Beautifully Illuminate Your Living Room with These Lighting Ideas from Interior Designers

upstate book living room
Sarah Elliott / Courtesy of Monacelli Press

The living room serves multiple purposes in a home: This area can host family celebrations or serve as an oasis after a long day (and everything in between). Furniture accents, like a sofa or coffee table, can play a part in the ambience of this cherished room, but lighting is another feature that can truly set the tone for this space. "More than anything else, lighting has the ability to create that almost undefinable element in our living spaces—a mood," Amhad Freeman, the owner and lead designer at Amhad Freeman Interiors, says. "It can be bright and lively, dramatic, or warm and cozy."

When thinking about the best lighting for your living room, Shari Francis, the owner and lead designer at Dadapt, suggests understanding how your space functions beforehand, which will allow you to choose from one of three lighting types—ambient, task, and accent—or utilize a combination. "If your living room is primarily for lounging, reading, and watching TV, then adding task and accent lighting, like a floor lamp by your sofa, is a good idea for functional use and creating a comfortable setting," she says. "Multi-functional rooms with the inclusion of living rooms may require more than just general ambient light, which is usually an overhead spotlight. You may have several areas where tasks are required and you want to accommodate task, ambient, or accent lighting."

Don't be afraid to get playful with your design scheme when incorporating lighting, either. "If you have art pieces hung on the wall or over the fireplace, consider art lights or track lighting to create more of a focal point," Abbe Fenimore, the founder and principal designer at Studio Ten 25, explains. "Try infusing lighting fixtures that coordinate together and complement each other instead of matching exactly. Mixing metals and incorporating the right scale for your room will allow your lighting to become part of the overall design instead of awkwardly sticking out." Are you looking to revamp your living room's lighting scheme? Then get ready for even more inspiration. Ahead, our interior designers share their favorite ways to add lighting to a living room with plenty of function and style.

01 of 10

Go Big

large overhead ceiling fixture
Courtesy of Ryann Ford

Liz MacPhail, the founder and principal designer at Liz MacPhail Interiors, notes that "one way to tackle ambient lighting in a room is to replace a drab ceiling fixture with something over-scaled (think big, but not so low it hits heads!) and decorative." She suggests selecting a fixture, like the one pictured here, that can add some drama to the space while tying together the other natural elements in the room.

02 of 10

Feature Architectural Elements

architectural element ceiling fixutre
Courtesy of Amhad Freeman Interiors

"I like to create a cove or tray ceiling as both an architectural element and a vehicle for beautiful indirect lighting," Freeman explains of his living room design pictured here. "LED tape allows us to create an invisible light source that softly illuminates the room and the people in it—it's so flattering to everything and everyone."

03 of 10

Layer Lighting Types

living room full view
Haris Kenjar

Kimberlee Gorsline, the founder and principal designer at Kimberlee Marie Interiors, says to adhere to the following lighting trifecta to transform your living room into a multipurpose space. "I recommend a table lamp, a floor lamp, and an overhead light to create that balanced lighting triangle: The lamps will help create more ambient or focused lighting for reading, while the overhead light can create more general illumination," she says. "Putting the overhead light on a dimmer switch, if possible, makes for an added layer of control."

04 of 10

Try Out Sconces

decorative gold wall sconces
Courtesy of Emily Hart

Wall sconces are a wonderful way to add symmetry to your living room, says Francis, and can even provide mood-boosting lighting if you feature several of them. Fenimore recommends including "sconces on either side of a mirror or art piece to create the illusion of scale on a large blank wall," as evidenced by the living room design seen here.

05 of 10

Add Lighting Throughout Your Shelves

decorative shelf lighting
Courtesy of Amhad Freeman Interiors

For a show-stopping, yet slightly understated opportunity to add light, illuminate your shelving, notes Freeman. "I integrate LED tape lighting in shelving units to highlight items on display," he notes. "This adds drama and a high level of sophistication to the space, and encourages clients to display their favorite treasures and keep the shelves tightly edited, gallery style."

06 of 10

Create a Signature Standing Spotlight

satin floor lamp with dome lighting
Courtesy of Heather Hawkins

"I have used the standing spotlight a few times in projects that had a bit of industrial or eclectic theme," Francis says, also noting that specific floor lamps can provide indirect, warm lighting. "The light reflects off the dome of the shade creating a lovely dim glow. I like using this lighting if I design around moody dark interiors where paint is generally a satin finish and highly reflective."

07 of 10

Make Lighting a Piece of Art

creative red art hanging light
Courtesy of Heather Hawkins

Fenimore suggests a ceiling light that can double as décor in your living room. Consider either installing a fixture that has a unique design or bold color.

08 of 10

Stay Symmetrical

living room with mixture of colors and fiddle leaf fig tree
Bethany Nauert

Place table lamps of the same height in a balanced formation around your sofa, MacPhail suggests. This way, even if the lamps are mismatched in design or style, your living room will still feel symmetrical.

09 of 10

Centralize Your Lighting

geometric print rug and wall decor
Katie Charlotte

Consider a woven chandelier or pendant to boost the lighting aesthetic in your space. "It provides a sufficient lighting source and provides levels of visual interest when you have an oversized or scaled pendant or chandelier in a living room," Francis notes.

10 of 10

Add a Sculptural Touch

artistic hanging sculpture lamp in office
Courtesy of Amhad Freeman Interiors

Sculptural lamps can do wonders for a living room, notes Freeman. "The trick is to pick the lamp by its shape: Think graphic for visual impact or choose something with texture and detail to add contrast to a sleek space," he says. "Use a lamp shade that has a filter on the top and bottom of the shade to ensure that, whether you're sitting or standing, you don't see the light source."

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