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  • What Lighting Should Be In The Living Room: Guide For Every Need
Mai Pham
December 5, 2023

Lighting plays a pivotal role in enhancing the ambiance and functionality of your living room. It’s not just about illuminating the space, but about creating an environment that is inviting and comfortable. Proper lighting can transform your living room into a versatile space, suitable for a variety of activities, from cozy family movie nights to lively social gatherings. It can highlight your favorite pieces of décor, make the room appear larger, or even set a particular mood. This guide will help you navigate the different aspects of living room lighting, ensuring that your space is both beautiful and practical.

What lighting should be in the living room?

You can use ambient lighting, task lighting, accent lighting or a balanced combination of all for your living room. Determining the appropriate lighting for your living room largely depends on its size, layout, color scheme, and the activities you’ll primarily use the room for. Balancing these three types of lighting will create an inviting, functional, and aesthetically pleasing space.

Different Types of Lighting

What Type Of Ceiling Light Is Best For Living Room?

Ambient Lighting

Ambient lighting, often known as general lighting, fills the majority of the room with a comfortable level of brightness without any glare. It’s the fundamental layer of light that makes the room usable and safe. This kind of lighting is typically achieved with chandeliers, ceiling or wall-mounted fixtures, and recessed or track lights. For example, a central ceiling pendant light provides great ambient lighting, casting a warm and uniform glow throughout the room.

Task Lighting

Task lighting, as the name suggests, is meant to help you complete specific tasks. It provides the enhanced, targeted light needed for activities like reading, sewing, or working on a puzzle. This type of lighting is typically brighter and more concentrated, coming from sources like table lamps, under-cabinet lights, or floor lamps with swing arms. For instance, a tall floor lamp positioned next to your favorite reading chair serves as ideal task lighting.

Accent Lighting

Accent lighting is used to highlight specific features within your living room. It adds drama and visual interest by creating shadows and illuminating the room’s focal points. You can use accent lighting to showcase artwork, bookcases, architectural details, or even plants. Wall lights, spotlights, or track lighting are common sources of accent lighting. For example, a spotlight illuminating a piece of wall art can make it the room’s standout feature.

How to Choose the Right Ambient Lighting

Where To Place Can Lights In Living Room

Consider Room Size

The size of your living room plays a crucial role in determining the amount and type of ambient lighting required. Larger rooms naturally require more or brighter light sources to ensure every corner is well-illuminated. For example, you might need multiple ceiling lights or a combination of wall-mounted fixtures and recessed lights to provide sufficient ambient lighting in a large living room.

Analyze Color Scheme

The color scheme of your living room also significantly influences your lighting choices. Darker colors tend to absorb light, making the room appear dimmer. If your living room has dark walls or furniture, you might need to compensate with additional or brighter lighting. On the other hand, lighter colors reflect light, meaning a room with a lighter color scheme may need less ambient lighting. For instance, a living room with white walls and light-colored furniture might be well-served by a single, centrally-located pendant light.

Assess Natural Light Availability

Don’t forget to consider the amount of natural light your living room receives. If your living room has large windows that allow for plenty of daylight, you might need less artificial ambient lighting during the day. However, you’ll still need sufficient lighting for the evening hours. For example, a living room with expansive windows might only need softer, supplementary lighting like table lamps or sconces during the day, but a bright ceiling light for after sunset.

Understand the Intricacies of Light Bulbs

Understanding the intricacies of light bulbs can also aid in your decision-making. The type of bulb (LED, CFL, Halogen), its wattage, and color temperature all contribute to the quality and quantity of light emitted. For instance, LEDs are more energy-efficient and long-lasting, while halogen bulbs offer warm, natural light. A bulb with a high color temperature will emit a cool, blueish light, while a lower color temperature will give off a warm, yellowish light. The latter is often preferred for living rooms to create a cozy and inviting atmosphere.

Selecting Lighting Options for Your Living Room

What lighting should be in the living room?

When it comes to ambient lighting in your living room, there are several options to consider. Each offers unique benefits and can cater to different sizes, styles, and requirements of the room.


  • Chandeliers serve as a fantastic centerpiece while simultaneously providing ample light.
  • They are versatile and can fit well in both large and small spaces.
  • Chandeliers come in a wide range of styles, from traditional to ultra-modern. For instance, a vintage-style chandelier could add a touch of elegance to a traditionally furnished living room, while a sleek, minimalist chandelier could complement a more contemporary space.

Ceiling or Wall-Mounted Fixtures

  • Ceiling or wall-mounted fixtures offer a more subtle form of ambient light.
  • They are especially suitable for smaller spaces or rooms with low ceilings.
  • An example might be a flush-mounted ceiling light in a small living room. This type of fixture can provide sufficient light without overwhelming the space or reducing headroom.

LED Downlights

  • LED downlights are powerful and efficient, providing strong ambient light.
  • These lights are adjustable, allowing you to easily control the brightness level.
  • For a living room with a modern design, a series of recessed LED downlights could create a clean, streamlined look while providing excellent illumination.

Task Lighting for Specific Activities

Floor Lamps

Floor lamps are an excellent source of task lighting. They can be strategically placed next to seating areas to provide focused light for reading or other activities.

For example, consider placing a tall, adjustable floor lamp next to your favorite reading chair. This provides focused light on your book without illuminating the entire room, making it an ideal choice for night-time reading.

