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10 Ways Good Lighting Can Transform Your Living Room

Badly lit living room showing you up to the neighbours? Work magic by illuminating yours in clever and simple ways

Houzz Contributor. I am an editor, journalist, web and copywriter. I was Editor of… More

Illuminating a living room needs to be carefully thought-out: not only does your lighting need to look good enough to create an impression – even when switched off – but you need a combination of different lighting types to balance atmosphere with practicality. Here’s how to get it right.

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Create an architectural detail
Hiding a light strip beneath a false wall has created a sort of glowing dado rail in this living room. The effect is to introduce a warm, yellow light into a room mainly furnished with cool colours. In addition, because the light is channelled downwards, it makes the room feel cosy and welcoming (while focusing light upwards tends instead to open up a space, depending on how it’s used).

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Don’t be obvious
In the alcove of this living room, it would have been so easy to put a lamp on the console table… However, the angular wall light is as eye-catching as any piece of art while throwing light downwards in two different directions. Matched with the reading light, the result is a room that’s warmly inviting, despite the high ceiling, and practically lit.

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Focus attention
Very minimal living room schemes need good lighting to make them feel atmospheric at night. Here, it’s been achieved masterfully, with a pendant light hung very low over the table to create a focus of the cosy seating area. The see-through shade will filter light throughout the room, so choosing a not-too-bright, warm-coloured bulb would be wise.

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Raise the ceiling
Using a fitting that throws light upwards to highlight a ceiling is a cunning way to make a room seem taller. Here, the height of the mega floor lamp exaggerates the effect even more. Meanwhile, the feature pendant’s lightbulbs are crown mirrored, which will soften and redirect the light cast dramatically, creating a low-key, dimmed effect.

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Use reflected light
Removing the central pendant in a living room isn’t a terrible idea – but it means you’ll have to rely on much more atmospheric table and floor lamps (which, by the way, you should put on a convenient ring circuit to have one-switch control). But if you need to up your lighting levels, place lamps in front of mirrors. Even wisely chosen soft bulbs will reflect lots of light effectively.

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Choose sculptural pieces
Living room lighting should always be chosen for its good looks – but don’t assume it has to match or even coordinate. These table lamps are placed on a mantelpiece (in itself an unusual spot); there are two of them for pleasing symmetry, and they’re show-stoppingly, eye-catchingly unusual. Plus, they hold their own effortlessly against the over-the-top-fabulous ceiling pendant.

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Go for neat symmetry
Talking of symmetry… This living room has a pleasing pair of matching lights at either end of the main sofa. So why would you coordinate and balance your lighting to such a degree? Well, first of all, the lamps look smart, even unlit. Then, when lit, they’ll throw even pools of light around the room, which means everyone, wherever they’re sitting, will benefit.

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Play with proportion
How to take a room from ordinary to extraordinary? The answer is to keep everything stylishly understated, then go completely over the top with just one piece. Here, it’s the super-sized light fitting – and the key reason it works so well in this contemporary space is that, although it’s boldly big, it’s also translucent, so it whispers rather than shouts.

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Introduce texture
An all-white, all-neutral or monochrome room scheme is all well and good, but it can be a little bland, so adding chunky natural texture is a must-do. Here, it’s in the large – and therefore very noticeable – pendant lampshade, which, placed centrally, announces itself as the focal point of the room. Small outlay, big impact.

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Match looks with practicality
It’s no good picking a light for looks alone. It might be dashing during the day, but it will be an irritation at night if it doesn’t function well. So, the absolute ideal is to choose a fitting that looks fabulous and lights the room exactly the way you need it to. Here, the floor lamp has the stature of a thoroughbred, but also manages to be a perfect, adjustable reading light.

Got tips? Share yours – for all over the house – in the Comments section.

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