Simple Ways to Lighten a Room


Lighting is not an afterthought, as any skilled designer will tell you.

You might be tempted to spend more time choosing furniture or arranging layouts. But lighting can transform a space not only by brightening dark corners but also by affecting your emotions.

Theo Richardson, director of development at Rich Bright Willing in Brooklyn, said light is a powerful tool. He founded the design studio with Charles Brill and Alexander Williams, and it’s famous for its unique LED fixtures. The right light can lift our moods, encourage productivity and motivate us. Light can bring life to the little things in our lives, such as our morning routines or the time we spend with friends.

Mix it up

Designers agree that space should have more than one light source. Layered illumination is a way to think about it: Each room should have multiple light sources, such as Overhead, accent, and task lights.

For example, in the living room, you might hang a decorative ceiling fixture close to the center. This is Nathan Orsman, a lighting designer who lives in New York City or Southampton. He said, “Then, we turn our attention to the outer walls for downlighting which can gently wash the walls and curtains with warm, functional light.” You can achieve this with soffit lighting or valance lighting. Or, you could use a plug-in torchier floor lamp that bounces light off the ceiling.

He suggested that accent lights can be used to highlight artwork or table lamps placed next to seating to add light. It all depends on the layout of the room. He said that a candle could add a different atmosphere to a room.

He explained that the goal is to create contrast between light around the perimeter and in the middle of the room and between darker areas between them. “Without these darker, quieter moments, everything is boring and flat.” The subtle interplay of light and darkness is what creates interest.

Get Bright in the Kitchen

The kitchen is one place where bright lighting is more critical than ambiance.

He suggested that the space be flooded with recessed or high-hat lights. He told hanging pendants from the ceiling if I have a kitchen island. This will provide light without taking up space that you might use to prepare or eat food. You’ll also be able to see your guests without needing to use a hanging light.

Remember the under-cabinet lighting: Installing LED strips at the bottom of your upper cabinets will create a well-lit counter space for food preparation and cooking.

Take into account the Orientation of a Room.

It will usually take more effort to make a north-facing space that is not directly lit by the sun.

Donna Mondi is an interior designer from Chicago. She installed recessed fixtures around the perimeter of a north-facing room to compliment a central pendant that diffuses light horizontally. She also used table lamps and a pair of sconces to illuminate dark corners to draw the eye to a particular piece of art.

She used a similar strategy for a dark bedroom. A central chandelier was combined with discreet up-lights in each corner, bedside lamps, and sconces above the fireplace.

Banish Bad Bathroom Lighting

Ms. Mondi stated that a recessed fixture above the sink is not advisable as it can cast shadows that aren’t flattering. She suggested installing wall-mounted sconces with 75-watt bulbs 66 inches from the floor. This will provide even illumination and help to illuminate your face.

She added that motion-lighting at cabinet bases is another “great feature to include,” and it creates a “very subtle glow” similar to a nightlight if you awake in the middle of the night.

A sculptural pendant lamp can create an atmosphere of intimacy and luxury. Janey Butler, the owner of Janey Butler Interiors (the interior design wing at the Llama Group, Cheshire, England), transformed a bathroom without windows into a dramatic space. She hung Ochre’s Celestial Pebble Chandelier above the tub.

Ms. Butler stated that the light is an attractive object which catches the eye upon entering the room. It also provides focus to the freestanding bath. She also used LED strip lighting concealed behind floating shelves to give the chevron-patterned floors a subtle glow.

Light up the corners

Caitlin Murray, founder and chief executive at Black Lacquer Design in Los Angeles, stated that a floor lamp could transform an awkward corner. A light that complements the space will instantly transform a once unfinished corner into a polished, intentional part of the overall room design.

Ms. Murray selected the Detrick Floor Lamp from Arteriors to brighten the living space adjacent to her bachelor’s bedroom desk. It has an earthy finish and a gray-green color.

She said that the accent piece served two purposes: it provided additional light for her husband’s work area and was a statement piece. It was crucial to find something with the right tone and texture to complement the overall design while also providing enough contrast to the neutrals around it to make an impact.

Please do not overdo it with the Overhead.

Robert Highsmith, a principal of Workstead in Brooklyn, said that overhead lighting is a significant mistake. He founded the firm with his wife Stefanie Brechbuehler and Ryan Mahoney, both Rhode Island School of Design alumni, almost a decade ago. It can often be too much, creating unwanted shadows and spots.

Workstead recommends that residential clients avoid recessed overhead lighting. Mr. Highsmith suggests hanging large pendant fixtures or a chandelier in common areas. He told globe fixtures for kitchens, providing even lighting that doesn’t expose counters. He indicated that living rooms use subtle lighting sources such as floor lamps and wall sconces. A sculptural centerpiece above a dining room table creates depth, and accent lighting amplifies warmth.

Play with Ambience

Install dimmers in all your lights: Mr. Highsmith stated that it is easier to set up dimmers in each fixture than to replace a wall switch that controls all lights.

He suggested that a bedside lamp with both a dimming and moving shade be used in the bedroom. Workstead created the Orbit sconce to be adjustable in both directions. It has a dimmer and a swiveling reflector to allow the light to be directed and blocked. He said, “We believe the more flexibility, the better.”

Remember the details

“When you use a shade, whether it’s on a lamp, a fixture, or a chandelier, use frosted bulbs to eliminate shadows and hot spots caused by shade clips,” stated Paloma Contreras, a Houston-based interior designer.

Make sure that the shades are straightened. Ms. Contreras stated that the harps could be manipulated to ensure the shades fit correctly on the lamp.

Also, orient the lampshade in a way that hides seams. She added that she had seen many seams on lampshades on TV, in movies, and magazines. You wouldn’t wear your dress backward, would you?

According to Paloma Contreras (an interior designer in Houston), make sure that lamp shades are oriented, so the seams are hidden. Credit…Max Burkhalter

Choose Your Bulbs Carefully

Ms. Contreras stated, “I’m all over the LEDs now.” Warm-colored LED bulbs are used to illuminate our homes. They look just like traditional incandescents. They can be used with all fixtures, including recessed and table lamps.

She suggested using 2,700 and 3,000 Kelvin for warm, inviting lighting. (These bulbs, often called “daylight,” do well in a garage or other valuable spaces.

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