Lighting is a crucial part of every room in your home. But it can be challenging to know exactly what lights you actually need in each space. Table lamps or floor lamps? A pendant or track lighting? Directional or ambient? Since every room differs in its function, what it requires in terms of lighting varies as well. On top of that, every home and person is unique—so what works in a living room in one person’s home might be totally different than what works in another.
However, there are some general rules you can follow to help you move in the right direction. And we’re here to lay them out for you! Read on for our ultimate lighting checklist, with a room-by-room guide to what lighting you need in each space. (And check out our Lighting buying guide for a full run-down on the many different types of light fixtures you can use throughout your home and how to budget for what you need!)
Essential Entryway Lighting
Entryways are the first thing a person sees when they walk into your home. So, you definitely want to make an effort to make it feel warm and inviting! Good lighting is key to making this happen. For an entryway that’s at least somewhat—if not completely—separated from your living space, you’ll want to incorporate some overhead and ambient lighting. But if your “entryway” is simply three square feet in the corner of your living room, simply incorporate it into the rest of the living space, in terms of how you use lighting.
Pendants or Chandeliers
Overhead ambient lighting, in the form of a pendant or chandelier, can hang from the ceiling in the center of your entryway space. This will effectively light up the entire area, so you can see while putting on or taking off shoes and coats.
If you have a console table in your entryway, we love including a table lamp in the room design—in fact, it’s an essential element in our entryway checklist. This adds a touch of accent lighting, and offers a softer light that you can leave on when you leave your house. It also gives you a bit of light when you come home, before you turn on the overhead light! In addition to offering accent lighting, a table lamp can also be a stylish, sculptural element within your entryway.
A wall sconce is a great option for smaller entryways, where you don’t have space for a console table and table lamp. It offers all the benefits of a table lamp, but since it’s attached to the wall, it takes up less space.
Essential Living Room Lighting
Living rooms are the heart of a home and the space where so much action takes place. From watching TV and reading to game nights, conversations, playtime, and homework, these spaces are major workhorses in the home. So, when it comes to living room design ideas, good lighting from a multitude of light sources is key, so that you have the right amount of light throughout the day. This is a space where you want it all—ambient, accent, decorative, you name it. This will give you maximum flexibility in creating the right mood for your space all day long.
Pendants or Chandeliers
Not every home has a pendant or chandelier in their living room—but if your space is wired for this, it’s a great way to add overhead ambient lighting for use throughout daylight hours. Overhead lights are especially great in the morning to help complement natural lighting and brighten up your space a bit more.
Some living rooms have track lighting rather than a pendant or chandelier. With track lighting, you can have each light face the direction you’d like—highlighting artwork, bookcases, or offering directional lighting to specific areas of your room. Track lighting is also fairly easy to install if it’s not already built-in to your space.
If you want warmer, moodier lighting in your living room as the day wears on, floor lamps are a great lighting option. Floor lamps project light throughout space, and depending on the shade and shape of the lamp they can offer focused task lighting or act as ambient lighting in your space.
In a living room, table lamps can sit on a side table and offer lighting to a reading corner or as additional lighting when you’re lounging on the sofa. Or these living room lamps can be placed on a credenza or console and used as accent lighting to simply better layer the lighting in your space.
In a smaller living room, sconces can be used instead of floor or table lamps to offer layered or directional lighting. However, sconces are also great in larger living spaces as simply another layer of lighting. We love using them to highlight paintings or flanking a fireplace for a more formal look.
Essential Dining Room Lighting
Dining rooms are centered around gatherings with family and friends. They’re spaces where meals are shared and memories are made. In a dining room, you most definitely want the ability to light up your whole space, so that every meal-time is well-lit. But the ability to create moodier lighting in the evening allows you to change up the vibe and make the space feel a little more special.
Pendants or Chandeliers
Wondering what key pieces make a dining room really sing? Check out our dining room buying guide. But we’ll give you a teaser: ambient overhead lighting can really make or break this space. A pendant or chandelier in your dining room not only acts as your main light source—but it’s also a great way to make a stylish statement in the space. And, while overhead lights light up mealtime, they also offer the ambient lighting needed for homework sessions and crafts. However, we love when overhead dining room lights have a dimmer switch so we can turn down the intensity of the light in the evening.
If you have a buffet or credenza in your dining room, we recommend placing a table lamp on top. This accent light offers more nuanced lighting in the space in the evening. You can also use it to highlight decorative objects on the same surface.
Candles can happily be used in any room of your house. But in a dining room, we view taper candles as a necessary light source. Lighting candles for dinner creates a moodier—sometimes even romantic—vibe for the evening meal. You can opt to only have them out for special occasions, or you can light candles for dinner every night for year-round hygge!
Essential Bedroom Lighting
Bedrooms transition from bright morning getting-ready spaces to cozy dens of relaxation at night. So, when considering bedroom lights and lamps for bedrooms, layered lighting is so important. You’ll want to make sure you have several bedroom lights throughout your space to transition the lighting throughout the day.
At the top of the list of essential bedroom lighting? Bedside lamps. At the end of the night, when you’re tucked in bed, you don’t want to have to get out of bed to turn off the lights (and risk stubbing your toes on the journey back to bed!). Having bedside lamps within arms-reach will save you hassle and stubbed toes!
If you like reading in bed, you might want to consider a task lamp rather than a traditional bedside table lamp to serve as your reading light. This gives you the ability to change the angle and direction of the light so your book page is perfectly illuminated! If you have a small home office space within your bedroom, a task lamp on your desk is also essential.
Other bedroom lamps to consider? Floor lamps. Using these in your bedroom is a perfect choice if you have a seating area within your room. Placing a table lamp next to an accent chair not only creates the look of an intentional arrangement, but it offers additional lighting for when you’re reading or scrolling on your iPad—morning or evening!
In a bedroom, we love sconces for a bit of extra light above a dresser, as well as another alternative to traditional bedside lamps! At your bedside, opting for a sconce saves surface space on your nightstand and can make a stylish statement. Above your dresser, it can illuminate any products atop your dresser as you get ready in the morning and add a nice glow to your bedroom in the evening.
Essential Home Office Lighting
Home offices are all about productivity and creating a space where you can get in the zone. And the lighting you have in this space has a big impact on your focus and energy levels. Ideally, you’ll have some natural lighting—but the light fixtures in your home office should be geared toward illuminating your space in a way that helps you effectively get work done.
In a home office, we recommend opting for a task light for your desk lamp rather than a more traditional table lamp. In fact, task lighting is one of our home office “must-haves” in our home office buying guide. Why? This type of lamp allows you to have more control over the angle and direction of the light, so you can put a spotlight on whatever you’re working on. If you have a lot of video calls, work the angle of your task desk lamp and make the most of the natural light in your space for optimal video call lighting!
While you may not need a big statement chandelier in your home office, it is nice to have an overhead light in your workspace to keep things bright and cheery. In a home office, we’d do a simple flush mount light to give ambient light to your whole space, with your task light as a supporting lightsource.
Having a floor lamp in your home office simply offers an additional light source to your space. If you have a seating area within your home office, incorporate the floor lamp into that area for use as a reading light. Otherwise, floor lamps can sit next to a bookshelf or file cabinet to offer additional light where you might need it.
Looking for expert help finding the perfect pieces for your home beyond lighting? Explore all of our interior design buying guides for advice on sofas, beds, dining tables, and so much more!
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