Whether it’s pretty or practical (or both!), lighting is crucial when it comes to living rooms

Amy Cutmore

Amy Cutmore

Lighting will set the tone of a living room and should never to be underestimated – though sadly, it often is. It might help to think of lighting a room in the same way you’d dress a bed. With a bed, you start with the basics – a sheet, duvet and pillows, and then add to them with cushions and throws. Similarly, when you’re lighting a room, you start with the primary level of lighting, ambient lighting, and then add in task lighting where you need it.

Living room lighting ideas

Your ambient lighting will take the form of a principal light. For good distribution use a pendant, chandelier or spotlights – plus any natural light from windows, doors or skylights. You can then add your task lighting, which is especially useful if you’re also using your living room as a home office, or a place to settle with a good book. Adjustable desk lamps and table lamps both fall into this category.

Aside form the style of lighting you might also want to think about what colour light is best for a living room. Soft or warm white bulbs have a more traditional, cosy feel and are a good way to make a larger room feel relaxed and welcoming. Cool white light, on the other hand, is more energising, and probably better if you have an open-plan space incorporating a kitchen and dining area. 

Living room lights to choose from

Image credit: Colin Poole✕Skip in 5

The average modern living room will boast at least two different lighting options. From statement ceiling pendants to smart spot lights to provide the main overhead lighting. Accompanied by either floor standing light or side table task lamps to more directional wall lights to create an undertone, proving a more ambient option rather then the main lights.

1. Make a statement with a lighting sculpture


Image credit: David Parmiter

Contemporary lighting can serve as a striking focal point in a living room. If you are blessed with high ceilings, you can really go to town with dramatic and angular fixtures. This owner didn’t let her home’s distinctive Victorian character stop her from indulging in her love of up-to-the-minute design, and picked a modern three-arm take on a chandelier.

She has cleverly chosen fixtures and fittings – such as the picture ledge side table and shelves – with strong black lines to bring cohesion to the look.

2. Go glam with a chandelier


Chandeliers might not be as popular as they were ten years ago, when shabby chic fixtures were all the rage. But they can still be a classy and contemporary lighting option. To bring them up to date, pair them with a scheme that’s rich in deep jewel colours such as amethyst purple, sapphire blue and emerald green, and brass and bronze-finished furniture and accessories.

When used as a central lighting choice, it may be that you hardly use this as your lighting option – it can be there to provide more of a decorative purpose. A top tip when choosing chandelier is to opt for a dimmer switch, to allow you to control how bright the light is. Use to the nature of having multiple arms, these designs can often be very bright.

3. Match with a coordinated theme

Image credit: Polly Eltes

The best way to make all your living room lights blend seamlessly, without being too matchy-matchy is by coordinating a theme. The overhead here is a stylist glass take on a traditional Fishermans pendant, and while the task lamp doesn’t ‘match’ its white enamel design has a subtle coastal vibe. Both sit naturally amongst the decor of soft blue hues, with natural linen textures and seaside mementos. When all the lighting elements work together it helps to create a more thoughtful decorating scheme, where the lighting enhances the look – rather than dominates.

4. Illuminate alcoves and dark corners

task light to light up a living room alcove

Image credit: Polly Eltes

If you have a dark corner, such as an alcove beside a fireplace a lamp can prove invaluable. This helps to illuminate the space, to make the room feel bigger and add depth. It can also help to make it feel more characterful after dark, as the shadows play with the space to create interest in contrast to the light bouncing directly off a flat wall. You can chose to direct the light slightly more into the alcove, as opposed to shining it directly outwards – as desired.

5. Shed light on a reading corner with an oversize adjustable lamp


Image credit: David Giles

For a quiet moment with a book, select an enormous Anglepoise-style lamp with a flexible arm and head to direct the light exactly where you need it. This large-scale design can also create the perfect spotlight for any budding entertainers at family gatherings.

6. Play with scale

living room lighting ideas lamp in yellow sitting room

Image credit: Lizzie Orme

‘Think about the size of the room and scale of chosen design’ advises Suzy McMahon, buying director at Sofology. ‘The addition of a large floor lamp can draw the eye, adding personality and making a statement. However, for smaller rooms, consider floor lamps with slim bases that won’t take up too much space; these also offer a way to light darker corners and hallways without being imposing.’

