I have been feeling good about how our living room is
coming together. We started with the ebullient artwork
that became my jumping off point and then added the
blue and white trellis chairs, a neutral sofa, and the
black console table. Now I was ready for the lamps. My
first lighting purchase was a pair of buffet lamps for
the console table and then I brought in a simple, long-
neck table lamp. The room was evolving nicely. The
problem was, I still needed a lighting source on the
other side of the fireplace.
It wasn't so noticeable during the day but at night this
corner of the room was a dark abyss. Which brings me
to my first rule of lighting...
The lighting in a room needs to be balanced. Sometimes,
in a smaller room, you can get by with just three sources
of light but I prefer four and usually in each of the four
quadrants. This creates an even bath of light throughout
the room. In our space, I didn't like how the buffet lamps
on the console table felt a bit crowded or close together
for the size of the room.
So I eventually replaced them with wall sconces that
could be spaced further apart and beyond the width of
the console table. This allowed the light to easily per-
meate into the corners of the left side of the room.
LOL, yes, this painting has, over time moved from one
side of the room to over the fireplace. :D But I digress.
On the opposite wall, I had an end table and table lamp
to the left of the fireplace but I still had one dark corner
on the right and it stayed like that for over a year. Then,
last week, I found the perfect floor lamp.
Now my balance issue had been resolved and Rule #1 had
been met. So onto Rule #2.
We've all seen it, a room where someone has hung a
picture that is much too small on an expansive wall,
a sofa that overpowers the room, or an undersized rug
that shouts skimpy. This same concept applies to lamps
and lighting fixtures. Size matters. Consider scale. One
of the first mistakes I made when we moved into this
house was when I bought a pair of bedside lamps for
our master bedroom. I had never worked with the extra
tall ceilings that this house has and I forgot my scale
rule. As a result, the lamps looked ridiculously stunted.
Don't overlook the height of your ceilings. If it is a table
lamp, consider the size and height of the table top. A
lower table might need a taller lamp. A smaller table
will need a lamp with a narrower base. If you are using
two table lamps, they don't necessarily need to match.
It can be an interesting dynamic to mix it up a bit, but
I do like to have the lamps at fairly comparable heights
so one doesn't overpower the other. The same idea
can be applied if you are using a table lamp and a floor
lamp. Size matters and it all comes back to Rule #1.
Balance the light and balance the size of the lamps.
But it isn't just about how the lighting looks in the room,
they also have to provide a function, or as I refer to it,
There are different lights for different reasons. I like to
categorize them into ambient, accent, and task lighting.
The ambient lighting is the overall, general look that
the lighting provides a space. It is the cozy and
welcoming feeling that the light brings to a room. Table
lamps, floor lamps, sconces, and chandeliers provide
this ambient lighting. The accent lights bring real
interest into the equation. Use them to highlight art-
work, a niche, or architectural points of interest in the
Then there is task lighting. As the name implies,
this illumination provides enough lighting for reading,
cooking, and working. Ideally, I strive to have at least
one chair and a task light in most rooms. This gives me
the option to cozy up and wind down with my laptop
or a good read.
Rule #4 comes into play when you are well into the
design of a room. You have already brought in the major
elements and maybe other lamps. The final pieces you
bring in not only need to fit into the floor and lighting
plan but, as I stated earlier, they also have a utilitarian
purpose. There is a lot to think about. It might be
tempting to purchase a gorgeous statement lamp that
you just fell in love with at the furniture store but this
is where self-restraint comes in. Go back to the rules.
If you need a good reading light you want to think
about how much light that lamp provides. You might love
that black shade but it will cut down on the illumination.
Keep looking. If you are trying to fill a cavernous space,
you will want to look for a lamp with some heft. If
your room has extremely tall ceilings, you will want
to focus on lamps that are at least 34" tall and drop
your chandeliers down so you have approximately
seven feet between the bottom of the chandelier and
Then, and this is where it really gets tricky,
after all of those considerations, your final choices
need to play nice with the other elements and
other lights or lamps that are already in the room.
Mixing metals is fine but I don't like to mix more than
two. I am also a fan of the unexpected element but don't
forget your overall design concept. If you are trying to
pull together a Palm Beach ambiance, no matter how
charming it is, you obviously won't want to introduce
that primitive farm style table lamp. Look at what you
already have going on. Eclectic, done right, is fabulous
but if you find yourself second-guessing if this lamp
you just fell in love with really works well with your
previous purchases, maybe you need to keep looking.
Very simply, all the pieces need to play nicely with one
another. A statement lamp is great but if it overpowers
or clashes with the other elements in the room, then
it isn't the right lamp. Keep looking. It's out there.
Lighting is an often overlooked layer in design but it doesn't
need to be complicated. Just remember our simple rules:
- Strike A Balance
- Size Matters
- Everybody Has A Job To Do
- Play Nice
and you will save yourself those frustrating and sometimes
expensive lighting missteps. Happy lighting!
I am sharing my lighting thoughts on these wonderfully inspiring blogs:
Shop the post:
Floor lamp: John Richards floor lamp from Naples Lamp Shop
Off-white elongated table lamp: Grace Modern Vase Lamp
Wall Sconces: Visual Comfort Grammercy
Entry chandelier: Currey and Co long leaf
Ginger Snap Crafts Wow Me Wednesday