Living Room Lighting: How to Layer More Light into Your Space

Talk to any designer, and they’ll tell you the biggest mistake people make when decorating their homes is layering their lighting.

You most likely need more living room lighting than you might think. The general rule of thumb is to have at least 7-13 sources of light in a room, with a mixture of task, ambient, and accent lighting. Simply put, the larger the living room, the more light sources you will need layer.

Living Room Lighting Basics

You’re most likely starting with a couple of ambient light sources, base lighting like an overhead fixture, or canned lights & track lighting.

Overhead light sources—especially canned lights and track lighting—usually get a bad rap, but they are important elements in your room. Bad overhead lighting can read clinical, unflattering, and even jarring, but there are two easy overhead lighting fixes!

  1. Use the Right Lightbulbs — we recommend 2700 kelvin lightbulbs which are the perfect ‘warm white.’ Learn more about LED lighting here.
  2. Put Your Ambient Lighting on Dimmers — It’s important to be able to control the amount of light your room is getting. This way, you can brighten or dim your overhead fixtures depending on the task or mood you’re looking to set.

Need help choosing the right size chandelier or overhead fixture? Use this guide.

The Case for Table Lamps

Table lamps and floor lamps are a no-brainer for living room lighting: not only because they’re a decorative element for your side or console tables, but also because they add light in different corners of your room.

In a well lit room, you’ll have an overall brightness to the room (provided by your ambient light), plus light in darker corners that draw your eye around the space and create a warm glow.

Shopping for a Table Lamp

The most complicated part of shopping for a table lamp is deciding on the lampshade. Selecting the right lamp shade comes down to two things: size and material. The height of the lamp shade should be 2/3 the height of your base, and the width of the shade should be double the width of your base.

The material of your lampshade can have a big impact on the amount of brightness your lamp gives off—a darker fabric or a gold lining will cast less light around the room than a white linen shade.

Learn more about sizing your table lamps here.

Wall Lighting in the Living Room

Sconces are a great addition to your living room lighting for several reasons.

  1. They cast light at the perfect height (about eye level) which is the most flattering light you can add to your space.
  2. They don’t take up table or floor space, so you can bring light to corners of your room that are short on space or feel too empty.
  3. They’re a great substitute for wall art. Rather than finding a piece of art for an empty wall, consider adding a pair of sconces.

We also love using picture lights to add an extra layer of light to a room and to bring presence to special artwork. Not every piece of art needs a wall light, but it can create a focal point or really draw attention to something you love.

Task Lighting

Of course, you may need to add some task lighting depending on your living room.Think of task lighting as directional light focused in a particular spot where you’ll be doing something, like a floor lamp next to a reading chair.

If you do like to read in your living room, you’ll want to add a lamp next to your favorite reading spot. A floor lamp with a metal shade that will cast light downward is a great option because it’ll really focus that light down onto your page.

Small Accents

We love adding small accents of lighting in unexpected ways.

Consider putting small mini lamps in spaces you wouldn’t normally consider, like in a bookshelf or entertainment center.

Candlelight is also a great way to bring warm lighting into your room, especially during darker months or when you want a space to feel festive. LED pillar candles are great for convenience or go old school with tapers in a fabulous pair of candlesticks.

Are you ready to add more lighting to your room? Browse all of our lighting options and for more inspiration check out these posts below:

To stay up to date with all things How to Decorate, sign up for our monthly newsletter.

Caroline McDonald

Caroline lives for pairing together patterns, mixing furniture styles, and oogling over our newest furniture pieces. As you can imagine, her little 1920's craftsman is in a constant state of flux. Here on How to Decorate, it's her goal to help you turn your home into your own little slice of paradise.