how you light it, as well as furnish it will give it the welcoming feel you want, day or night.
To get the right ambience in your living room, you need to get creative with your lighting so that it can adapt to the many ways you use it. To help you beautifully illuminate your space, we take a look at some essential living room lighting tips.
How to Plan Living Room Lighting
Mood and function are the two key things to consider when planning your living room light design. You want the room to make you feel a certain way, but it also needs to have a practical element as living rooms are multi-taskers throughout the day. Combining decorative lighting with functional lighting in the right balance will help you to create the perfect living room look and atmosphere you want.
Understanding how your living room is used is the best place to start when it comes to planning your lighting. Home office, hobby space, reading room, entertainment zone, family time, chill out and relaxation, your hardworking living room needs to do it all and its lighting needs to cater for it all. This means you will need sufficient lighting in the right locations and targeted no-glare lighting for your TV and tech as well as overall background lighting for warmth and atmosphere. This is known as layering your light for the perfect illumination.
There are also formulas for working out how much total lighting you will need, based on the size of your living room. And the best one to use is room length x room width x 1.5, which will give you the total amount of wattage (which can then be converted into the equivalent lumens) you will need to light up the space.
What Are The Main Types Of Lighting For A Living Room?
There are three main types of lighting that will create a host of effects, depending on what you want to achieve with your living room lighting layout. And for the best results, the trick is to use a combination – or even mix together all three – to make a versatile space that adapts to your home living lifestyle. Let’s cast the spotlight on the three best light for living room types you have at your interior design disposal:
- Ambient Lighting
Also known as general or background lighting, room ambient lighting creates an overall level of illumination throughout your living space. And it is the ambient lighting that you will usually switch on as you immediately enter the room.
Likened to a basic canvas onto which you can then layer other forms of lighting to create the complete picture, ambient lighting includes centralized ceiling lights, pendant lights, floor or table lamps and even sources of natural light.
- Task Lighting
Task lighting, as the name suggests, has a specific job to do in the room, whether that’s lighting a reading corner, illuminating a work desk, or spotlighting a hobby table. Task lighting is for where you need to be able to focus your attention on the detail without casting the same bright light throughout the whole of the living room.
A focal point light typically includes table lights, cabinet lights and desk spots and often include dimmable lightbulbs and adjustable positioning so that they can be tucked away when not being used.
- Accent or Mood Lighting
The final type of living room lighting is accent or mood lighting. Accent lighting has two main functions – to highlight features or important areas (as well as draw attention away from less pleasing areas!) and to create a warm and welcoming atmosphere. Think recess lighting, picture lights, in cabinet spotlights, track lights and uplighters – accent lighting aims to draw the eye or influence your mood. And as this type of lighting is about focusing attention as well as shade and light, mood lighting for living room spaces is usually set around three times brighter than your ambient light.
What Is The Best Combination Of Lighting For A Living Room?
It is possible to combine all three – ambient, task and accent – for a stunning lighting look for your living room that will totally tick all the boxes. The trick is to know how much to have of each and where to locate each form of lighting.
Ambient light is your backdrop, task lighting is to pick out areas where extra light is needed, and accent lighting completed the layered look by casting a gorgeous glow on special areas or your favorite decorative items as well as create that all important light and shade. Adding in dimmable lighting as well as side lighting that can be turned on and off as needed will then give you the best living room lighting combo to take you through the whole day. Following the layering approach works just as well in large rooms as it does if you are looking for small living room lighting ideas.
How Do You Design A Living Room Lighting Layout?
The right lighting in any room can beautifully lift the space and it is easier to do than you may think. And all it takes is a little pre-planning when it comes to the design and layout.
Using the ambient, task and accent triple approach, you need to layer your lighting at different levels to not only create full room illumination, but to also create different lighting options as you use your living room in its many different ways. Here’s a step-by-step guide to designing a living room lighting layout:
Make a list of what you use the room for – from reading, watching movies, getting homework done, bingeing TV, relaxing and entertaining, writing down what you want the room to be able to do is a good place to start.
List out the special features – whether that’s architectural (a cosy alcove or fireplace) or decorative (a favorite picture, bookcase or designer vase), you need to choose those special items or areas to put under the spotlight.