Desk Lamps

Desk lamps offer highly concentrated lighting, perfect for activities that need close attention like crafting or writing.

For example, a small, adjustable desk lamp placed on a side table can provide the perfect light for intricate tasks such as sewing or sketching.

Under-Cabinet Lights

Under-cabinet lights are often overlooked but are a great choice for task lighting. They provide focused light directly downwards, making them perfect for activities on a coffee or side table.

For example, installing under-cabinet lights on shelves can illuminate any activities taking place on the table below, such as building a puzzle or playing a board game.

Swing Arm Lamps

Swing arm lamps are versatile fixtures that can be adjusted to direct light where you need it. They can either be wall-mounted or designed as table or floor lamps.

For example, a swing arm lamp positioned next to a couch can provide focused light for reading, but can be easily moved away when not in use, making it a versatile choice for task lighting in a living room.

Accent Lighting for Highlighting Features

Artwork Lighting

Artwork lighting is specifically designed to highlight the pieces of art in your living room, accentuating their colors and textures. These lights are typically adjustable, so you can direct the light precisely where you want it. For example, a direct wire picture light can be mounted above a painting or photograph, casting a direct light onto the artwork and making it a focal point of the room.

Wall Sconces

Wall sconces are a versatile, stylish choice for accent lighting that can add a touch of elegance to your living room. They can highlight architectural features, illuminate dark corners, or provide a soft glow that enhances the overall ambiance. For example, installing wall sconces on either side of a fireplace could draw attention to this feature while providing a warm, inviting glow.

Cove Lighting

Cove lighting is a form of indirect lighting where the source of light is hidden, and the light is directed towards the ceiling or wall. This creates a “wash” of light along the surface, which can highlight architectural details or simply add a sense of depth and layers to the room. For instance, cove lighting installed along the edges of a tray ceiling can highlight the unique shape and design of the ceiling, adding a dramatic element to your living room.

LED Strip Lighting

LED strip lighting is a versatile solution that can be used to accentuate features, create an atmosphere, or provide functional illumination. These strips can be stuck onto the underside of a shelf, along the base of a wall, or behind a television for a glowing effect. For example, LED strip lighting installed behind a television can reduce eye strain during viewing and add an exciting, modern touch to your living room.

Layering Lighting for Optimal Effect

Layering different types of lighting can create an optimal effect in your living room, enhancing both its functionality and aesthetic appeal. This involves combining ambient, task, and accent lighting to achieve a balanced and inviting atmosphere.

Ambient Light

Start by establishing your ambient light, which provides the overall illumination for the room. This could be a beautiful chandelier in a large room or subtle wall-mounted fixtures in a smaller space. The goal is to create consistent, diffused light that illuminates the room without causing harsh shadows or glare. For instance, you could use a combination of a centrally located chandelier and wall-mounted fixtures for a well-lit, inviting living room.

Task Lighting

Next, introduce task lighting to support specific activities like reading, crafting, or game playing. Consider the locations where these activities will take place and position your task lights accordingly. For example, a tall, adjustable floor lamp next to the sofa will provide perfect lighting for evening reading, while under-cabinet lights on a bookshelf can illuminate a game board on the coffee table below.

Accents and Highlights

Finally, use accent lighting to highlight architectural details, artwork, or other features in the room. This not only adds depth and interest to the room but also allows you to draw attention to the features you love most. For instance, directional lighting could be used to highlight a beautiful piece of wall art, while cove lighting around the ceiling can create a dramatic effect, underscoring the room’s architectural features.

By layering these different types of lighting, you can create a living room that is not only functional and easy to use at any time of day, but also warm, inviting, and reflective of your style.

Lighting Controls and Smart Lights


Dimmers can be a valuable addition to your living room lighting design. They allow you to adjust the intensity of your lights, providing flexibility in creating the perfect mood or atmosphere for different times of day or activities. For instance, you might want a bright, clear light during the day for reading, but prefer a softer, more subdued light in the evening for watching TV or relaxing.

Recommended product: Lutron

Smart Light Bulbs

Smart light bulbs offer a high level of control and customization. With these, you can change not just the brightness, but also the color of the light. You can operate them using a smartphone app or through voice commands if you have a compatible smart home device. For example, you can set your lights to gradually brighten in the morning for a gentle wake-up or to mimic a sunset in the evening for a relaxing wind-down routine.

Recommended: Amazon Smart Light

Lighting Automation Systems

Lighting automation systems take smart lighting to the next level. They can be programmed to adjust your lighting based on the time of day, your activities, or even the natural light levels in the room. For example, you might program your lights to automatically dim in the evening as natural light fades or to turn off entirely at bedtime. These systems can enhance both the functionality and the energy efficiency of your lighting design.

Combining these control methods with the right mix of ambient, task, and accent lighting can make your living room a truly comfortable, functional, and personalized space.


In summary, selecting the right lighting for your living room involves a thoughtful blend of ambient, task, and accent lights. Ambiance sets the overall tone, task lighting enhances functionality, and accent lights highlight your room’s best features. Innovative options like dimmers, smart bulbs, and automation systems offer unprecedented control over your environment, allowing you to adjust lighting to your specific needs and preferences. By integrating these elements, you can create a living room that is not only practical but also reflects your unique style and personality.

About the Author

I am a working mother who more than often prefer to come home and rest rather than doing house chores. I am passionate about simplifying house chores to live and enjoy life more.

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