June 21, 2018

How to Light a Living Room

While most of our rooms are designed with specific tasks in mind ‒ cooking, dining, bathing, sleeping ‒ the living room hosts a broad range of activities, unique to each person. Depending on the day, it might be where we entertain our friends and family, kick up our feet to relax, curl up with a good book, binge on our favorite shows or even eat the occasional meal. This multi-use space needs carefully planned lighting for everyday living. From spotlighting family photos and artwork on the walls to providing ample light when the kids do their homework, let's explore the many lighting layers that make your living room come to life.

Task Lighting

The first, most important step in lighting a living room is figuring out how you use the space. From reading to relaxing, set up your lighting to help you along the way; this is called task lighting. Take a moment to think about what happens in your living room. For many of us, that’s watching TV. Televisions give off light of their own, so it’s important that your lighting doesn’t conflict with this, causing glare that interferes with your favorite show and hurts your eyes. Glare can come from a variety of lighting sources like table lamps without shades, downlights pointing at the screen, and even windows. Be sure to position your lighting and your TV so no light shines directly toward the screen.

Bias lighting is a clever way to both avoid glare on the TV screen and decrease the eye strain caused by long exposure to TV screens in dark rooms. Bias lighting involves placing lighting behind a television in order to increase the visibility around the screen, without shining more light directly into the viewer’s eyes. This can be done easily with a simple RGBW LED strip, ideally with a warm color temperature of 1000K to 2700K at night and 3000K to 5700K during the day to help maintain your circadian rhythm. This provides more ambient light in the room and saves your eyes from constantly adjusting between a bright screen and the dark room surrounding it. Far from distracting from what’s on the screen, bias lighting actually makes the images on the screen appear richer.

When it comes to reading lights, ambient table and floor lamps don’t provide the focused light you truly need. Desk lamps or floor reading lamps are your best bet ‒ their bright, focused light reduces squinting and eye strain, highlighting the words on the page rather than the space around you. If you’re looking for a more versatile option, consider an adjustable floor lamp like the Berenice Floor Lamp by Luceplan or the Kelvin LED F Floor Lamp by Flos. A simple swing of the arm or pivot of the head can accommodate your reading session, whether you’re sitting up or lying down, and easily shifts for the kids coloring at the kitchen table. If your tasks are relatively stationary, a stylish directional lamp may be more your speed, like the classic Grashoppa by Gubi. In smaller spaces, you may even consider a canopy mounted reading light, such as the Tolomeo Wall Light by Artemide.

Accent Lighting

After selecting lighting for the living room’s main activities, the next step is accent lighting. Accent lighting highlights artwork and architectural features within the space.

If you’re building a living room from the ground up or planning a major remodel, adjustable recessed lighting offers a variety of integrated accent solutions. Make sure to install your recessed ceiling lighting at a 30° angle, about two feet away from the wall on an eight foot ceiling.

To highlight a textured wall or one with architectural elements, consider a wall-grazer from PureEdge Lighting’s Cirrus or Stratus families. The shadows and patterns become works of art. “Shadows aren’t always a bad thing,” a Lightology lighting consultant reminds us. “In fact, shadows can be appealing when you want visual drama."

Micro Grazers are another great grazing option to emphasize textures in smaller surfaces under six feet, such as drapes or smaller architectural elements.

Track and monorail lighting can be stylish and practical alternatives to recessed lighting, especially rooms with high ceilings or where no remodel is planned. Flexible and functional, track and monorail offer both adjustable track heads and highly decorative pendants to enhance the interior of a contemporary home. For an even cleaner look, consider TruTrack from PureEdge Lighting, it’s only as thick as 5/8’’ drywall and eliminates the concern of hitting studs, allowing for more flexibility to make turns along the ceiling. Coming Soon.

If using accent lighting on a sculpture, plant, or other three-dimensional focal piece, consider spotlights or uplights, or recessed lights in the floor. Verge from PureEdge Lighting would also work well. As with all recessed lighting, uplights maximize space while providing the perfect layer of lighting. There’s also the three-point lighting technique, which employs a key light, fill light and back light to help illuminate an object while also controlling or eliminating the shadows produced by direct lighting.

Some spotlights are the focal points of a room. Vintage spotlights like the Coast Guard or Marconi Spotlight from Authentic Models are beautifully designed, exact replicas of spotlights used in seafaring at the dawn of the 20th century. They look great in your home, while also helping the other features in your home look great too.

Looking to showcase an impressive collection of art, family photos, or a particularly impressive book collection? There are a variety of ways to do this, from simple plug-in picture lights like PureEdge Lighting’s Cody 2 Plug-In to display lighting using junction boxes, like PureEdge’s Kurve Display.

Ambient Lighting

Once you’ve figured out your task and accent lighting, the last step is to add some general ambient lighting to fill in the gaps and set the mood. This can be done in a variety of different ways.

Recessed downlights are a great choice, if you’re in a position to install them. Avoid simply covering the ceiling with a collection of recessed downlights in a uniform pattern. “People tend to grid out recessed can layouts, which is not the way you should be thinking about that,” says Greg Kay, award-winning designer and CEO of Lightology & PureEdge Lighting and founder of Tech Lighting. “Instead, focus on what you want to see, what’s important in your space. Is it a work of art? A texture wall? An architectural feature? A vase on a table? Once you do this, you can fill in the blanks with general downlights or architectural lighting like Truline.”

