A lot of talk about living room design is dedicated either to the big ticket items – like your sofa, accent chairs, and entertainment system – or to the big surface areas – walls, flooring, and area rugs. After all, these elements make up the lion’s share of your living space. But it overlooks one important element that brings it all together: your lighting fixtures. Good lighting is what makes a living space usable. Though it might not be the first thing that comes to mind, decorative lighting fixtures are an excellent way to add personality to your space.
Go Lamp Shopping
The easiest way to ensure you’re putting your living room in the best light is to add more lamps. Lamps are great to decorate with because they’re stylish, inexpensive, and easy to set up on your own. Have a shadowy corner? An afternoon of shopping and an extension cord are all you need to add an attractive accent to your space. Of course, lighting your living room only with lamps has a few significant drawbacks. Each one has to be plugged in and turned on and off individually, and their range is relatively limited; they’re great for providing light in targeted areas, but can be cumbersome if you need to light a large room.
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Choose Lamps For Style (And Something Else For Function)
Recessed lighting has seen a big boom in popularity in the last decade, and with good reason; it’s one of the most effective ways to get quality all-over lighting throughout an room, controlled with a single switch. Installing lighting fixtures directly into your ceiling is certainly a much bigger project, but it’s among the best, most inconspicuous lighting you can get for a wide open room. Bonus? You can use floor lamps and table lamps for style as well as functionality. Symmetrically placed or matching lamps are a great way to give a room a sense of coordination. Better still, if you aren’t worried about relying on them for light, you can place them where they look best.
Make Each Light A Statement Piece
Of course, you don’t have to rewire your whole living room to get good, all-over lighting. Recessed lighting provides an excellent baseline, but you can also get a beautiful effect by upgrading the setup you already have. Most living rooms come equipped with a single lighting fixture in the middle of the ceiling – typically a simple flush-mount light controlled by a switch near the entrance to the room. Upgrading that fixture – to a pendant or chandelier, or even just a nicer-looking flush-mount light – can make a huge difference. A few stylish lamps can help enhance your decor while supplementing the light in the shadowy corners of the room. If you’re feeling bold, you can also add a few accent lights (like either plug-in or hard wired cabinet lights) to literally highlight the features of your room, like display shelves or artwork.
Choose Arc Lamps To Get Your Lighting Where You Need It
The major drawback of decorating with typical floor and table lamps? They have to be plugged in. That means their usefulness is restricted: to where you can plug them in, where the cord can reach, and where the cord can be hidden without restricting walkways. There are ways around this, like hiding an extension cord under a rug. But in a large, open room, traditional lamps can present a distinct challenge. Arc lamps, with their long, curved design, offer a surprisingly ingenious alternative to a conventional floor lamp. You can put the lamp-base out of the way near an outlet, and the light will hang in a more prominent, useful location. Arc lamps can often be adjusted both in length and angle, giving you a high degree of control over your lighting placement, without having to alter your electrical work or fuss with cords and plugs.
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Use Lighting To Set The Mood
With the rising ubiquity of LED lights and the fall of incandescent lighting, it’s more possible than ever to control not only the quantity of light your living space gets, but also the quality – specifically the color. Incandescent bulbs have a warm, honey tone; LEDs can produce anything from a muted amber to a bright blue-white that closely mimics daylight. Which colors you choose and where you put them can have a huge impact on the ambiance of your space. Paired with old-school goodies like dimmer switches, three-way lights, or even natural candlelight or fireplaces, it’s possible to transform the same room from one that’s bright and energizing to one that’s cozy, dozy, and better for a night-time wind-down.
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Have Fun With Built-In Lights
Don’t love the look of traditional can-style recessed lighting (or the resulting polka-dots of bright light on your ceiling)? Be aware that this isn’t your only option. Cove lighting keeps your built-in lighting fixtures hidden, typically around the edges of the room or along the edges of a bumped-in or bumped-out area of your ceiling. Unlike can lighting, which shines brightly on every part of the room, cove lighting provides soft, dramatic ambient lighting around the perimeter of your room. It’ll chase back those pesky corner-shadows and add visual flair to the outer edge of your space. Usually, you’ll want to supplement this type of lighting with a central fixture (either a flush-mount light, chandelier, or pendant). But this is a great way to get lighting into the hardest-to-reach corners of your living space without having to struggle with lamp placement and light switches.
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While it may not be at the forefront of your mind, the lighting fixtures you choose can have a huge impact on the final look and feel of your living space. So really put some thought into it. What parts of your living space do you use most, and how and when are you in them? Where do you wish there was more light, and what features of your room would you like to emphasize? Thinking about the ways that light impacts your space is the first step to a more polished, usable living room!