Unless you’re the Queen of England, with designated parlors and sitting rooms for every kind of occasion, chances are your living room serves as the backdrop for all sorts of activities that keep your home life buzzing, from Sunday binges of Game of Thrones and weekly family game nights to quiet evening reading sessions and holiday-morning gift exchanges. Sure, you’ve made certain that your furnishings are flexible enough to accommodate each and every one of those functions, but one oft-overlooked element is just as crucial to pulling off every party and Netflix and chill with effortless style: lighting. If you thought you could just sprinkle in a few table lamps and call it a day, you’d be wrong. Here are designer-approved strategies to help you set the mood in your living room for optimum, well, living.
If you’re not lucky enough to have canned lighting installed into the ceiling from the get-go, choose a chandelier or ceiling fixture that casts a warm glow over your entire living space. This kind of ambient lighting tends to be the main source of illumination in most rooms and provides the base for additional fixtures, so opt for high wattage that can be tempered with a dimmer switch to avoid that deer-in-the-headlights effect.
A marble mantel, a pair of stately étagère bookcases, a beloved art piece—if you have architectural or decorative features that are designed to make a statement, give them greater emphasis with sconces or recessed and under-mounted cabinet lighting. Just remember that these should be about five times brighter than the main source of illumination for the effect to be noticeable.
Table and floor lamps provide targeted brightness for reading and writing when placed on or near a side table or desk, while decorative wall sconces enhance the intimacy and visual interest of a room. Use these sparingly: too many can make your room look cluttered.
As with everything else, moderation is key. Too much overhead lighting can kill a cozy vibe, while a preference for task over ambient lighting can have you squinting to see even the person sitting next to you. And consider how much natural light shines into your living room. With a few strategically placed mirrors—and a pale, light-reflecting paint on the walls—you can bounce the light around your space without adding lamps or overhead lighting. Lastly, remember that halogen and LED bulbs are whiter than regular incandescent ones, so the light will be cooler and brighter while the latter cast a warmer glow.