Another way to provide ambient lighting in a living room is to wash the walls with light, which can be accomplished with soffit or valance lighting, recessed or track lighting that is directed toward the walls, or even with plug-in floor lamp torchieres with translucent upward facing globes.
Earley also favors bouncing light off the ceiling because it suits the human tendency to visually perceive vertical planeslooking upversus looking at our feet.
If you’re a fanatic about light quality . . .Be Selective with the Bulbs You UseWarm light, cool light, bright light—you can get exactly the brightness level you desire with the right bulb. For lots of ambiance, try vintage-inspired filament bulbs. If it’s more a particular shape and style you’re after for an exposed-bulb fixture, try decorative bulbs.
Another consideration when lighting a dining room is to consider the wall treatment, as dining rooms often have decorative paint treatments or wallpapers. A darker color paint on the walls will reflect less light, so more lumens may be required in the room’s light fixtures.
The price of all electrical work will depend on the time the pros spend on-site, as well as on the current state of your wiring, its availability, and on the type of fixture that you have selected for your home. Keep in mind that your electrician will also inspect the location of your future lighting system to give you further information on the wiring procedure’s cost. If you have any further questions, you can always browse our comprehensive price page and find out the exact rates for a wide variety of fixtures.
With its heavy focus on the functions of food preparation and cleanup, as well as its tendency to be a gathering spot, the kitchen requires careful consideration of task and ambient lighting. Think in particular of the task lighting for the counters, where most of the work takes place, and over the sink.
A traditional lighting plan for a dining room consists of a chandelier above the table, plus a pair of wall sconces flanking a prominent breakfront or sideboard, with all lighting on a dimmer. An upgraded lighting plan might include cove lighting on two opposing walls and a dimmable chandelier over the table.
A new lighting plan for a medium-sized kitchen might call for cove lighting along two opposite kitchen walls to provide ambient lighting that bounces light off the ceiling, instead of recessed downlights or ceiling-mounted central fixtures, both of which primarily send light straight down. Valance lighting above the sink and undercabinet lighting would provide the task lighting.
Several purposes are served by outdoor lighting, including safety (on pathways), security, and pure aesthetics (playing up a beautiful plant or tree). Jody Pritchard, a lighting designer in San Francisco, says one of her first bits of advice regarding landscape lighting is to choose quality fixtures for durability. “The outdoor environment is so harsh, particularly on the coast, that it is worth paying a little more up front so you don’t end up replacing fixtures every three years,” says Pritchard.
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A traditional lighting plan for a bedroom might consist solely of floor and table lamps, with table lamps on nightstands and dresser. A new lighting plan might include either wall-mounted fixtures flanking the bed or table lamps on the nightstands, plus a pair of wall-mounted sconces near the dresser.
If you have no interest in hard-wiring a thing . . .Get an Arc Floor LampYou can have proper overhead lighting for your dining area without hard-wiring a thing overhead. All you need is an arc floor lamp; they plug right into a wall outlet but stand tall, with a long, curved neck that will position the bulb and shade directly over your table (how’s that for simplified?). The Arco floor lamp by Flos is classic, but more budget-conscious shoppers can spring for similar styles from retailers like Wayfair (or even Amazon!).
Identifying where particular tasks will take place in a home office is the first step to designing a lighting plan for this important room; reading books or paperwork, working at the computer, and talking on the phone are common tasks. A key consideration is to ensure that a light fixture is not reflected in a computer screen, so knowing the position of the computerwhich may be limited by the location of outlets and internet cablesis essential. A task light for the desk area should be positioned to minimize shadows and reflections, so place it to the right or left side of the occupant’s main work orientation.
Whether you want to improve the lighting for a specific room or plan a whole-house lighting makeover, keep these room-by-room tips in mind:
If you’re sick of the typical dining room look . . .Consider Less Traditional FixturesFrom paper lanterns to pendant lights, the options certainly don’t stop at chandeliers. Groves suggests creating a constellation effect by hanging a group of lights, or by placing a floor lamp placed beside the table rather than mounting a fixture at all. Maybe you’re devoted to crystal (understandable, Groves says, as “it’s been around for hundreds of years for good reason”), in which case consider a more modern shape fashioned from the traditional material.
