Bedroom Lighting Guide: How to Light a Bedroom

Options for Bedroom Lighting

The Spruce / Madelyn Goodnight

Your bedroom is where you start and end each day, and given that it's a space that's primarily just for you, it deserves some special attention! Ensuring that your bedroom has proper lighting will take this space to the next level. Unsure what to keep in mind as you shop for light fixtures or wondering just how many types to include in your space? We spoke with designers who weighed in on the top factors to keep in mind when looking for bedside lamps, sconces, overhead fixtures, and more.

Meet the Expert

Be Sure to Layer

layered lighting

Interior Impressions

Layering various forms of lighting in your sleep space is key, designer Alex Alonso notes. "For bedrooms—and almost every room—I always recommend at least three sources of illumination—task, decorative and ambient/general," he shares. "Layering all three is the fun part and the part that requires the most strategy." Alonso suggests mentally dividing a room into zones in order to get started.

For example, when it comes to task lighting, "I first identify what task and where it would be happening in the room," Alonso explains. "Whether it's reading in bed, a separate reading nook off to the side, or a small desk, you want the lighting to complement the space visually, but also not overpower and scream, 'I do my reading here; look at me!'"

Decorative lighting, Alonso say, is "your bedroom’s jewelry." Maybe this means selecting a bold chandelier—"it’s holding court in the room, but plays suit to all the other pieces," he comments. Bedside lamps can also serve this purpose. "Perhaps your decorative lighting is some really sculptural table lamps on your nightstands—lots of personality and lots of bang for your design buck!"

With regard to general lighting, one has even more choices. "Recessed lights are so common and inexpensive these days that getting them wrong is really a crime," Alonso notes. "That said, oftentimes they are overdone and you end up seeing landing strip rows of lighting, repetitively darting across your ceiling. Be mindful of where the recessed lights go." In some cases, Alonso keeps recessed lighting on the perimeter of a room only.

Don't Forget About Lamps

bedroom lamps

Allison Elefante Photo for Lauren DeBello

As Alonso touches on, by no means should you solely rely on overhead lighting in your bedroom. After all, lamps are a key element to include in the space as well, designer Brian Brown comments. "To kick it up a notch, bedside lamps or pendants are another great layer that are crucial to function," he explains. But that's not all. "I like to add lamps on dressers as well," Brown says. "It pulls light into other areas of the room and gives you a more even glow all around."

Opt for Sconces If You Share a Space

bedroom sconces

Cathie Hong Interiors

Sconces add elegance to the bedside and leave the top of the nightstand clear, but that isn't their only benefit. "If you do a lot of reading in bed, an arm sconce is always a go-to," Alonso comments. "I always make sure to have the switches work independent so each person in bed can control their side without having to rely on the other person. It’s a convenience that pays for itself in sleep hours!

Pick the Right Lighting Temperature

bedroom lighting

Ashley Webb Interiors

The right lighting temperature will make your time spent in your sleep space all the more enjoyable. "My favorite is a soft white bulb," designer Emma Beryl Kemper says. "It's illuminating without feeling sterile and works for ambient, task, and accent lights."

Alonso says that generally, he won't pick bulbs above 2700 Kelvin. "I love an amber glow in the bedroom. It’s a little moodier, softer, and warmer," he says. But if you must go up to 3000, that's completely your call based on your personal needs. "I’m very mindful of what other tasks beyond sleeping, streaming, or reading will be happening in the room throughout the day," Alonso adds. "If you have a desk and tend to do some office work during the day in the bedroom—especially these days when we’re all working from home—and your natural lighting isn’t so great, go for the 3000K."

Pay Attention to Scale

bedroom lighting

Alvin Wayne

When choosing light fixtures, pay close attention to scale. "A tip for bedside lamps is to keep the scale between 1/3 and 2/3 the width of the nightstand," designer Christine Vroom comments. "I tend to go closer to the 2/3 to fill in that space." Scale is equally important when it comes to overhead lighting. "If you have a large space with high ceilings, a large, statement light fixture such as a woven rattan pendant may make sense," designer Anna Franklin notes. "However, if you have a standard height ceiling, opt for something smaller scale that doesn’t hang too low."

As a general rule, designer Becky Shea likes to have overhead lighting hang eight feet above the floor. "Depending on the ceiling height, I work backwards to find my overall height, and I gravitate towards a diameter that is 1/4 to 1/2 the width of the bed," she says. "There's a lot of math that goes into design in order to make everything work!"

The number of bulbs your overhead fixture contains may also be dependent on room size, Franklin adds. "If it has more than two or three, it is likely going to be too bright for a smaller bedroom," she notes. "The more light bulbs, the brighter the space will become."