Create three layers – now you know the key areas to highlight, as well as general lighting, the trick to a beautifully lit room is to layer, from the top down.
- Top – this is the territory of ambient lighting, including ceiling fixtures, track lighting and even full-on chandeliers. All the lighting in the top layer should be bright, but also have the option of being dimmable so you can tweak the background vibe.
- Middle – at the mid-level, this is where ambient, accent and task lighting can beautifully combine. All lighting in the middle section of the room will need to be shielded in some way, as they sit around eye level, so think stunning shades and contemporary or minimalist covers for that designer style. Lamps and sconces are the way to go at mid-level as they work beautifully to draw attention to focus areas or add targeted light for task-oriented zones.
- Bottom – the bottom layer is there to support all the stunning lighting and ambience that has been created above and to fill in any lighting gaps in darker corners so use floor and table/reading lamps here. Carefully placed lighting in the bottom section can also blend out any unwanted shadows. Your bottom lighting layer is also the most accessible and can be switched up for a new look at any time, meaning you can try out some new bold floor lighting ideas!
If you are planning a major lighting revamp, then from here you can sketch out your room on a simple floor plan, marking where your various forms of lighting should go, as well as identifying where the nearest electrical sockets are and what lighting will need to be wired in. Planning the practicalities ahead, will help your electrician get the required power supply for your newly illuminated living room just right.
What Are The Best Bulbs For Living Room Lights?
So, now have worked out how to layer your ambient, task and mood lighting for a beautiful living room, you need to select the source of all this light – your bulbs. Choosing the right type for each of your living room lights will add warmth and interest to your family room.
To get the right brightness or softness in your lighting plan, you need to choose the right output and bulbs are either measured in watts or lumens, depending on the type of bulb you choose. The higher the number, the brighter the light. Bulbs also come in a choice of shapes, from the traditional, candle and globe to capsule and elliptical, with different sized screw caps or bayonets to work with your light fittings.
The best bulbs for living room lights include:
LED – or Light Emitting Diode – bulbs create a lovely bright light but don’t give off any heat and as they use very little energy, will last a long time. Available in white or colored options as well as vintage filament, LED bulbs, you can also get lower lumen as well as dimmable versions for a soft, warm effect. Smart bulbs are also LED so if a connected living room is the way you’d like to go, these are the bulbs you will need to buy.
- Incandescent bulbs
These traditional style bulbs are the least energy efficient, but they do give off a lovely light that can create a warm and welcoming glow without being too harsh. They can also be used with a dimmer for an adjustable ambience. Incandescent bulbs are a good choice for overhead lights as well as table and floor lamps.
- Halogen bulbs
A modern alternative to the old-style, energy hungry incandescent bulbs, halogen bulbs have a filament enclosed in halogen gas and burn lovely and bright, although they do get hot. Halogen bulbs are a good choice for pendant lights as well as for under cabinet spot lighting and desk lamps.
- Compact fluorescent bulbs (CFL)
Much more energy efficient than traditional incandescent bulbs, CFLs are available in a range of brightness, from vivid daylight to softer hues. They are a good option for living room spotlights as well as reading and workspaces as they cast a bright, cool glow.
Advanced Smart Home Solutions
Why not take your living room lighting to the next level, by building in some smart tech so you can have control of all that ambience at your fingertips. Smart LED bulbs are easy to install and can be controlled from your smartphone or device, meaning you get light up your room before you get home or dim down the lights from the comfort of your own sofa.
Having an advanced smart home solution to include your living room lighting can be an energy saver too, as you can switch off lights, if you have accidently left them on. Controlled by an app or via a home voice assistant, smart bulbs are now widely available, with Philips, Hue and Hive Active just some of the most popular brands.
From simply changing your bulbs out or buying a bright new lamp shade, through to a total re-plan using a combination of ambient, task and accent light, tweaking your living room lighting can be an illuminating experience. And the result can be a whole new-look space to enjoy, especially after the sun goes down.
Some living room lighting revamps can be easily done yourself, if you have a little DIY know-how but if you are going for a bigger lighting project and don’t quite have the skills, always use a trained electrician. This way you can safely get that stunning living room to cast a shadow on all the rest!