We’re big believers in layered lighting here at Modsy. When you have more than one light source in a room, it gives you more control over how your space feels. You might want to throw open your blinds in the morning and let in all the natural light. But if you’re working from home, you may also need a task light by your desk. As the day turns into evening and the sunlight fades, it’s helpful to be able to turn on an overhead light if you’re working on a project or opt for floor and table lamps if you want a softer, moodier glow.

Essentially, the right lighting helps you set the mood and tone you want. That’s why lighting is essential in all of our room checklists and interior design buying guides. You might find yourself feeling a little grumpy if your bedroom only has one bright overhead light. While this is a great lighting option during the day, it will seem harsh when you’re trying to cozy up in bed with a book. That’s when you want a bedside lamp or sconce, for a softer and more directional lighting option. (Plus, when you have a lamp by your bed, you don’t have to get out of bed to turn off the light!)

What we’re saying is: good, layered lighting makes all the difference when it comes to setting a vibe in your home. And, as we enter winter and the days grow shorter (AKA it gets darker earlier) it’s so important to have the best lamps and be able to make your lighting work for you. No one wants to just have an overhead light on all through a long winter evening!

So, to help you get your lighting right in your home, we’ve put together a lighting buying guide full of everything you need to know about choosing lighting for your home.

lighting buying guide

Types of Lighting

There are five main types of lighting that all work together to create a well-lit home. You certainly don’t have to use all five in each room of your home—but having a couple different light sources in each space will allow you to layer your lighting and change light sources throughout the day.

lighting buying guide

Natural

Natural lighting is all the—you guessed it—natural light that comes in through your windows. Good natural lighting might mean you can skip other light sources during peak sunlight hours. You can use curtains to soften and diffuse natural light, and you can use mirrors to reflect natural light and brighten up a room or make it seem larger. Some benefits of natural lighting? It shows the truest colors in your interior and can boost your mood, making your environment feel more appealing.

Shop This Look

lighting buying guide

Ambient Lighting

Ambient lighting, also known as general lighting, is the overhead lighting in a room. It’s the perfect option for when you need an entire room to be lit—like when you’re cooking in the kitchen, doing chores around the house, or working on a craft. But ambient lighting can feel intense at night. Adding a dimmer switch is a great way to have the option of softening overhead lighting.

Shop This Look

lighting buying guide

Task Lighting

Task lighting, or reading lighting, creates a focused area of light in a room. Typically, this type of lamp will have a swivel head with more of a spotlight-type shade which allows for smaller, more concentrated light. (AKA, the light doesn’t disperse in all directions but is pointedly focused where you need it.) It’s just the thing for studying, working, reading, or when working on smaller crafts or hobbies.

Shop This Look

lighting buying guide

Accent

As the name suggests, accent lighting accents something. These are more concentrated lights that draw your eye to a certain focal point. Usually a table lamp or a sconce, it can be used to highlight a piece of furniture, object, or art piece—or simply to add an extra decorative element to a space. Accent lighting is best used on console tables, buffets, or side tables in a living room, dining room, entryway, or sometimes even in a hallway.

Shop This Look

lighting buying guide

Decorative

Decorative lights are light sources that are simply used as decor rather than for function. Think: bulb or twinkle lights, or small lamps or candles on a mantel, bar cart, or floating shelf. Decorative lighting is often just used to make a small statement, fill a space, or set a mood.

Shop This Look

lighting buying guide

Types of Light Fixtures

Beyond the types of lighting, there are also different types of light fixtures that will help you achieve your desired lighting layers and mood of your space. Below are the main types of light fixtures.

bedroom lighting

Table Lamps

Table lamps are smaller lights that tend to be anywhere from 14 to 30 inches in height. They offer subtle, dispersed light. These aren’t necessarily a task light—but they certainly can be. When brainstorming table lamp design ideas, remember that it will take a few table lamps to fill a whole room with light.

Shop This Look

Where to Use It

You can use table lamps on side tables, accent tables, consoles, nightstands, sideboards, and credenzas, or countertops. Table lamps are best for lighting a specific area of a space, like the corner of a sofa or one side of a bed.

Important Things to Consider

Consider the size and scale of the lamp in relation to where you’ll want to put it. Your table lamp should sit comfortably on a side table. So, veer away from anything that feels too top-heavy. A good rule of thumb? Aim to achieve a set-up where you can place your lamp comfortably on its side table, with room for at least two other objects on that table. If you can’t fit any objects on the table other than the lamp, generally the table is too small or the lamp is too big, and the whole set-up will look too crowded and will potentially even be wobbly and unsafe.

Ensure the shade supports your intended use. Shades impact the design style of a lamp and also impact the lighting diffusion. So, a darker shade will emit less light than a lighter shade. And a sloped shade will spread light out into a space more than a cylinder shape shade (which will cast light more up and down).

Make sure your lamp is at the right height. When you’re sitting on your sofa or bed, or at your desk, you want the bottom of your table lamp’s shade roughly at eye level. This protects your eyes from the glaring light of an exposed lightbulb. At this height, it will also properly illuminate the pages of a book or your workspace.

green room color schemes

Floor Lamps

A floor lamp is a lamp that sits directly on the floor. They’re typically 40+ inches tall, with the average being 58 to 64 inches tall. Floor lamps can project light throughout space and act as ambient lighting or be a focused task light depending on the shade and shape.

