Image of daughter with headphones sitting in wicker chair reading in her room, surrounded by twinkling lights

How To Choose The Right Lighting For Your Home

4-Minute Read

Lighting is one of those design elements that’s usually an afterthought, behind things like paint colors and furniture. Sure, it’s a more utilitarian detail – where you make sure you can see in your home – but it can go beyond that.

Whether you’re doing a whole home renovation or looking to update the decor, here are a few tips on how to choose lighting.

Types Of Light

Before choosing light fixtures, it’s important to look at the different layers of light. That way, you can gauge what type of lighting you need. Besides practicality, it’ll also get determined by the type and size of your room. The three types or layers of lighting ambient, accent and task can increase lighting quality. And in most cases you want a minimum of two types.

Ambient Lighting

Also called general lighting, ambient lighting is necessary for all rooms to be used comfortably. They’re usually overhead lights, but you can also branch out to different types of fixtures.

Since ambient lighting is the most common lighting source in the home, there are plenty of choices: recessed lighting, track lighting, ceiling fans, pendants, torchiere lamps, vanity lighting, wall sconces and flush (or semi-flush) mount ceiling fixtures.

Accent Lighting

This type of lighting will illuminate certain areas in a room or a specific spot. The purpose of it is to highlight specific features like a fireplace mantel or a painting. Accent lighting acts as a secondary light source to ambient lighting. Ambient lighting lights up a room overall, while accent lighting is for extra emphasis or in areas where ambient lighting can’t reach.

Types of accent lighting include track lighting, wall sconces and recessed lighting.

Task Lighting

Task lighting, just like its name suggests, helps you perform specific tasks. It provides the direct and intense light you need for more detailed work, including applying makeup, cooking and reading. Task lighting is usually placed in rooms such as offices, kitchens, home theaters and bathrooms.

Types of task lighting include track lighting, desk lamps, vanity lighting, under-cabinet lighting and mini pendants.

Choosing Light Fixtures

Selecting the right types of lighting fixtures will depend on a few factors including the aesthetics, space, and the type of room. As far as the look you want to go for, it’s up to you and your aesthetics goals. Most choose something that suits their style and matches whatever decor is present in their space.

Before deciding the style of lighting you want, first measure your space you don’t want to waste time or be disappointed by the fact that you may need to choose something different because it’s the wrong size.

To start, you’ll want to take some measurements, and determine how low a light fixture can hang, how wide or long your ceiling is (for recessed lighting, for example), and the spacing between light fixtures. You can then use these measurements to look at factors like the size of pendants, how high or low they hang, and whether free-standing fixtures will fit alongside your furniture.

Deciding how you want to light your space also depends on your taste. Here are some popular guidelines to get you started:

  • Foyer or entryway: Many homeowners like to install pendant lighting or a chandelier here. Some also use table lamps as additional lighting sources.
  • Living room: You'll probably want a variety of lighting choices since different types of activity happen in this room. Think about a track or recessed lighting combination, floor lamps, desk lamps and even wall sconces.
  • Bedroom: Generally, there is a main light source overhead, then table or floor lamps near the dresser or the bed.
  • Dining room: Most dining rooms have one main source of lighting above the table, supplemented by floor lamps for dark areas.
  • Bathroom: Consider putting lights above the vanity and the tub, then recessed ambient lighting strategically around the room.
  • Kitchen: This room is complex like the living room as it should accommodate different, though more specific, tasks. Here, you may want to consider pendants and chandeliers for the main lighting, then task lighting under cabinets and near your sink.
  • Home office: You’ll definitely want some overhead lighting, as well as task lights like desk lamps to complete work in your home office.

Coming Up With A Lighting Budget For Your New Home

Once you’ve figured out what your lighting needs are, it’s important to come up with a budget so you don’t end up spending more than you can afford. It’s much more simple when you’re trying to determine how much lighting you need for one specific room vs. a huge renovation. And if you’re doing a huge renovation, you’ll want to plan more in advance when trying to divide your overall budget into multiple rooms and/or projects.

First, determine the types of fixtures you need and what you want to prioritize. For instance, you may want to redo your living room and there are areas where your family likes to read or play together in the evenings. In this case, you may want to ensure you have plenty of room in your budget for task lighting fixtures to accommodate the whole family. This could mean staying away from designer lamps and going with a more cost-effective solution.

However, if you only needed ambient lighting in your dining room and want to have the light fixture double as a statement piece, then you can devote more of your budget to a more elaborate chandelier.

Don’t forget to factor in the type and size of light bulbs you need because this can eat into your budget. And while you can design everything yourself, hiring a professional lighting designer can make a difference. This person can help you plan the lighting for your whole home or specific rooms to achieve the results you want. In some cases it can save you money especially if you find that you need to buy more pieces to make up for things like lack of ambient lighting.

Installing Light Fixtures

Installing light fixtures can take little effort, or could require the help of a professional, depending on the complexity of lighting you want. Desk and floor lamps are as easy as plugging in the light and switching it on.

However, if you want a more complex setup like a ceiling fan, then you may want to enlist the help of a professional. If you want to install recessed lights or put lights in areas where there are no existing electrical wires, then you’ll need to hire an electrician to do it for you. In this case, make sure to factor the fees into your overall lighting budget.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully this gives you some ideas on how to best design your lighting to suit the needs of your home and budget. And if you’re worrying about how much lighting installations could cost, consider taking out a personal loan as an easy management plan and Rocket-fast solution.

For more tips on homeownership and renovation projects, check out our Learning Center.

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