Lighting 101: The Do's and Don'ts of Lighting

Modern open floor plan
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When we're decorating a room, there are so many elements to consider. And while the bigger pieces of the puzzle—things like furniture, rugs, and paint—might take up the majority of our attention, it's the small accents that make a space feel lived in and complete. So though it might not always be at the top of the list, lighting is one of the most essential elements of any room. And with so many new decorating styles, there's no shortage of options for fitting your lighting into your decor. Make sure your room is lit appropriately by following these lighting do's and don'ts.

Lighting Do's

  • Do take special care when planning bathroom lighting. There are important considerations that apply in the bathroom that don't apply elsewhere in the home.
  • DO use a mix of task, ambient and accent lighting in every room.
  • Do use a combination of table lamps, floor lamps, sconces, and overhead fixtures. You don't need to have them all in every room, but there should be at least two.
  • Do choose the right lampshade for table lamps and floor lamps.
  • Do follow the rules for decorating with chandeliers. More than any other type of lighting it's essential to get the measurements correct.
  • Do use chandeliers in unexpected places like bathrooms and bedrooms. They're not just for dining rooms anymore.
  • Do think of your lighting as decorative accessories. Most lights—fixtures, table lamps, sconces—should look just as good when they're off as when they're turned on.

Lighting Dont's

  • Don't be satisfied with just an overhead light. Even in small areas like entryways and powder rooms, it's a good idea to have another light source. Sconces or a small table lamp are a must. 
  • Don't ignore the importance of task lighting in work areas such as the kitchen, home office, and bathroom.
  • Don't forget to add dimmers. If possible, you should add one to every light in your home. Adjusting the brightness can add instant ambiance and slightly dimmer lighting is more flattering on absolutely everyone
  • Don't use contractor grade track and recessed lighting in a traditional room. It looks too new and sticks out like a sore thumb.
  • Don't ignore the importance of lightbulbs. Avoid anything too fluorescent or too yellow. A crisp white light is always best. If it's too bright, that's when the dimmer comes in handy.