When you're giving your living room a makeover, lighting might not be at the top of your list of priorities. Big-ticket items like wall colors, sofas, and floor coverings often take center stage. But the lighting you choose and where you place it can make or break the space. Not only does it have a huge impact on the mood, but it can also create the impression of extra height and depth, draw the eye to artwork and other accents you'd like to highlight, and make your multi-use living space more functional and balanced.
There are many factors to consider when deciding on the lighting you want for your living room. The size of the space, height of the ceilings, available natural light, and the overall aesthetic you're looking to achieve all play their part. Even the type of light bulbs you choose can make a big difference.
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"The key point is to link the lighting to how you will use the space," says Lucy Burt, owner of Nest Interior Design. "I would focus primarily on decorative and ambient lighting such as a striking pendant light, which provides a focal point even when off during the day. Then also a floor lamp and table lamp(s), to both add interest and allow for layers of lighting depending on when and how you are using the space."
This kind of layered lighting will allow you to adjust for different activities. Burt explains: "Watching TV, you will require less lighting, so [you] might just opt to have the lamps on. If you read or use a laptop or tablet in the space, you might want a directional floor lamp, which can be angled as needed."
She also points out that different fixtures may require specific bulbs because of the way they diffuse light. "Lighting with shades will filter the bulb and offer softer light in the room, whereas glass lighting will not filter the light in the same way. So choose filament bulbs or those which mention warm white and opt for a lower wattage to give a more restful feel," she advises.
For major remodels, it makes sense to create a lighting plan in advance. Think about how many fixtures you need, their position, and whether they'll be plugged in or hardwired.
Lighting Types to Consider for the Living Room
There are many kinds of light fixtures to choose from as you set up your living room. Most likely, a combination of several will be your best bet. Some of the most popular styles include:
- Flush-mount: sits directly against the ceiling
- Semi-flush mount: sits close to the ceiling but not directly against it
- Pendant: hangs from the ceiling by a cord, chain, or rod
- Chandelier: a ceiling light with multiple, distinct branches (chandeliers are often but not always pendants)
- Recessed: sits inside a ceiling or wall rather than hanging from it
- Wall sconce: mounted from the wall rather than the ceiling
- Biased lighting: creates an ambient glow behind a TV screen
- Floor lamps
- Table lamps
If you're still waiting for that light bulb moment, check out the living room lighting ideas below to set off a spark.
15 Living Room Lighting Ideas
1. Flirt with flush lighting in small spaces.
Thanks to a flush-mount fixture, you can add a luminous glow to your compact living room without having to duck your head every time you walk under it. This classic silhouette by McGee & Co. is a simple yet stylish lighting option. And it won't gather dust the way lower-hanging options do.
2. Stay cool with fan lighting.
A fan light combo not only helps keep you cool, but it can also add elegance to your space. The fixture above fits perfectly with the minimalist color palette and wooden touches in this modern farmhouse living room from Bless'er House. It also makes a great, understated focal point.
3. Open up the room with semi-flush mount lighting.
Semi-flush mount fixtures are the Goldilocks "just right" of ceiling lights. More understated than pendants, they also have more power to brighten a room than flush mounts do, since their light can shine upwards as well as out and down. The fixture in this colorful living room by Blackband Design is small enough that it doesn't steal focus from the colorful furniture, but large enough to add an extra layer of illumination to complement the recessed downlights.
4. Keep it sleek with recessed lighting.
Spotlight fixtures blend right into the ceiling, which is why they're such a popular choice for modern living rooms. They often have dimmer switches, allowing you to adjust the ambience in the room, and they're unobtrusive enough to let other features in the room shine. For example, the A-frame architecture of this space designed by Amber Lewis is allowed to take center stage without any distractions from hanging light fixtures.
5. Highlight your TV with biased lighting.
Are you getting dry eyes and headaches during your nighttime Netflix binge? It could be that your eyes are strained from looking at a bright screen in a dark room for too long. Adding ambient biased lighting behind your screen can help. It works particularly well for a living room with a white TV cabinet, like this one from My Italian Living, as it balances out the contrast between the light-hued furniture and the dark screen.
6. Add boho vibes with rattan.
We're in the middle of a rattan renaissance, and we're not complaining. The plant fiber is a popular addition for boho, Scandi, and coastal-style interiors. In this bohemian living room by Reserve Home, the rattan pendant light coordinates beautifully with the honey-colored furniture and hardwood floors. The weave also filters light, offering a warm, diffused glow.
7. Create intimacy with wall sconces.
Looking to add secondary ambient light to a particular area or statement piece in your living room? A wall sconce or two can draw attention to artwork or decorative shelving. They also make the perfect addition for a warm and cozy reading nook, and when used in pairs, they add pleasing symmetry. In this living room by Emily Henderson, a pair of gold-hued wall sconces adds a bit of glam to an eclectic space.
8. Go for midcentury minimalism.
Part of the fun of selecting light fixtures is deciding whether you want them to blend in or stand out. The statement chandelier in this beautiful living room designed by Sandra Weingort strikes the perfect balance. Like the furniture and artwork in the midcentury- and Japandi-inspired space, it's both minimal and strikingly sculptural, and it provides a focal point against the plastered gray ceiling. The effect is dramatic, tranquil, and welcoming all at once.
9. Add elegance with a chandelier.
Chandeliers aren't only for dining tables or entryways. Opt for this living room lighting idea when you're lucky enough to have plenty of ceiling height to play with. That's what Mallory from Reserve Home did in her boho-chic living room. She chose a stunning two-tier fixture from Hudson Valley Lighting, which adds a hint of glam.
10. Combine contrasting textures.
Adding complementing layers of texture to your living room can make it more interesting, welcoming, and comforting. The furniture and decorative accents in this colorful room designed by House of Nomad are a great example. The fringe on the pendant light adds boho flair and allows the teal velvet sofa to pop.
11. Brighten up your reading spot.
Do you have a nook in your living room reserved for reading, knitting, or puzzling? General ambient lighting from overhead fixtures might not be enough support for your eyes. With an adjustable lamp, you can point the light where you need it most. This elegant sofa spotted in an apartment listed on Finn would be the perfect place to curl up with a good book. And with the arched floor lamp, you can get the light shining just right on the pages.
12. Experiment with different pendant lengths.
The drop of your overhead lighting can really affect the look and feel of your living room. Play with different measurements to see what height you like before committing. Suspension-style pendants, like the ones in this living room captured by photographer Nikole Ramsay, are a great option because the long cord gives you plenty of wiggle room to adjust the height to your heart's content.
13. Make an artistic statement.
Light fixtures can be an artistic expression as well as a practical addition. Just make sure whatever you select matches the overall living room design. The sunburst light fixture in this monochromatic room from Andrea Rodman Interiors works well with the sculptural, understated elegance of the other pieces in the room.
14. Draw attention with a table lamp or two.
Table lamps are a flexible living room lighting idea that provide soft, eye-level illumination. They're perfect for generating a convivial and welcoming atmosphere. Black fixtures in particular pop against neutral color palettes, making them exciting decor choices for minimalist spaces, like this pink corner designed by Sarah Sherman Samuel. Using one on each side of the artwork creates a sense of balance.
15. Try a tripod floor lamp.
The wooden legs of this tripod lamp fit perfectly with the natural textures, crisp whites, rattan, and layered blues in this coastal living room styled by Serena and Lily. Floor lamps also illuminate the space at eye level, offering more balance than ceiling lights alone can provide.