Lumens: Lighting at the front entry should be 1,000-2,000 lumens; on pathways, a minimum of 300 lumens is recommended.
The entry points and pathways through a home typically require nothing more than ambient lighting, unless there are focal points such as artwork or architectural elements that should receive accent lighting. A small entry may be sufficiently lighted by a ceiling-mounted or recessed fixture or a wall sconce. A double height entry with a staircase may require a chandelier with lighting controls at both the bottom and top of the stairs. Ambient lighting in hallways may be provided by recessed fixtures, ceiling-mounted fixtures or wall sconces.
If you need a simple, super-inexpensive overhead . . .Get a Porcelain Bulb SocketSay you’ve just moved into a new place and need some overhead lights in the dining room ASAP—that hole in the ceiling where they used to have a pretty flushmount isn’t going to fill itself. Or maybe you’re ready to install overheads for the first time but can’t afford the chandelier of your dreams just yet. Enter these simple porcelain light sockets, which are a cinch to install and look surprisingly chic with a bulb plonked in. Best part? They’re about five dollars.
In a large living room formerly lit by recessed cans and table lamps, a new lighting design that includes architectural lighting might consist of two valances running the length of two opposite walls (mounted about a foot below ceiling height), one soffit installed directly above a fireplace (at ceiling height), and a table lamp placed next to a reading chair. Wall switches would control the valance and soffit, or a keypad could control all the lighting with preprogrammed ‘entertaining,’ ‘reading,’ ‘all on’ and ‘all off’ settings.
In fashion designer Marysia Reeves’s Venice Beach home, a breezy, lantern-like fixture hovers above the wood dining table.
Lumens: Ambient and task lighting combined in a dining room should be 3,000-6,000 lumens.
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Lumens: Ambient lighting in a bathroom should be 4,000-8,000 lumens, with task lighting at the mirror a minimum of 1,700 lumens.
If you’re trying to decide between options . . .Take the Shape and Style of Your Table into ConsiderationThe overhead fixture you choose and the table itself “don’t have to [have] a direct geometrical correlation, but there should be some proportional consideration,” says designer Russell Groves. A long or unusually large chandelier would obviously overpower a short table, and vice versa a teeny-tiny bulb might look silly above a big table. Same goes for the look: A lovely old farmhouse table would do well with a lovely farmhouse fixture or something super-modern for contrast—but either way, they should be considered together.
Ambient lighting may be provided by floor lamps, architectural lighting, or a pair of sconces flanking a wall mirror. Because the bedroom is a room where a relaxing, sympathetic atmosphere is welcomed, it may be best to avoid central ceiling-mounted fixtures that might be perceived harshly when viewed from bed. Consider the paint color of bedroom walls when planning light output as dark-colored walls reflect less light. For a closet, ceiling-mounted or recessed fixtures are commonly used.
The light fixtures of today are incredibly varied, so it’s no longer a hassle to give your home an unique touch. The electricians have the mounting equipment and junction boxes to turn your living room into a ball hall with a brilliant chandeliers, pendants, and sconces. For a more low-profile setting, the experts can also supply you with elegant table and buffet lamps or recessed downlights. And why not bathe your garden in led lamps, solar lanterns and other outdoor lights with the hit of a switch? But that’s not all – the pros can wire foyer lighting, bath vanity lighting, ceiling fans and much more in line with all safety regulations.
A common lighting design for older bathrooms may feature a central ceiling-mounted fixture plus a fixture above the mirror. An improved lighting plan would eliminate those fixtures and replace them with three wall sconces, two on either side of the mirror, and one on an opposing wall (offset from mirror position).
Task lighting for a living room may be provided by table lamps, such as pharmacy-style adjustable lamps placed near a reading chair or game table. “An apothecary-style reading lamp with an LED or incandescent light bulb is one of my all-time favorite choices for task lighting,” says interior designer Cheryl Katz of C&J Katz Studio in Boston.
Watts are so last year. The new measure is lumens. Get tips on reading a bulb label.