Shop This Look

Where to Use It

Use a floor lamp in a space where you need a lot of light and don’t want to place a lamp on the surface. The best floor lamps can offer focused lighting to about half of a room. So, one floor lamp won’t light up a whole room by itself—but they work well when accented by a table lamp or a second floor lamp. When it comes to floor lamp ideas, we love using floor lamps over an accent chair, next to a sofa, or even to light up a dark corner of a room.

Important Things to Consider

Build in enough space around the floor lamp. You’ll want to make sure you have plenty of space to walk around the floor lamp, so you aren’t bumping into it every time you walk past the lamp. Since there will be a chord snaking on the floor, you also want to consider where you’ll plug it in to ensure the chord doesn’t present a tripping hazard.

Consider the height of the lamp in relation to where you’ll be placing it. If you’re placing a floor lamp next to a sofa or side chair, you’ll want the height of that floor lamp to feel appropriate to the sofa or chair. If it’s too tall it will make your seat look tiny and disproportionate. Too low and it will make the room feel small. Ultimately, you should be able to sit comfortably in said sofa or chair and not bump your head on the shade of the floor lamp.

lighting buying guide

Ceiling Lights

Ceiling lights come in many forms: pendants, chandeliers, flush-mount lights. Essentially, this is any light that hangs from the ceiling. Ceiling lights offer ambient, overhead light and can also make a stylistic statement in your space.

Shop This Look

Where to Use It

You’ll find ceiling lights throughout your home, and switching out the standard fixtures that come with your home is a simple but impactful way to drive home the style of your space. Dining rooms and living rooms are great places for pendants or chandeliers, where you want to create a focal point in your space. Meanwhile, in a bedroom and kitchen, you might want a flush-mount light. You could also opt for track lighting or recessed lights for more directional light control.

Important Things to Consider

Ceiling lights require a level of commitment. While you can always switch them out, the size of light fixtures and the involvement in installing them probably means you want them to be fairly permanent. This is especially true if you have high ceilings and have to rent scaffolding or large ladders to install the light fixtures.

The style of your light fixture can help set the tone for your whole space. Ceiling lights are a great way to help establish or drive home the overall style of your room. (In fact, this is a great way to try out the industrial lighting trend.) So, while they can be more of an investment, they’re one that will pay off stylistically and help your home feel more custom and thoughtful.

lighting buying guide

Sconces

A sconce is a type of light fixture that is fixed to a wall. It typically provides light that is directed upwards or outward.

Shop This Look

Where to Use It

Sconces are great for narrow spaces, like hallways and bathrooms, where there isn’t room for a floor or table lamp but you still want a layered lighting option. Looking for some wall sconce design ideas? We love using them flanking either side of a fireplace or as a way to highlight a painting. They’re also great in small bedrooms, as an alternative to a bedside lamp, so you don’t have to take up surface space on a small nightstand!

Important Things to Consider

Sconces are more permanent than a lamp or floor lamp. They have to be mounted on a wall and often need to be hardwired in—so you want to make sure you feel confident with the placement and style before committing to installing a sconce! Though, there are plug-in styles which is a great option for rentals!

How to Pick the Right Light for Your Space

Considering all the different types of lighting and light fixtures, it might feel overwhelming to land on the right lighting for your space. But it doesn’t have to be complicated. Here are a couple other things to keep in mind when picking the right types of lighting and specific fixtures for your space.

Shop This Look

Think of Your Room’s Needs

Simply think through how you use your space and make lighting choices accordingly. Need some help knowing which kind of lights to use in each room of your home? Check out our room-by-room lighting checklist.

Create a Budget

Of course, all these different light sources might seem like quite the investment if you’re starting from scratch! So, make sure you create a budget for what you want to spend on each piece. Here are some general pricing guidelines, though prices will vary depending on size, quality, materials, and brand.

  • Table lamps: $50-$250
  • Floor lamps: $100-$500+
  • Sconces: $50-$250
  • Pendants and Chandeliers: $100-$1,000+

Pick Your Materials

Light fixtures can be made in a variety of materials, but there are a couple popular materials for each type of fixture. Most table lamps are ceramic, metal, or acrylic—and sometimes wood. Floor lamps are usually made of wood, metal, or acrylic, though you can also find mixed materials and even some marble or other stone for both lamp types. Sconces and pendants are usually made of metal, with some glass or acrylic details. Overall, lighting fixture materials can really run the gamut! It all depends on the look and style you’re going for, as well as your price point.

Consider Size and Scale

As we mentioned earlier in the post, the size and scale of various lighting fixtures are also very important. So, when picking lighting, consider the overall size of the room as well as the pieces of furniture on which accent lighting will be placed to make sure everything looks balanced.

If you’re not sure what types of lighting or style of light fixtures are best in your space after reading this lighting guide, we can help! With our style quiz and online interior design packages, we can help guide you to your preferred interior design style and help design your room with furniture, lighting, and decor that goes with your style.

Ready to light up your rooms?

Start My Project

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *