How Do I Choose an Interior Light?

Interior lights are an essential part of your interior design. Not only do they allow you to see, but they can also create focal points in the room, define a space, and even determine the mood. Without interior lighting, your whole design would be different. Interior lights also come in all shapes and sizes. There are chandeliers, pendants, wall sconces, table lamps, floor lamps, and even under lighting. So, with such an important decision and so many options, it can be confusing when deciding where to start. Groms’ lighting section is a great place to look for inspiration for lighting options and lighting tips. After reviewing the 8 featured areas below you should have a good grasp on which interior lights to choose.

Create a Sketch

Before you get started with picking out the details of your lighting features, you need to review the space you will be lighting -- whether it's the living room, bedroom, dining room, or kitchen. To do this it is a great idea to sketch out a map of your room. Do your best to draw the defining features of the room including furniture, door and window placements, and any standout features such as a slant in the wall, nooks, or a dropdown ceiling. These are all things you will need to take into consideration when choosing which lights should go where. If you want to go a step further to help yourself make lighting decisions you can even color the sketch with the colors that are in your actual room. Different colors will reflect light differently, so you need to think about them when you are choosing. After you have this basic layout done you will be ready to move on to the nitty-gritty.


The next step in your design process is deciding where to place the lights by making a lighting plan. Having an idea of placement will help you to match the scale, color, and type of light you will want for each space. Take a look at your map and think about where you need light sources. Of course, you will need one next to a sleeping area or near a sitting area. Perhaps you need a light to illuminate a mirror in your entrance or in the bathroom. Wherever you feel that you will need a light you can imagine which type you will need. If it will be sitting on a side table you will need accent lighting like a table lamp, if it is mounted to the wall you will need a sconce, if it is hovering over the dining table, kitchen island, or in the entryway, you would choose a chandelier or pendant light. Make sure that whatever type of light you choose, fits the needs of a space. Also, take into account any competing general lighting in the area from windows or even other synthetic lights, you do not want to overcrowd a space. Knowing the placement of your lights is key in getting the right lighting for all your different spaces.

Directional Lighting

Think to yourself, am I wanting to guide my guests with these lights? Lights are often used as ways to guide people or even sometimes animals or insects to a particular place. A common example of this is seen in a theater where the light brings your attention to a particular character. You can use this same concept in your lighting design. Common ways to do this are with a spotlight in a seating area or even a pendant or a ceiling fixture like a chandelier in your dining room. Lights are an invitation to come and be present in your space. Lights can even be used to guide guests to the bathroom or an exit at night if they are unfamiliar with where they are going. When you are deciding on interior lighting be sure to ask yourself if this lighting is directing you toward that space in a way that is helpful or inviting.


Now that you have decided which type of lighting you will need you can focus on the actual design of the light. One of the main features of your lighting design will be the finish, texture, or material. You want to choose a finish that is prevalent in the rest of the room or around your house. For example, if there are other matte black finishes around your room you may want to choose a matte black lighting fixture. When it comes to metals you can use the same idea. You will want to match the finish of other metals in the room such as brushed or polished. Choosing a light feature that is cohesive with the other elements in the room will elevate your design and make it look even more professional. Once you have decided on the finish, you can look more intensely at the styles of lights.


The style of your light should again match the overall theme or aesthetic of your room. For example, if you have a coastal room you would not want to choose a modern light fixture. Then once you have acknowledged the style you are going for it is much easier to settle on the exact fixture you will want. To narrow it down even further you can look at the lines in your room and see what could be added. Perhaps you have a modern-styled room, but the ceilings are short. For this particular room, you could choose a modern sconce that emphasizes vertical lines to make your room look taller. While of course, you want the style to match, do not be afraid to go for what is calling your name. After all, you are creating the space for yourself or a client that will truly appreciate your touch. Pay attention to the things you are drawn to once you have narrowed it down to the overall style

Ceiling Height

If you are in the market for any type of ceiling light whether that is a chandelier or pendant light, you will want to take into consideration your ceiling height. By thinking about your ceiling height, you will make sure that the light fixture that you choose is not too short or tall for your space. The last thing you want to happen is to get a fixture that is too small or large for your space and you are returned back to square one. Save yourself all of that hassle and keep your ceiling height at the forefront of your mind.


It is not all about the fixture itself, you need to decide how warm you would like your bulb to be. Light bulbs come on a scale of color temperature ranging from cool to warm. The cool bulbs are whiter toned, while the warm-toned ones are more yellow or even amber in color. Different toned light bulbs actually play a big part in the design of your room. The warmth of your light bulb decides if your room is warmer and cozier or light and airy. You need to decide how you want to feel when you are in your room. For a room that is coastal-inspired like in the Hamptons you would want a white bulb to match the feeling of calm and lightness. For an Uptown inspired room, you may want a warm-toned light to feed on the moody vibe. The warmth of your light can make or break the theme or mood in your room, so choose carefully.

Bulb Type

In addition to the warmth of the bulb, light bulbs can also add a stylistic and functional effect to your lighting feature. When it comes to the functionality you will want to make sure that the light bulb will actually serve the way you need it to. It may seem simple, but you want to make sure that you have a bright light that will actually lighten up the room. To ensure this you should look at the wattage and make sure it is high enough to light your room. For a bright light, look at options like LED lights, CFLs, or halogen lights. Another option is having a dimmer feature for your bulb if you want it to be bright sometimes and dim for more intimate gatherings or before bed. The brightness of your bulb is definitely not something to choose over aesthetics.

However, sometimes you are able to choose fancy bulbs and still serve its purpose. Light bulbs are a great way to add an extra flair to your lighting. A common bulb to choose is an Edison bulb. These are bulbs that show a thin coil and are typically amber in color and often styled in modern designs. That is a great example of how you can accent your lighting with a bulb. It is fun to play around with the shape, size, and color of your bulbs as well, either to mix it up, or just to add some ambience on the daily.

Choosing an interior light does not have to be as difficult and overwhelming as it seems. Breaking it down to these 8 steps truly lets you take it step by step and prevent you from feeling overwhelmed. If you ever find yourself feeling lost again while you are choosing your lights, just go back to your overall theme and what feelings you want your room to evoke. If the interior light fits into those two criteria you should be good to go.