To accomplish ambient lighting that bounces off the ceiling of a living room, Earley suggests integrating cove or valance lighting into the room’s architecture. “Or, if you have bookcases or an entertainment unit that doesn’t go all the way to the ceiling, there’s an opportunity to add a piece of millwork and put a linear fluorescent behind it,” suggests Earley, who likes the new slim T5 fluorescents that are dimmable and have good color rendering and a warm appearance.
See DoubleIf your table is super-long, consider getting two or more pendant lights to distribute the glow evenly (that way everyone will be able to see their dinner). We love this “duet” fixture by Swedish newcomer Hem.
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One of the main reasons sinks have often been located at a window is to take advantage of natural light, and this layout is still highly recommended by lighting experts. Augment the natural light with a ceiling mounted or recessed fixture above the sink. Using undercabinet lighting is a good way to illuminate the countertop work surfaces without relying on an overhead light that will cast shadows on the person working at the counters.
Vary HeightsAs evidenced by a playful display in this NYC apartment, some pendant lamp pairs look best when they’re hung at different heights.
Unless you like eating in the dark, you need a light in your dining room—but the kind of fixture is not always an obvious choice. The best dining room lighting ideas are thoughtfully planned out; they take your actual eating habits, furniture proportions, and budget into consideration (e.g., if your “dining room” is a card table smushed up against the wall, you probably don’t want to invest in a massive, fancy chandelier). And though we wouldn’t blame you for screwing a lightbulb into a simple hardware store socket and calling it a day, there are also pendant lights and chandeliers and flushmounts and sconces to consider (not to mention some pretty amazing floor lamps you should probably know about). So we rounded up our best dining room lighting ideas from the AD and Clever archives—from strategies for light bulbs to shopping ideas and design advice—to help you find the perfect fit for your dining room . . . or breakfast nook, or coffee table that you secretly use as a TV tray.
Lumens: Ambient lighting for entries and stairways should be 1,200-4,000 lumens; ambient lighting for a hallway should be 1,200-2,500 lumens.
Lumens: Ambient kitchen lighting should be 5,000-10,000 lumens, with task lighting at counters, sink and range a minimum of 450 lumens in each area.
Consider Can LightingIn this stunner of an L.A. home by design collective the Archers, a Le Corbusier-inspired table is lit with simple can overhead lights (definitely on dimmers).
Now more than ever, bathroom lighting blends function and style.
Lighting designer Patricia Rizzo favors indirect lighting (reflected off walls or ceilings, rather than distributed in one direction) for a home office. “Use cove lighting to wash the ceiling or wall sconces that project the light upward, or a floor lamp torchiere that directs light upward if a plug-in fixture is your only option,” Rizzo says.
It all depends on how you’re planning on using your brand new lighting. For instance, you won’t need more than a single ceiling fixture to efficiently illuminate a small living room. But your sleeping area may benefit from dimmed, bedroom ceiling light fixtures that relax the eye and calm the mind. Want to create a cosy home office? Then think powerful task lights to ease those long hours of typing. If you can’t make a decision, let the creative pros at Fantastic Handyman handle the lighting project for you. Just share your preferences and the specialists will roll up their sleeves to provide you with right-sized light fixtures for practical or purely decorative use.
A basic lighting plan for a modest kitchen might consist of a central, ceiling-mounted fixture providing ambient light, with undercabinet fixtures providing task lighting for the counters, soffit lighting providing task lighting above the sink, and a pendant providing task or ambient lighting over the island. This traditional lighting plan is adequate for many kitchens and can be improved simply by putting all lighting on a dimmer, and choosing energy efficient light bulbs.
Accent lighting in a living room may be used to focus on an architectural element, such as a fireplace or bookcase, or on a painting, sculpture or plant. Uplights placed on the floor may be used as accent lighting for a plant, while track lighting may be used as accent lighting for artwork. When lighting an art collection, the brightness and heat generated by a type of lighting must be considered; for some lighting designers, accent lighting for artwork is a particular area of expertise.
