How to choose the right lighting for different rooms in your home

Choosing lighting might seem easy, but it can have a major effect in our homes – as well as on our health and happiness. Apart from illuminating a space, lighting impacts everything from our sleep cycles to brain power and concentration. Likewise, light fixtures can impact the design, flow, and feel of a space. Whether you want a statement chandelier for the dining room, subtle sconces in the bedroom, or an illuminated office, the following guide can help you choose the right lighting for each room in your home.

Understanding the three types of lighting

Before you head to the store to start shopping, it’s important to understand the three different types of lighting: ambient, task, and accent lighting.


  • Ambient: Ambient lighting is the primary light source in the room. It’s most often from overhead fixtures or recessed lighting.


  • Task: Task lighting provides light for a specific area or activity. Bedroom sconces, desk lamps, and under-cabinet lights are all popular examples of task lighting.


  • Accent: Accent lighting is mostly decorative and can be used to draw attention to a specific feature in the home.


Choosing lighting room by room


Good lighting layers ambient with task and accent lighting to create warm, inviting spaces. The following general guidelines can help you choose lighting for each room in your home.

  • Kitchen: In addition to an ambient overhead light, pendant lights can be added over an island, bar, or sink area. Likewise, under cabinet lighting can help illuminate counter workspace.


  • Living room: Use an accent light in at least one corner of the room to highlight a piece of art or furniture. Consider how the lighting in the room will create glare on electronics screens; a number of task or accent lights instead of a single ambient light source can help reduce glare.


  • Bedroom: Avoid ambient lights directly over the bed; instead, opt for task lighting such as bedside sconces or lamps. Focus ambient lighting on dressing areas.


  • Bathroom: Bathroom lighting can be tricky. An ambient light is often needed to illuminate the room, but can create shadows. To avoid this, install task lighting above or on either side of the mirror.


  • Dining room: A statement-making ambient light is standard in most dining rooms. While the light fixture should be proportionate to the room, ensure it is proportionate to the table as well. A good rule of thumb is to choose a fixture that is about 2/3 the size of the length – or diameter – of the table; hang it so the bottom of the light is sits around 32 inches above the table.

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