You need to think about your living room lighting before you start to decorate the room.

For example, you might want to have one or more wall switches which control all the lighting - when you enter the room you can switch on all the lamps, or all the ceiling lights. If that's your goal, then you need to get the wiring done first of all.

It's usually a good idea to have plenty of light sockets around your walls so you can place table lamps, standard lamps or uplighters wherever you want once all you furniture is in place.


There are four types of lighting.

  • Daylight
  • Background
  • Task (reading, etc)
  • Feature (lighting up objects such as pictures)


You can get maximum daylight into your room by making sure any curtains and drapes can be pulled back clear of the windows. And because the light in most rooms is as little as 10% of daylight, you'll often find (especially on dull days) that one or two table lamps can be lit to supplement daylight.

Background lighting

Background living room lighting can be supplied by chandeliers, wall lights, uplighters and table lamps.


modern living room

This photo illustrates the effect light can have in a room. Notice the way the lights in the ceiling brighten areas of the floor and furniture. The lamp in the background creates interest with the light and dark areas on the walls. If you can imagine all the lighting uniform, the room would look quite 'flat'.


Uplighters are normally associated with more modern or contemporary rooms, but don't let this influence you too much. Unless the design is distinctly modern, uplighters in traditionally furnished rooms are perfectly acceptable. Chandeliers, modern or traditional, unless they have fabric or opal glass shades, can give a harsh light. If it's a crystal chandelier, however, this is an advantage, as the light is reflected and refracted in the crystal.

With most lighting today you can have 'dimmmer' switches fitted. These allow you to control the amount of light emitted, and are very useful. Fit them whenever you can.

Table lamps probably give the most relaxing living room lighting. Their position is such that light is reflected off the ceiling, so they act as uplighters, and they shine light downwards, so they act as reading lamps.

The advantage of table lamps is that you can re-arrange them as necessary. The lamp bases can also be items of beauty in their own right. Hand painted Japanese pots are a classic example of items which are used as lamp bases.


living room lighting

As well as sources of light for your living room lighting, table lamps can be objects of beauty in their own right. They are especially useful in large rooms, and can provide both background and task lighting.


Task lighting

Task lighting can be given by table lamps and specialist reading lights. As well as desk lamps for reading, you'll find floor lamps which can have their light section pivoted to direct the light. These are are very effective for your living room lighting.


living room lamp

If you ever need to place a table lamp in a certain position in your room and you don't have a suitable piece of furniture to put it on, use a circular table. You can make these easily (or have one made for you). Simply cover it with a circular cloth, have a piece of glass cut to size and the edges polished, place it on the top, and voila! These covered tables also give 'softness' to a room, especially if you have a lot of hard edges on view.


Uplighters are available which also have a reading light attached, so you can use either light, or both lights together.

Feature lights

Feature lighting can be supplied by recess ceiling lights, picture lights, spotlights on ornaments etc. Recessed down lights in the ceiling should be able to rotate a small amount, so you have some control over the direction of the light.

Hint: Don't think of lighting as 'this lamp' or 'that wall light'. Think of a lamp as a brush which 'paints' light over the floor, walls and ceiling of your room.


modern living room colors

No matter which style of home decorating you use for your living room, the same lighting principles apply. In this photo two overhead lights provide background lighting, and a floor lamp in the far corner and table lamp on the left give task lighting.



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