Canned lighting was pretty popular about 10-15 years ago, and people are, for some God-forsaken reason, still adding it to their homes. Sadly, my home has canned lights in almost every room. It has to be the worst of all lighting options for creating a serene, comfortable ambiance in your home. It makes you look bad, makes you feel bad, and feels insulting. So, my number one tip is NO CANNED/RECESSED SPOTLIGHTS IN THE HOUSE! (I’ll step away from my soapbox now.)
The way light falls is such an essential element in decorating your home that it should never come as an afterthought. “Consider good lighting to be a prerequisite to style,” writes Deborah Needleman, founding editor of Domino Magazine and author of “The Perfectly Imperfect Home.” The right lighting has the power to turn an unremarkable room into something special. I’m an absolute fanatic when it comes to the play of lighting in our home. I’ve got my go-to lighting for everything.
Have you ever been in a room in a home that was decorated so beautifully and perfectly, and yet something felt terribly off? I was at a former colleague’s house for a cocktail party years ago and was shocked that she had turned on every light in the kitchen and living area. I could practically see the capillaries on the other guests’ noses. The gorgeously decorated room with the white sofas and soft rugs was ruined by surgical level lighting.
You don’t want that. Bright lights don’t work unless there is a task to perform. Instead, use layers of lighting to create a mood.
Here are some suggestions for creating a well-lit home.
Table Lamps–My mom has little table lights everywhere in her house. It’s incredible when she turns them all on because the house still feels very cozy and softly lit. You don’t have to go table lamp crazy like my mom to benefit from the subtle power of a table lamp. Depending on the style and shade, a table lamp can serve lots of different purposes. According to Deborah Needleman, there are very few spots in the home that can’t benefit from the lovely light of a table lamp.
- Front hall console (warm and welcoming)
- Side table (next to sofa and chairs)
- Sofa table (behind the sofa)
- Bedside table (mis-matched lamps look cute and farmhouse-y)
- Dresser (especially in front of a mirror)
- Mantel (skinny)
- Kitchen counter (farmhouse-y and cozy)
- A bathroom shelf (makes it feel less bathroomy)
If you run into trouble with the location of outlets, I’ve found success with poking a small hole in a rug and running the cord through that or drilling a small hole in a shelf. A designer friend of mine said she hates to see power cords running behind furniture. This has stuck with me over the years, and I’m always finding ways to hide power cords (maybe I’ll dedicate a post to this topic).
Table lamps are perfect for lighting up corners of a room that feel dark and drab. They instantly add character. Table lamps can get expensive, but I’ve had success finding vintage table lamps at thrift stores and picking up a cute shade somewhere else (that said, you will need to bring the lamp with you when you go try on lampshades; eyeballing doesn’t work – believe me, I’ve tried).
Tip: Needleman recommends that when you have overnight guests, switch on a table lamp in their room at dusk so they won’t enter into darkness.
Floor Lamps–Floor lamps add variety and height. They’re great to use as reading lights next to an armchair in a reading nook. Although a torchier floor lamp that throws light up to the ceiling is beautiful, a reading floor lamp with an adjustable arm and slight shade is what you need next to your reading chair. Ideally, you have one that you can adjust the height of because the ideal height of a reading floor lamp is lower than what you’d think: you want the light to light your page, not your head.
Hanging Lights–Although I’m not too fond of overhead lighting, it is sometimes necessary for specific areas, such as over a kitchen island or the dining room table. These lights shouldn’t hold your highest watt bulb. Let the overhead lights spread light softly over the room. Or put them on a dimmer so that you can turn the light up when you need to do an art project at the table and turn it down when it’s time for the dinner party.