7. Bring symmetry and order with matching table lamps


Image credit: Dominic Blackmore

Take a tip from the interior designers and double up for a more professional, put-together look for a living room. Two identical table lamps used either side of the sofa can really anchor a scheme, especially when set on matching tables, with the colour of the lamp bases picked out again in cushions and other details.

8. Add colour and pattern with a mix-and-match lampshade and base


Image credit: Dominic Blackmore

The right table lamp can brighten up a room even when it’s turned off. The trick here is to mix pattern with block colour and to take two contrasting colours to come up with a combo that really pops. For a more coordinated look, reflect the same colours in combination elsewhere – here, you’ll see them echoed in the sofa and cushions.

9. Welcome fashionable flex


Image credit: Dominic Blackmore

The lamp flex – AKA the cable that runs to the plug socket – is having a moment. No longer the poor cousin to a a flashier shade or even bulb, it’s being allowed to make its own style statement with colour and pattern. Here, a blush pink flex stands out against a simple glass base and graphic monochrome shade, and coordinates with carefully chosen ceramics.

10. Match your lighting to the furniture


Image credit: Simon Whitmore

Despite its importance, lighting can often look like an afterthought. Avoid this (even if it is the case!) by picking lighting in a colour that perfectly matches a key room feature. In this case, it’s a sofa, but it could be your curtains, wallpaper or a rug. Suddenly, your lighting choice looks very deliberate and put together – who would know?

11. Mix materials

Image credit: Sofology

‘Choosing designs with mixed materials such as metal and glass adds texture whilst keeping the look contemporary’ advises Suzy McMahon at Sofology. ‘Although it’s not necessary to match a light’s materials to other pieces in the room, it’s worth opting for styles that complement each other for a cohesive décor scheme. For example, if your wallpaper features a lot of green, selecting a lampshade in a similar colour will tie the look together.’

12. Mimic natural light with wall lights

blue living room with wall lights

Image credit: Lizzie Orme

Placement is an all important factor when it comes to lighting, for any room. With living rooms especially because you are likely to use the room all throughout the day, therefore mimicking the natural light with well-placed lighting options is a favourable idea. In this bright and airy living room space the wall lights are placed directly above the skylight which floods the room with down light during the day. The wall lights will help to replace/mimic that light once it’s dark outside, giving the room a familiar ambient feel to that of the light during the day.

13. Free up space by thinking vertically

Living room with blue sofa

Image credit: Dominic Blackmore

Who says all lamps having to sit on side tables? Opting for a lamp that can be wall-mounted allows you the freedom to move secondary furniture around more freely, such as side tables. It also means the space isn’t taken up, preventing you using the surface for cups, vases, books etc.

14. Use the walls to allow more focused lighting

open-plan living room with wall lights over mustard velvet sofaView colours

Image credit: Nick Smith

Wall lighting provide the perfect way to create a more directional approach with fixed lighting. Choosing wall lights with adjustable rams allows you to concentrate pools of light exactly where you want them to shine, a great characteristic in open-plan living spaces. As we see in the example above a seating area is well zoned within the open-plan living and dining space. Even when the lights are not in use you immediately know where the point of focus is, thanks to the positioning of the lights poignantly pointed towards a plush, comfy sofa.

15. Introduce natural light with skylights


Image credit: Simon Whitmore

You might think adding roof lights is a huge structural undertaking, but it can be surprisingly easy – especially if you only opt to add one or two. However, the transformation will be instant and dramatic. Velux is a good place to start your research – and if you’d prefer a larger roof lantern, try Apropos.

16. Make a grown-up display of string lights


Image credit: Simon Whitmore

Fairy lights don’t have to be exclusive to Christmas trees and kids’ rooms. Pick the right design and they can be used tastefully to light up a dark corner. Cotton ball string lights like these are ideal – provided you stick to tones like white, taupe or soft grey, you’re on to a style winner.

17. Complement lights with lanterns


Image credit: David Brittain

For a relaxed vibe, nothing beats candlelight – and popping said candles inside a lantern will reduce the dangers associated with a naked flame. For total safety, you could even consider using LED candles instead, as once they are inside the lantern, you’ll barely notice a difference.

Rustic washed designs like these work beautifully in a coastal-themed living room – a polished aluminium would work just as well. Or you could transform your living room into a North African Kasbah by mixing up lanterns large and small, in bronze, brass and other metallic finishes.

Source: idealhome.co.uk