Illuminating ways to light your living room

April Kennedy April Kennedy
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Great living room lighting has the power to illuminate our home-life in multifunctional ways. A living room is used for relaxing on the sofa, watching movies and reading or spending time with friends and family. It is commonly used for a casual meal as well. Each of these activities has different lighting requirements that may change at different times of the day. So what's the best way to light a living room?

To start, it helps to consider the different zones of the room and ask what type and intensity of light is suitable for each zone. There will be a need for general illumination, task-based lamps and accent lighting to highlight special features of the room. The secret is to work out how to mix these three in an aesthetically pleasing way for every occasion and mood. Here are just a few illuminating ideas to help create the perfect living room ambience.

Bulb types

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Lightbulbs come in a huge variety of hues and intensities, with the most important mood factor being the warmth of the bulb. Since warm yellow tones generally make our living spaces feel more relaxing, it is best to avoid a blue tinted bulb except in reading areas where a slightly cooler hue may be preferred.

Since incandescent globes have been phased out, we now have the option of CFLs (standard compact flourescent globes), halogens or LED (light emitting diode) lights. Each has its own merits.

CFL lights are cheap and widely available. New models emit a warm, ambient light that doesn't flicker. Halogen lights emit a bright white light that is great for task lighting and LED lights are directional and are the most energy efficient bulbs available. Although the best LED lights are initially expensive, they are very low maintenance and much cheaper to run over time. These work best for overhead and recessed lighting in a living area.

The brilliance of natural light

Harvesting natural light is obviously the most energy efficient means of lighting your living room. So after inviting as much brilliance as you can into the room, consider how you might control the flood of light. Blinds let you control the light with great precision while sheer curtains allow light and retain privacy. If there's a lot of natural illumination, it's possible to even create a lighting plan without using any general overhead lighting at all.

Overhead lighting

Overhead LED lighting works best when recessed. The general effect should be soft, diffuse and evenly balanced throughout the room. Dimmable lights are really a must because they offer the flexibility of creating an instant mood.

It's important to make sure lights do not sit directly over the seating areas and create ugly heavy shadows. If this is unavoidable, angle them away from the seating area. Zones used for television viewing should also be lit carefully. It's key to avoid distracting glare or bright overhead lights. At the same time, it can be taxing on the eyes if the brightness from the monitor contrasts too sharply with the ambient light, so it's important to build up some surrounding light.

Lampshades for texture

Lampshades have huge potential to create those little warm pools of light that make a living room cosy and warm. But what differentiates them from other lighting options is their place in creating variety and decoration in a room. The colours and textures of the fabric of the shades can shift gently accentuate the overall themes of your decor or provide bright contrasting splashes of colour against your walls.

Floor lamps for convenience and style

A big floor lamp like this one used by Emre Urasoglu and Mimarlik Tasarim is great when you want need more light over a coffee table or general conversational area, but don't want to lose the intimate ambience of the room with strong overhead lighting. Creating extra light, however gentle in your living room helps create the layers and textures of light that give a living room both gentle ambience and practical functionality.

Side lamps

Side lamps and wall lamps are generally used for accent lighting. This is the kind of lighting you might use to highlight a painting or a wall feature as seen here. The lighting above the painting is primarily decorative. In other lighting schemes accent lighting could be something as simple as a string of light beads or fairy lights. This can be a playful way to introduce some personality and character to the room.

Reading lamps for practicality

The bulb used here will generally be more powerful. Use something specific and focussed but avoid fluorescent lamps that often flicker and cause eye strain. It's better to use something energy efficient that can be dimmed for personal comfort.

Experimenting with many of these options will help creating layers of light can have a powerful effect on your living area and a well-illuminated living room has the potential to change how you enjoy one of the most pleasant rooms in the house.

For more clever decorating ideas, have a browse through 6 ways to renovate your décor without spending money.

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