If you’d like to jazz up a fixture you already own . . .Customize the LampshadeA reflective material inside the shade will help cast light back down toward the table, Groves points out, while perforated shades will turn any bulb into a twinkly light (if that’s your prerogative). “Textured fabrics like raw silk will add a beautiful warmth and shadow to a room,” he says, but should you require a more directional cast “an opaque shade wouldn’t give you a lot of glow in the room, but would put more on the table.” Just because a fixture has shades you’re not into doesn’t mean it’s the end of the line. Swap them out!
To soften overly bright overheads . . .Add a DimmerDesigner Sam Allen feels strongly about the worth of a dimmer switch: “If your dining room chandelier is not hooked up to a dimmer, call an electrician right now. I mean it. Don’t even finish reading this—call your electrician first.” With the simple pressing of a lever or turning of a knob, dimmers allow you to control the brightness of the bulbs, which is particularly important if you’re dealing with often-harsh overhead lighting. “To me, chandeliers should mimic candlelight,” says Groves—and that warm, dim glow is possible if you just install dimmers. Plus, they’re available in both modern and traditional silhouettes that will add considerably more charm to the walls than those plastic switch plates you hate anyway.
If you’re into geometric lines . . .Get Creative with the CordWhen hanging a pendant lamp with a very simple silhouette, feel free to get creative with the cord: Zig-zag it from wall to wall around a corner, tack it in swags along the ceiling, or loop it over a hook on the wall.
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In a modest living room that has one wall switch wired to an outlet, a homeowner fix that provides energy efficiency and versatility would be to replace the wall switch with a dimmer, and add faux-cove lighting by concealing a fixture behind a piece of millwork added to the top of a bookcase, and wired to the outlet controlled by a dimmer.
Fix Up an AntiqueIf you find an antique fixture you love—like this lantern-esque piece in the home of design duo Heiberg Cummings—just rewire them and they’ll be good as new. Source on sites like eBay, Etsy, and 1stdibs (or at your local thrift store!).
With its emphasis on personal grooming that requires viewing oneself in a mirror, the bathroom requires careful consideration of lighting placement. Too many bathrooms feature a central ceiling-mounted fixture that casts shadows on a person standing in front of the mirror. “One of the best improvements you can make in a bathroom is to light both sides of the mirror,” says Patricia Rizzo of the Lighting Research Center. In small baths, where one may have to choose between a wall-mounted fixture on the side of the mirror or an overhead fixture, lighting designers say to always go with the wall-mounted placement. “You don’t want to cause shadows in a bathroom,” says Rizzo.
The front door is one of the few outdoor areas where a brighter light is acceptable, with a traditional lighting plan calling for two wall-mounted fixtures flanking the door.
The right lighting for various activities is a must for every kitchen.
If the room’s layout permits, positioning a reading chair next to a window allows for natural light to be used for reading during the day. A table lamp can provide task lighting for reading at night.
Usually, light fixture installation doesn’t take more than a couple of hours. However, connecting the wiring and switches may last up to a day as the experts run various checks to ensure that all is good to go. Equally important is the height at which you want to situate your fixtures, so less accessible areas will most likely slow the technicians down. Last, but not least, is the complexity of the task ahead – different types of fixtures require a varied set of methods and tools, which can sometimes affect the length of your session as well.
Lumens: Ambient lighting in the bedroom should be 2,000-4,000 lumens, with a minimum of 500 lumens for each reading light, and 400 lumens for closet lighting.
The primary focus of dining room lighting is the table, and fixtures placed directly above the table may provide both ambient and task lighting for this room. Dimmers are particularly desirable as they provide flexibility in establishing a relaxing atmosphere when entertaining. An important consideration in a dining room that has French doors is to light something outside the doors (see “Outdoor” section) so that people using the dining room at night have a focal point beyond their reflection in the glass doors. “Light one element outdoors and you have a simple solution to the problem of glass reflection in a room at night,” says lighting designer Lana Nathe.
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An important factor that will determine your fixture mounting price is the state of your current wiring. If its condition is poor, then any modification or replacement work by the skilled specialists may take a bit of extra time and effort. The safe installation of a suitable electrical supply for your new fixtures may also require a tad more work, as this task can take quite a bit of man-hours. Finally, the process of running wires may sometimes involve loosening of floorboards adjacent to walls, which could result in subsequent repair work.
