In any space, lighting is one of the essential components to making it functional. Our designers weigh in with some bright ideas on how to properly illuminate each space in the home.
Do you remember walking through Home Depot as a kid? Scratch that. More like being dragged there by your parents, only to have to wait and twiddle your thumbs as they considered which toilet was ideal. It wasn’t exactly the most riveting place for a rambunctious child. Except for one area: the lighting department. Wandering around the store, you’d happen upon this glowing aisle off in the distance, and as you approached it felt almost like a Disneyland attraction, smaller seasonal lights twinkling and larger chandelier pieces presiding from the higher rafters. It was simply magical. And then all of a sudden, you’d hear your name being called over the loudspeaker because your parents couldn’t find you.
Fast forward to your adult years, when you’re older and hopefully wiser. And you now realize that all of those lights had a purpose. Lighting pieces aren’t just beautiful to look at; each one is usually designed to fulfill a specific role within the interior design of a home. But with so many choices out there, it’s hard to find the right solution for your living space. Instead of getting that magical space, the wrong lighting pieces can make your space feel dingy on one end of the spectrum or washed out on the other. Our designers lend their bright ideas to make sure you achieve that perfectly lit, enchanting home.
Where to Start
Everyone needs lighting, from the college freshman who buys the $20 floor lamps from Bed, Bath, & Beyond to the billionaire who purchased that Givenchy Royal Hanover German silver chandelier at Christie’s for a cool nine million dollars. But what about the rest of us in between? How do we go about deciding what type of lighting is the best fit for our space?
The first step in finding the right lighting is determining the function of the room. As our designer Justin DiPiero says, “You definitely want to consider where in the space the light fixture is going. Will it be above a table or surface, or over an open space? Is it meant to highlight a particular architectural or artistic feature? Or perhaps you need task lighting for a work surface?” The way you use a room is the biggest determinant of the lighting, so before you make a purchase, picture your day in a room and where you need brightness.
The way you use a room is the biggest determinant of the lighting.
Let’s break it down
Since different rooms have different functions, each room in the home has a combination of lighting that is ideal for the setting. When mixing and matching for a space, designerreminds us, “Lighting is broken down into three categories: ambient, task, and accent. Ambient light illuminates a space, task lighting is meant for specific work (reading, writing, etc.) and accent lighting highlights a focal point in a space (such as artwork). But there is no one right answer for what type of lighting works best in a given room.” Take our suggestions with a grain of salt. We’ve broken it down by 5 rooms: living room, dining room, kitchen, bedroom, and bathroom.
Lighting is broken down into three categories: ambient, task, and accent.
Living Room: For this area of the house, think in layers. The living room is oftentimes the largest room in the home, and it therefore requires several pieces of lighting. Additionally, Justin points out that living rooms are multipurpose spaces, saying, “Since living rooms can have a lot of functions (family gatherings, watching TV, reading books, doing work), make sure you have lighting that addresses all of the activities of the space.” Ambient lighting (such as recessed can lighting) can meet the minimum lighting needs. Add in task lighting (such as table lamps) for reading nooks near sofa ends and armchairs. And lastly, finish with accent lighting for vignettes or architectural details you want to highlight. If you have a fireplace, make it standout with bookended sconces on either side.
Dining Room: As perhaps the most formal of areas in the home, the dining room is ideal for ambient, elegant lighting. Chandeliers are so common in dining spaces because they simultaneously bring a sculptural statement to the room while casting a warm glow on the diners. If you opt for track lighting instead, make sure that none of the lighting is pointing directly at one guest. (In fact, shining lights in peoples’ faces is a general thing to avoid.) Our designers all agree that dimmers are a great idea in the dining room, that way it can transform from a party scene one night to a romantic evening the next.
Kitchen: Our designer recently wrote about designing a chef’s kitchen, and lighting was an essential component. As she says, “You need good light to chop, and cut, and stir… how are you supposed to make a great meal when you can’t see?” For this reason, task lighting is a must in the kitchen. While you should have an overhead pendant to illuminate the whole room, hidden lighting strips under the cabinets will keep your counters bright while staying out of sight.
Bedroom: Bedrooms follow the same school of thought as living rooms, a layered space using a mixture of ambient and task lighting. Justin weighs in, saying, “You want to create a warm and peaceful atmosphere in the bedroom, so you can relax and unwind. And remember, bright or harsh light can disrupt your sleep.”
Bathroom: How do you light a bathroom well without making it look sterile and clinical? Focus on the vanity and creating the best lighting for your face. A softer glow from sconces (on dimmers again!) is probably the best choice. Add in some candles, too. And then draw a bubble bath for us to hop in.
What are the lighting don’ts?
Now that we have a general guideline for each room, what are the absolute things to avoid when it comes to lighting? Our designers all responded without hesitation: FLUORESCENT LIGHTING. Specifically, Justin says, “Not only do fluorescents produce an unflattering and cold color light, but they’re really not that environmentally friendly. Though your electric bill may be slightly lower with the use of them, they are much more harmful to the environment to produce. They also contain mercury and emit radiation, which is why so many of them can cause headaches and are an uninspiring choice for office lighting.” If you want to cut down on environmental impact, opt for LED instead.
Another mistake in lighting, which we touched on earlier, is relying on one light source per room. Mixing a variety of ambient, task, and accent lighting will give your room more visual interest instead of having one giant light fixture.
Mixing a variety of ambient, task, and accent lighting will give your room more visual interest instead of having one giant light fixture.
Beyond Home Depot
Since those childhood years in the Home Depot lighting department, we’ve realized that there are many more options out there. Our designers gave some of their favorite sources for beautiful pieces. On the higher end, we have custom pieces and artistic creations from companies like Fontana Arte, Stilnova, Veca, Rich Brilliant Willing, Apparatus Studio, and David Weeks Studio. A slightly more affordable and contemporary company is the Italian FLOS, which just launched a collection with the famous Michael Anastassiades.
If you prefer to support new talent and get the latest in cutting-edge lighting design, Lambert & Fils, Allied Maker, Atelier de Troupe, Brendan Ravenhill are all young companies.
Lastly, if you’re looking for more affordable, one-stop shops, many of our designers flock to Schoolhouse Electric, YLighting, and AllModern.
If you want to do right by the world but still have a beautiful space, it’s tough to find the right bulbs that cast a warm glow. LEDs are the obvious choice, but you want to avoid that strange white glow of earlier technologies. Justin has a surprising lead: “IKEA has many affordable LED bulb options that are not that offensive.” However, he’s quick to point out that from a design perspective, he loves a good incandescent bulb. (Hey, Edison bulbs are EVERYWHERE, right?)
Luckily, Jennifer points out that technologies are advancing to accommodate our love of incandescent lighting. “Halogen incandescents aren’t bad. They meet efficiency standards and closely mimic the look of regular incandescent bulbs. Plus, they are also dimmable and come in a bunch of wattages.” If you want to get really funky, go for the new-age Plumen bulb. It’ll definitely make a statement. Keep an eye out for those options if that is of importance to you.
For more bright ideas, hire a Homepolish designer. They have all these lighting facts down, and they’ll be ready to make your space… dare we say it, even more magical than Disneyland.