Getting the lighting arrangement right in a living room can actually prove much trickier than in say a kitchen or a study, this is due because the way we use our living area is much more random. When in a kitchen, you are either there to prepare food or eat food –simple. When in a study you are there to, well, study- even simpler! A living room however is much more of a multidisciplinary space, at any one time it could be being used by somebody who is watching TV, roaming the internet, chatting on the phone, doing homework, reading, eating or just relaxing- a hard working room by anyone’s standards!
In order to adequately cater for all of these demands, a well organized mix of accent, task and ambient lighting is required.
Accent lights are concerned with the illumination of the main architectural and decorative points in room and can generally be found around the room’s perimeter. Spot lights make for extremely good accent lights as they can be angled to pick out particular details. Track or recessed lights also make good choices for spotlighting individual pieces of artwork, bookshelves or other general points of interest.
Once the points of interest have been lit, look for task areas to light (reading, wet bars, hobby or game tables). The amount of light you need will vary according to the activity. A good way to decide on how strong the light needs to be is to hold small table lamp over the task area. Those there to serve a functional purpose, task lights can be used to make real decorative statements, for example a low hanging pendant positioned over a game table or reading chair can be a nice touch. If you intend to use ceiling recessed spotlighting as directional task lighting, make sure you plan your furniture layout very carefully as you won’t be able to change your mind once the lighting is installed.
After the accent and task lighting comes the ambient lighting. Ambient lighting is all about creating mood and atmosphere and is an extremely decorative tool. The direct glare of spotlighting makes it a poor tool for ambient lighting. Instead, look to use wall sconces or ceiling lights, or add large and small table lamps or a floor lamp- anything with an indirect glow is what you are looking for. A great way to add ambient light is with hidden fluorescent lights- for a really funky twist you could even add a coloured bulb (note- the colour of the bulb will have a huge influence on the mood of the room so choose carefully).
Remember to layer the light and control the layers independently so the room can adapt to different functions as desired. Dimmers are a good way to help the lighting be more adaptable and they extend the life of bulbs considerably.
Lighting is often an overlooked area of home design. But as any interior designer worth their salt will tell you, it is at the very least the equal of any other design feature in your home. Get it right and you will have a home that is prepped and ready for just about any situation.