What Type of Lighting is Best for the Living Room?

The type of lighting that you choose can have a dramatic effect on the feeling you have when you enter a room. A room with bright, cool blue lights can give you a sense of energy by releasing serotonin into your brain. While more relaxed, warm lighting can make you relaxed and put you at ease.

For each room in your house, you should consider using a different lighting solution. The lighting in a home gym should differ from the lighting in the room that you sleep in. In general, the lighting should serve the purpose of the room.

Out of all of the rooms in your home, the living room is often the most difficult to light. Bedrooms serve one purpose. So do kitchens, home offices and dining rooms and the list goes on. But in the case of a living room, you need lighting that will accommodate a lot of different scenarios.

Types of Lighting

Before you can choose the right type of living room lighting, you need to understand the different kinds of lighting that are available. Obviously there are hundreds of different lighting solutions, but they typically fall into one of three categories.

Ambient Lighting

Ambient lighting (sometimes called general lighting) is what you typically think of when it comes to lighting a room. If you have a chandelier in the center of the room, this creates ambient light. The goal of using this type of light is just to brighten the environment in a general sense. This lighting fixture is super convenient when it comes to a dimmer.

You can also use smaller pendant lights, wall sconces, or track lighting to accomplish this. Every room needs ambient lighting, and your living room is no exception.

In addition, if you’re working on a budget, you can use a simple floor lamp. Just make sure it has a shade that is coned and pointing upwards. This will reflect light off of your ceiling and help to diminish any shadows in the room.

Task Lighting

The next type of lighting you need to consider is task lighting. This lighting is put in place for a specific purpose or “task.” Examples would include the reading lamp on an end table or a pendant light above a work desk with a bright bulb.

You may also see examples of this in the kitchen. If there are lights under your cabinets meant to illuminate your counter as you prep for dinner, that’s another example of task lighting.

Accent Lighting

Last but not least, we have accent lighting. These take the concept of a task light one step further. Rather than lighting up a workspace or area, these lights are meant to draw attention to specific elements of the room.

If you have ever seen a bookcase with light strips along the back that light the wall directly behind each shelf, that’s a great example. Think about the way museums light up pieces of art. That’s what accent lights are for.

Using These Types of Lighting In Your Living Room

Once you have a general understanding of the different types of light fixtures and their uses, you can begin to consider what you need in your specific room. You’re always going to want some source of ambient light, but the specific source you use is up to you.

Options for Living Room Ambient Lighting

The most common solution for ambient lighting is a chandelier, with the medium watts lightbulbs. This is a light that hangs from the center of the room and lights all of it. You can certainly use one of these, but there are other choices, as well, that can bring a unique style and flair to your space.

Many people like to use lights that recess into the ceiling and shine down into the room. These are clean and modern, but they can sometimes cause harsh shadows in the room.

Another option for ambient lighting is to use a series of wall sconces. You can go with a very traditional, minimal design like the Banks or something more flashy, like the Hudson. Groms has a huge variety of sconce choices to suit your specific room style.

This can be a great solution, as a great sconce can limit the shadows and help really fill the room with natural light. However, there are downsides to this, as you need plenty of sconces to get the room as lit as you would want it to be.

Alternatively, consider using floor lamps with upwards-pointing shades. Something like the Manhattan from Groms can provide lighting around the room and reflect some light off of the ceiling. When reflected off of a wall or ceiling, light is typically much softer and easy on the eyes.

Options for Living Room Task Lighting

Not everyone needs task lighting in their living room. If you want the space to solely be for spending time with family and friends, a few ambient lights should suffice. However, many people like to dedicate a small section of their living room to reading.

Perhaps there’s a special chair and side table where you like to spend some time reading in the evenings. This would be a great opportunity for a task light. You can add in a small table lamp like the Rhodes to just give you a little bit of light in that specific part of the room.

If you don’t have a side table, you can also use a floor lamp for this purpose. Just make sure you’re using something that allows you to direct exactly where the light is going. The Benson is a perfect example of this.

It has an adjustable arm and shade, allowing you to point the light exactly where you need it. This is a lamp that would not be suitable for ambient lighting but works perfectly as a reading light.

Options for Living Room Accent Lighting

Accent lighting is not always necessary, but when used correctly it can be absolutely stunning. You can use a few different solutions to accomplish this in a living room.

If you have a plant that you want to light up, try lighting that is recessed into the floor. If it’s a work of art that you want to draw attention to, you can use LED lighting strips under or around it at low brightness. This can just help to draw your guests’ attention to the piece.

How Bright Should Lighting Be in my Living Room?

In regards to brightness, many people are unsure as to what kind of light bulbs to purchase. There are LED lights, incandescent, dimmable options, and more. This is highly subjective, but there are some general guidelines you can follow.

In a living room, try to keep your ambient lighting between 1,500-3,000 lumens. For task lights, you can go much lower, closer to 300-500 lumens. This is because task lights are used for a much smaller area.

As far as accent lights are concerned, that is really up to you and what you’re trying to light. Try a few different lights in the space until you find one that meshes with the other lights in the room.

What Color Temperature Should My Living Room Lights Be?

Another concern that comes alongside brightness is color temperature. This can get highly technical, but all you really need to know is the difference between warm and cold lights.

“Cold” lighting is primarily blue. Most screens on phones and computers emit blue or “cold” light. This color of light is stimulating. It makes your brain release serotonin and even gives you energy. This is the reason many people have trouble falling asleep when they use their smartphones in bed.

In contrast, “warm” lighting takes on an orange or yellow tone. It is typically not as bright, and it conveys a feeling of rest and relaxation. If you go out to a nice restaurant for dinner, much of their lighting will be warm, as they want you to feel at home and at ease.

In general, for a living room, you want your lighting to be warm rather than cold. A living room is a place where you gather with friends and family to hang out and relax, so you want the room’s lighting to reflect this.

This is also a room you will spend more time in during the evening. Warm light will help to prepare your body for sleep and signal that it is nearing the end of the day.

What Type of Lighting is Best for a Living Room?

Truthfully, there isn’t one type of lighting that is “best” for a living room. Instead, you should seek to combine multiple types of light sources so that you have different options depending on the situation.

However, it is important that you have some form of ambient light, whether it be a chandelier, floor lamp, wall sconce, or something else. Also, if you want to read in your living room at night, having a task light by your reading chair can be a great benefit.

It's no secret that lighting can highlight the true focal points of your room. Whether you prefer wall lights, overhead lights, desk lamps, downlights, up-lights, or LED bulbs, there are lighting options for everyone. Overall, it comes down to your vision and specific design for your living room to determine what the best type of lighting is for you.