One of the newer, most exciting alternatives to recessed downlighting is linear architectural recessed lighting, like the TruLine Plaster-In LED Systems by PureEdge Lighting. The sleek, linear designs recess into ⅝ inch thick drywall without joist modification. Countless installation options allow you to personalize the fixture for your space. The clean lines of light are glare-free and install easily across multiple planes in the wall or ceiling, offering the perfect look for a contemporary living room.

Wall-washers, like the Reveal Family by PureEdge Lighting, generously bathe an entire wall in even lighting without shadows, helping a room feel more spacious.

At this point, only a few pockets of shadows should remain in your living room, and this is where you’ll want to add ambient floor lamps and table lamps, alongside recessed downlights for full illumination. Portable lamps offer localized pools of light at eye level that flatter faces, creating an intimate yet relaxed social atmosphere.

The centerpiece for many living rooms is a pendant or chandelier., and there are plenty of styles to choose from. The aptly named Bling Large Chandelier from Robert Abbey, the thoroughly contemporary Raimond from Moooi, the showstopping Vertigo from Petite Friture, or the mid-century modern Karrington from Arteriors Home are just a few top selling chandeliers with personality. Remember that a chandelier’s primary function is to provide style and ambience, and they’re not always an effective lighting alternative to recessed ceiling lighting, track lighting, and monorail lighting.

High-Tech Features:
Warm Dim, Tunable White & Beyond

We’re biologically programmed to wake up with the bright blue hues of a morning sky, and wind down with the warm amber tones of a setting sun - it’s part of our circadian rhythm. Today’s technology allows us to match our indoor lighting with our circadian rhythm like never before, in what experts call Human Centric Lighting. Recent studies from the Department of Energy have told us that lighting plays an important role in your circadian rhythm, and can have a range of benefits to your health and mood. Brightness, color temperature, hue -- all play a role in setting the mood, and there are a variety of ways to achieve it.

“A lot has gone into making LEDs so popular these days,” a Lightology Lighting Consultant says. “The price has gone down, color temperature is better, quality is better, modern fixtures are built with LEDs integrated into them, so it’s easier. They're the future, so it's time to embrace them.” LED’s offer a range of benefits, including long lifespan ‒ they never burn out ‒ and energy efficiency. Several years ago, the most common complaint against LED lighting was the hue ‒ a cold shade of blue that was less than ideal for a relaxing environment like the living room. Today, LEDs have evolved - there are even LED Edison bulbs, for those looking for that vintage touch.

Part of the LED evolution involves Warm Dim & Tunable White technology. Warm Dim allows LED lights to dim down to a warmer color temperature, replicating the effect of a setting sun or the lighting we’ve all grown up with: incandescent and halogen bulbs. This alluring technology is becoming popular with homeowners and business owners alike and will soon be standard everywhere. Fortunately, there are already a wide variety of Warm Dim lighting fixtures to choose from, for any style space.

Tunable White goes a bit further than Warm Dim, giving you total control of brightness, color temperature and hue, all at the tap of a button or app. “Tunable White allows the user to change the mood of the space to fit their needs and desires,” says a Lightology Lighting Consultant. “You can have bright white that mimics daylight and can increase productivity, or a very calming warmth that emulates the sunset.” A warm and cozy 2K is perfect for those cozy, romantic Friday nights in. Raise it up to 3K for those boisterous, Sunday afternoons in front of a football game, or wake yourself up in the morning with a bright and cheerful 4K.

Easy Out-of-the-Box Upgrades

Dimming can be a nice, easy feature that doesn’t break the bank. Many of today’s fixtures are now dimmable (you can browse them all here.) If you want to stick with your existing fixtures, the Caseta Plug-In Lamp Dimmer from Lutron works with dimmable LEDs, CFLs, incandescent and halogen bulbs, meaning you can keep your fixtures and still bring a hint of high-tech into your space. If you’re willing to let go of control, but still want to add colorful LED to your space, consider a Smart & Green portable lamp - perfect for both indoor and outdoor spaces.

Advanced Smart Home Solutions

Whether you’re remodeling or building from scratch, now is the time to take full control of your living room, one of your home’s central hubs. The high-tech Truline architectural lighting from PureEdge Lighting lets you plaster-in Warm Dim & Tunable White technology, right into your walls. Line a corner, create a “floating ceiling” or create bold angles and lettering for something entirely unique - PureEdge provides the tools to help bring any idea to light. Once installed, use the DMX Touch Controller and watch your living room transform.

Handpicked Living Room Lights

Z-Bar LED Floor Lamp
by Koncept Lighting
Tolomeo Mega LED Floor Lamp
by Artemide
$1,810 - $1,940
Mod 265 Swing Arm Plug In Wall Lamp
by Flos Lighting
$1,084 - $1,445
Duality Reading Floor Lamp
by Lite Source Inc.
$296 - $316
Kelvin Led Floor Lamp
by Flos Lighting
Tolomeo Shade Wall Light Plug In
by Artemide
$505 - $515