Living room lights

Living room lights – How to select the best living room lighting

When we are talking about the lighting design of a certain room, we should always ask ourselves about the function of the room. Because I’m talking about living room lighting design in this article, I must say a few words about the functionality of the living room. I must admit that this is not an easy question. Every household has different expectations for its living room – some people only use it when guests arrive, and others use it only for watching TV. In some families, kids use the living room for playing, while in others kids aren’t allowed to play in the living room and can only play in the kids’ room.

When it comes to lighting for the living room, my number one piece of advice is to think about what you are going to do in your living room. Will you read there? Will you work? Will your kids play there? Will your living room be the main space for social events, or will you only watch TV in it? Do you have a fireplace? These are all questions that need to be answered before we start talking about light layering in the living room. If you know the answers, read on to find out more about selecting the perfect living room lighting fixtures.

Ambient lighting comes first

When you are choosing ambient living room lighting, you have two basic options – you can use wall sconces (appropriate for living rooms with lower ceilings) or pendant light fixtures (appropriate for higher ceilings). If you choose wall sconces, you must know that one can’t do all the work. How many of them you will use depends on the size of your living room – if your living room is bigger, you will want to use four wall sconces (one on each wall); if it’s smaller, two will probably be enough. The benefit of using wall sconces is that they don’t provide only ambient light; they have a decorative function as well.

If your room has higher ceilings (more than 9ft), you can also use pendant lights – in smaller rooms, one will probably be enough. If your living room is bigger, you should consider installing more of them (for example, one above the couch, another above the TV).

For complete ambient lighting in the living room, we should not forget cove lighting, installed just under the ceiling – an illuminated ceiling looks extremely good (especially in bigger living rooms with higher ceilings). You can also use “indirect lighting” to create a better mood, such as low-voltage lights in a special cabinet (with china or other valuable items). For better impact, this cabinet should be made of glass (or at least have a glass door).

Living room ambient lighting

Picture 1: Recessed lights can be used as ambient lights as well

Accent lights in living rooms

There are many objects in living rooms that need extra illumination – the coffee table, fireplace, couch, plants, and so on. Because most of these objects can be moved, you need to make sure that you use adjustable lights (most people use adjustable recessed lights). You don’t have to illuminate every single object, but it’s also not recommended to illuminate just one (do you really want all the attention on just one thing?).

Task lights for reading and other activities

Since many of you will use your living room for occasional book or magazine reading, doing work in the evening, playing board games, and so on, you will need task lighting as well. You can use standard “pharmacy type” or table-top light. If you want your task lights to do their job correctly, you should position them between your head and the place of focused attention. That’s why it’s not recommended to use ceiling lights as task lights (even though their light is focused).

Did we forget decorative lighting?

No, we didn’t, because in many cases, ambient and accent lights also have a decorative role. However, if you believe that your living room still needs some light decoration (this is especially common when all ambient lights are hidden), don’t hesitate to install extra decorative lights.

Light switches and dimmers

As I always stress, be careful where you install light switches – switches for commonly used lights should be installed near the doors (except switches for task lights). I also suggest using light dimmers, because they give you more control over your living room illumination. 


Living room lighting is a challenge and if you do it right, you will enjoy it for a long time. Make sure that you include light layering into your lighting plan, and don’t forget to use your imagination. I hope that this article gave you some lighting ideas and inspired you to come up with some good ideas of your own. Have fun with living room lighting design!

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