Modern style peaked in the world of interior design during the 1950s (which is why it's often referred to as midcentury modern) and has evolved into a timeless aesthetic. Rooted in minimalism, it grew out of early 20th-century movements including Bauhaus and the international style, with an emphasis on form and function. Modern style is refreshingly pared-down, eschewing embellishment and ornate details in favor of clean lines, a monochrome color palette, and geometric shapes. Stripped of any distractions, the components themselves become the focus. This less-is-more ethos makes it easy to integrate the aesthetic with a range of other styles, resulting in a slightly elevated spin on the original look.
Living rooms are often the largest gathering spot in a home and the centrally located space calls for just the right fixture to tie the entire look together. Of course, how many fixtures you need will be determined by the number of windows allowing natural light to pour in and the size and scale of the space. For a cozy vibe full of atmosphere, incorporate multiple light sources and different types of fixtures to create a comprehensive lighting plan. Generally speaking, you want to include two to three sources of light that will make it easy to use the space for various activities, such as lounging, napping, reading, and socializing.
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"I prefer to stay away from recessed lighting in a living room because lamps and hanging fixtures provide more subtle and dramatic lighting for a living room. Lighting is best when it is not directly overhead and not shining in a person's eyes," says Daleet Spector, founder and principal designer of Daleet Spector Design. "Table lamps are useful as well as floor lamps next to a sofa. I also love hanging pendants over a coffee table to anchor the space and [using] wall sconces for lighting around the periphery."
Don't mistake modern style's minimal approach with a cold and unwelcoming vibe: The inclusion of plenty of wood and an emphasis on incorporating views of the great outdoors results in interiors full of warmth and character. Another important way to add interest and personalize modern homes is with a carefully curated lighting selection. While modern lighting can often allude to other styles like midcentury or industrial, for the most part, it's defined by the same tenets: streamlined shapes, natural materials, and an edited color palette. "Modern lighting is so versatile because it's timeless and the streamlined silhouettes are easy to incorporate into so many other aesthetics. I love including them in traditional interiors to provide a unique and unexpected twist," says Spector.
7 Types of Light Fixtures for the Living Room
In every room, there's that one, perfect finishing touch. The countertops in your kitchen. The flooring in your bathroom. And in the case of living rooms, specifically modern living rooms, it's all about the lighting. Used for a variety of activities, the ideal living room lighting scheme will include several types of light fixtures to support various activities and create an unmistakable mood.
- Floor lamp: While most floor lamps provide directional lighting, making them ideal for tasks, some are purely decorative. Floor lamps generally have a slim profile and can be tucked next to a sofa or add purpose to an overlooked corner.
- Chandelier: Suspended from the ceiling, chandeliers contain multiple arms and light bulbs and tend to be more intricate and decorative. Chandeliers are often used in dining rooms and entryways, but can be included in a living room lighting plan to provide ambient lighting and are particularly helpful at grounding large spaces with lofty ceilings.
- Pendant: Like chandeliers, pendant lights are suspended from the ceiling, but they only feature a single bulb. Pendant lamps provide ambient lighting.
- Wall sconce: Also known as wall lights, sconces are installed on the wall and often function as accent lighting, illuminating a particular object like artwork or an architectural feature.
- Table lamp: A table lamp is, just as it sounds, a type of fixture that sits on a table or flat surface. They generally provide task lighting.
- Flush mount: Flush mount lights are installed without space between the fixture and the ceiling (they sit flush against the surface) and cast light downward. They generally have a shade that covers the bulb and are ideal for rooms with low ceilings.
- Semi-flush mount: Similar to a flush mount, semi-flush mount lights are affixed close to the ceiling, but leave a small gap between the fixture and the ceiling. They provide ambient lighting.
20 Modern Lighting Ideas for the Living Room
1. Illuminate with a two-light sconce.
Brady Tolbert's living room is a study in how current design can mesh together beautifully with midcentury accents. You can do the same in your home by giving the period a nod with some oh-so-modern wall sconces.
Get the look: Cedar & Moss Theo 6", $399
2. Make a subtle statement with a small but mighty chandelier.
Although large-scale living room lighting is certainly attention-grabbing in modern spaces, we're all for small chandeliers as well. If you'd prefer not to overwhelm your small living room, opt for a petite fixture with modern flair, like the one in this space designed by Jenny of Juniper Home.
3. Embrace a globe-style table lamp.
We all know what a classic table lamp looks like (and they certainly have their place in some spaces). But for a modern living room, we think you should kick things up a notch. Go with a fixture that showcases both curvy silhouettes and clean lines, a look that definitely works in this space belonging to Teri of The Lovely Drawer.
Get the look: West Elm Staggered Glass USB Table Lamp, $129-$258
4. Add texture with a woven pendant.
Back in the day, midcentury modern style frequently embraced natural materials like teak, walnut, and rattan. If you're searching for living room lighting ideas that are both modern and free-spirited, look no further than a pendant light in an easy, breezy, natural material and a geometric silhouette. The fixture in this setup belonging to Jessica Honegger and featured on The Effortless Chic is a perfect choice.
Get the look: Currey & Company Antibes Pendant, starting at $2,411.20
5. Introduce a hint of contrast with a streamlined semi-flush mount.
Living room lighting ideas don't need to be showy or elaborate to complete a modern space. Keep it simple with an under-the-radar fixture like a schoolhouse-inspired semi-flush mount. This look still has style but doesn't steal the show, as seen in this space designed by Shea of Studio McGee.
Get the look: Schoolhouse Otis 4", $288
6. Dress up a low ceiling with an eye-catching flush mount.
When you're looking for great living room lighting ideas, a great way to anchor the visuals in your space is with a flush mount — like the one in this living space styled by Kate of White Lane Decor is proof positive. The fixture has a modern shape and reinforces the white palette and gold touches throughout the room.
