How to Choose Home Lighting

There’s no uniform solution to lighting a home. Different room shapes and sizes, the use of windows, and even features like cabinets all change what kind of lighting is best for each room and for your home.

Rather than providing a one-size-fits-all solution, we’ve put together some tips (and things to avoid) when you’re designing your home lighting system.

#1 Light Your Way Across Your Day (and Night)

Lighting serves more purposes than simply illuminating a room. It can be used to make tasks easier, set a mood, and provide safety in your home.

Make the most of your home and your lighting solutions by deciding what you want your lighting to do in each room.

For example, task lighting works well in kitchens because it allows you to turn on lights directly in your workspace without having to light up the whole room. These are great in dining rooms as well because you can use overhead lighting to create a bright space or change the mood of the meal.

Don’t forget about adding lights to unexpected places. Under-the-counter lights in kitchens and bathrooms allow you to travel around your home at night without turning all the lights on. 

#2 Avoid Overusing Recessed Downlights

It’s tempting to install recessed downlights everywhere because they’re touted as being inexpensive and they seem like the easiest way to get the most light in a room.

While recessed downlights serve a function, they aren’t sufficient for lighting vertical surfaces. That means that it creates a cave-like feeling.

#3 Create Layers of Lighting

layers of lighting

Using recessed downlights and similar styles of lighting seems strategic and easy when you’re first designing a room, but the room ultimately ends up looking like a cave or a convention hall.

If you want to add lighting to add character or warmth to the room, you need to create layers of lighting.

Adding overhead lighting is a good start, but it serves more as a foundation of light than a fully functional lighting system. You’ll need to add task lighting, including overhead task lighting and lamps.

Essentially, turning off the lights in the room should be a process. If you walk from one floor lamp to another and can create a gradual darkness in different parts of the room before turning off the final light, then you have layered correctly.

#4 Include Downlights and Vanity Lights in the Bathroom

Downlights work very well in bathrooms, but they also cast shadows that exaggerate your appearance. These unflattering shadows can be mitigated by adding vanity lights on the side of the mirror.

If you’re using your bathroom vanity mirror to apply makeup or other detail-oriented tasks like shaving you’ll need those extra lights in order for your bathroom mirror to be functional.

The best place to put these vanity lights is at eye level on each side of the mirror. This placement minimises the shadows created by the downlights and ensures the distribution of light is even across the mirror.

#5 Tease Out Shadows

Now you know how shadows can thwart your lighting and beauty attempts in the bathroom, but this problem isn’t strictly limited to downlights in bathrooms.

It can also be a problem in kitchens. Overhead lights in kitchens need to be placed carefully to shine on the spaces you’re hoping to light. For example, if your downlight is placed over the edge of your countertop or workspace, you won’t see an illuminated counter but a shadow precisely in the spot you’re hoping to work in.

You’ll also see this problem in offices, living rooms, and bedrooms. A light that isn’t placed directly over where you’re hoping to read will cast a shadow over your book or paper. 

The solution is, again, to create a lighting solution where the light is placed directly over your surface; though this is easier in rooms where furniture can be moved because it’s possible to move your chair. However, you’ll also want to consider adding task lighting in those areas to overcome these shadows.

#6 Choose the Appropriate Size Fixtures

light fixtures

One of the most common mistakes homeowners make is choosing a fixture that creates a disproportionate look in the room.

An over-sized lamp next to a chair or loveseat or a small chandelier over a banquet table can throw off the balance in the room and inevitably fail to light the room well.

So, what’s the right balance?

If you’re adding a chandelier, it’s a simple as calculating a measurement. 

Take the height and width of the room. Then, add the two numbers together. 

The sum of those two figures is the approximate size of the most appropriate chandelier diameter.

Don’t use that measurement if you’re adding the chandelier to a dining room. Chandeliers placed over dining room tables should be 30cm smaller than the narrowest width of the table.

#7 Make Your Main Lighting Bright

main lighting

The main lights in your room should be bright, especially if you’re using recessed downlights. In fact, LED lights are great for your main lighting because they make up for the loss of lumens in downlighting.

If you’re concerned about bright lights, add a light system with a dimming system. Dimming doesn’t only allow you to turn down the brightness but it decreases the amount of energy and heat they put out, which also lengthens the light of your lamps.

Light Up Your Spaces Wisely

Lighting your space wisely requires a good evaluation of your space and how you want to use your light. But by taking the time to identify what you want to use your light for, you’ll light your home in a way that works not only in design but in practice for years to come.