When planning landscape lighting, Pritchard suggests thinking in threes: light something close to the house, something midrange in the yard, and something in a far corner. “That way you create interesting focal points when viewed from the house at night,” she says. One overlooked benefit of outdoor lighting is that it minimizes the reflection of glass surfaces viewed from inside the house at night. “If you provide something outside that is lit, even a plant just outside a French door, you will be looking beyond the glass reflection,” notes Pritchard.
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Forego It AltogetherSconces, floor lamps, even table lamps can do the job of overhead pendant and flushmount fixtures—so don’t force one if you’re not sure you like the look at all (proof, via Amelie Colombet’s apartment).
Bedside reading and closet lighting are two of the primary concerns in a bedroom lighting plan. For bedside reading, lighting experts suggest wall-mounted light fixtures with adjustable arms so that the light can be directed on the reading material. Each bedside light should operate on its own switch, either directly on the fixture or a wall switch within easy reach.
To make the room multifunctional . . .Supplement the Lighting Solution You ChooseIf you end up with nice, warm candlelight over the table, you might need to add sconces or downlights to supplement the glow when the room is used for anything other than an intimate dinner. (Dining room tables are very good for DIY projects, we’d like to note).
Lumens: Ambient lighting for a home office should be 3,000-6,000 lumens, with task lighting at the desk a minimum of 1,200 lumens.
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All tools and supplies will be provided by the proficient specialists on site. The experts will carry all sorts of light installation essentials, such as drills, pliers, screwdrivers, and wire cutters that will be suitable for mounting any types of fixtures. With a bit of wire, electrical tape, and wire nuts, the team can also create extra wiring connections or make the necessary extensions. And if there is no wiring to speak of, the fantastic electricians will be more than glad to link your light fixture system to an appropriate junction box or circuit breaker.
Avoid the mistake of using too much light outdoors. “People often think more is better, brighter is better, but outside wherever you create a super bright area you’ve also created super dark areas, and that can be unsafe. It’s better to have low levels of lighting all around,” says Pritchard.
The concept of layering light is particularly important in the living/family room, an area of the house where people tend to gather for long stretches of time and engage in an array of activities, including conversation, watching TV, reading, playing board games and using a laptop. “In rooms where people spend a lot of time, I like to get away from recessed downlights, and instead use lights that bounce off the ceiling for ambient illumination,” says lighting designer Markus Earley, of earleylight, in Providence, R.I. “Bouncing light off the ceiling creates a sense of brightness in the room, and avoids the shadows or downward direction of recessed lights.”
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When Providence lighting designer Markus Earley, an adjunct professor at the Rhode Island School of Design, upgraded the lighting in his own kitchen recently, he compared LED and compact fluorescent lighting options for his undercabinet lighting, and chose T5 linear fluorescent light bulbs that are dimmable and emit a warm light with a correlated color temperature (CCT) of 3,000 Kelvin. “My one concern with LED technology is that the LED chip is a tiny little directional light source so that in a linear undercabinet LED light, you have a multiplicity of little tiny light sources that create shadows,” Earley says.
Lumens: Ambient lighting for a living room should be 1,500-3,000 lumens. Task lighting for reading should be a minimum of 400 lumens.
When hanging a pendant or a chandelier . . .Take Care to Hang It at the Correct HeightToo high and a pendant lamp might look stuck to the ceiling, constricted; too low and you won’t be able to see your guests around it. Somewhere in between is just right, so step back and consider it at various lengths before settling on one. “When you’re seated, you don’t want [the fixture] to be in your face—the same way everyone gets annoyed when flowers are in the way,” Groves says.
If a hallway is used as a gallery for artwork or photographs, consider accent lighting, which is achieved by precise positioning of directional fixtures that use light bulbs emitting very narrow beams of light. PAR (parabolic aluminized reflector) and MR (multi-faceted reflector) light bulbs are often used for accent lighting; fixtures include ceiling-mounted track lighting or recessed fixtures. Proper accent lighting of artwork requires professionals with skill and experience in locating and aiming the fixtures to avoid glare and ensure that artwork is not damaged.