Get the look: Hudson Valley Lighting Chandler Flush Mount, $776
7. Consider an orb-shaped pendant.
Circular shapes are a home run when it comes to modern living room lighting ideas. An orb-shaped pendant, whether it's paper or glass, will certainly do the trick. And we're loving the stylish simplicity of the white hanging light fixture displayed in this living room belonging to Abi of These Four Walls.
Get the look: Anderssen & Voll Lantern Pendant, $599
8. Introduce a sculptural component.
In a modern living room, there's always the option to go big or go home, and in the case of this space styled by Leigh Anne of Houseologie, she decided to go big. It was the right choice. In a room that's both current and vintage, this chandelier is a statement piece that'll be a conversation starter for years to come.
Get the look: RS Lighting Store 5-Light Modern Chandelier, $79
9. Fill a corner with a not-so-standard floor lamp.
Living room lighting has a practicality about it, since you'll undoubtedly use it for reading sessions and creating ambiance during gatherings. But who says you can't have both functionality and panache? In this space styled by Jess Bunge, senior market editor at Emily Henderson Design, a gold mushroom-shaped floor lamp isn't short on style. It flawlessly mirrors the other modern elements peppered throughout the rest of the room.
Get the look: Schoolhouse Donna Floor Lamp, $699
10. Embrace dangling wall lights.
Symmetry helps interior spaces feel tidy and well-executed. Use lighting to achieve this pleasing balance, as Studio Life/Style did in this curated modern living room, by bookending an alcove with mounted wall lights. The black drop chains and cone-shaped lamp shades anchor an expansive white wall and keep the focus at eye level.
Get the look: Litfad Iron Conical Wall Light With Hanging Cord, $72.42
11. Direct light onto the ceiling with uplights.
One of the most endearing things about modern lighting is that it's easy to mix and match different styles and finishes without overwhelming a space. This living room by Decus, for example, combines a gold dome-shaped fixture with a pair of black sconces without looking busy. And don't forget to consider the shadows these fixtures will cast — both, the ceiling light and the wall sconces in this neutral setup will direct light upward onto the ceiling.
Get the look: Gallery L7 Utah 18" Ceiling Flush Mount, $1,800
12. Include a floor lamp in an unpredictable shape.
Add softness to the clean lines present in most modern living rooms with a curvy floor lamp. For example, Hema Persad selected a U-shaped two-light design for this teal living room, where it pulls double duty as an artistic element and a functional corner illuminator.
Get the look: Rove Concepts Uma Floor Lamp, $624
13. Brighten up a moody space with a high-contrast fixture.
The brilliance of modern living room lighting is that you don't always need to get so specific about it. A simple fixture will blend right in, or choose one in a high-contrast shade such as the white pendant in this black sitting room.
Get the look: Schoolhouse Ray, $699
14. Use a chandelier to make a lofty space feel cozy.
High ceilings allow homeowners to create a dramatic statement with one or more oversize fixtures. Chandeliers and pendant lights also have the added benefit of making lofty spaces feel intimate and cozy. For a modern living room with a high ceiling, like this refined space by Chango & Co., a sculptural chandelier effectively lowers the ceiling by acting as the room's focal point.
Get the look: EuroFase Crossroads 10-Light LED Chandelier, $1,569
15. Try a tripod.
For a floor lamp that's equal parts decorative and functional, consider a modern tripod. The beauty used in this modern bohemian living room combines a black rattan shade with a metal tripod base. The wide support has a welcome sculptural quality that's perfect for filling up an empty corner.
Get the look: Loomlan Billie Floor Lamp, $420
16. Add character with an intricate flush mount.
Abstract lighting is the perfect complement to streamlined modern spaces — infusing interest and a dose of whimsy without distracting from the simplicity of form. Chango & Co. selected a one-of-a-kind multi-bulb flush mount for this monochrome living room, integrating the ceiling into the overall design scheme and adding visual weight from above.
Get the look: Apparatus Trapeze 6 Surface, starting at $5,800
17. Be understated with circular sconces.
Modern lighting need not be large and imposing to make a statement. With an oversize skylight that filters plenty of overhead lighting into her space, Sarah Sherman Samuel turned to the walls for added ambient light. A pair of simple orb sconces add depth and punctuate an expansive living room wall without creating visual clutter.
Get the look: Allied Maker Concentric Sconce, $1,100
18. Hang pendants at different heights.
The streamlined profile of pendant lights makes them a no-fail addition to modern spaces. Amp up their impact and create a bit of drama by grouping fixtures of varying sizes and heights together. The understated frosted glass, metal, and leather trifecta in this cabin-chic family room by Raili Clasen proves that good things come in threes.
Get the look: Allied Maker Well Pendant, $2,650
19. Opt for an elegant arc-style floor lamp.
Arc floor lamps are a stylish staple in a modern lighting arsenal. They're pretty and practical and infuse a bit of edge into interiors. While they're typically made from chrome, the gold finish on this scaled-down version effectively elevates the task lamp to an elegant piece of home decor, adding a glamorous note to this midcentury modern living room.
Get the look: Jayson Home Rhonda Floor Lamp, $995
20. Consider a sputnik-inspired chandelier.
A modern chandelier belies the fixture's reputation for being ornate and traditional. This circle of globe-shaped bulbs will provide plenty of illumination in any size living space. Leanne Ford selected a white vintage sputnik-inspired chandelier in attention-grabbing white which pops against a gray limewashed backdrop. Other popular variations of this retro chandelier style include structures that stagger bulbs or place them on pieces of angled metal.
Get the look: CB2 Bubbles Brass Ring Pendant Light, $479