Day 17: Looking at Living Room Lighting

Apartment Therapy January Cure

Day 17: Thursday, January 24
Assignment: Assess your lighting in the living room and plan improvements

Today is a bit of a breather as we hit the home stretch...just one week to go! No big chores this evening, just a little time assessing the lighting situation in your living room. Maxwell writes that "most homes are not well lit, which is a shame, because good lighting is a luxury that everyone can afford." He's right - I'm a big believer that nothing has a bigger impact (for the smallest investment) than lighting - its often the difference between a space that feels cold and dull as opposed to one that's warm and welcoming.

Today's Assignment:

• Assess your living room lighting.

First up, Maxwell's guideline: a well-lit room should have at least "three unique points of light that vary from bright, concentrated light to soft ambient light".

The photo above is of my living room, illustrating just one example of a three point lighting set up. In this part of the room, the three points of (artificial) light are: a floor lamp next to the sofa, which is on a dimmer, but can set to be fairly bright and direct (for reading), a table lamp on the small side table, which is softer and a bit warmer, thanks to its silk shade and finally, ambient light which splashes across the the fireplace, coming from a simple six bulb track. Even though the track is located on the ceiling, the light is direction-able, so I can focus it down and across the wall with a few of the bulbs while specifically illuminating artwork with one or two others. It's also on a dimmer, which is rarely set higher than about 50% power.

From the Eight Step Home Cure, an explaination the concept of light flow: "When you enter a room, your eye is instinctively drawn to the light sources. Light fixtures also create warmth and visual movement all around them. A room that relies on a single fixture in the ceiling does not allow much movement and draws our gaze up away from where we live."

I'm lucky to have high ceilings in the living room, so focusing the lighting down in the lower portion of the vertical space really helps in the evenings to simultaneously make the sitting area feel more cozy and intimate, while making the (unlit) ceiling feel even higher. Because the three points are each set at a different height, but are all fairly low, it keeps your eyes moving around the space while keeping the focus on the "human scale" portion of the room.

Ok, now with all of that in mind, take a look at your current living room lighting. Think about the three points concept, as well as the quality and intensity of the lighting.

• Do you rely only on an overhead fixture? If so, a small investment in two or three lamps will make a huge difference to your room (possibly the biggest one of the whole Cure - no kidding!). Affordable options abound, both new and used (I've found some favorites at thrift stores). Aside from how much better your space will look when more evenly lit, lighting is a fun addition to the room in other ways, adding color, texture and a bit of individuality to your decor.

If you do have multiple lamps already, do you have ability to dim them? If not, this is a great starting point. Installing a dimmer wall switch for overhead or directional lighting is a fairly simple and cheap DIY (here is our step by step tutorial) and any lamp can be made dimmable instantly with a plug in cord dimmer (I use these, from IKEA - easy!).

Finally, really consider the quality of the light - is it too cool or warm for you? What about the brightness? There is often no need for super high watt bulbs in the living room. If you don't really love the color temperature or wattage, a simple bulb swap out can do wonders. It's worth a bit of experimentation to find a favorite, especially for the lighting in your living room.

• Make note of what you need to improve your current set up and add it to your shopping list to deal with on the weekend, if possible, or ASAP afterwards.

Helpful Links:
How To Install a Dimmer Switch
Tips for Lighting Your Home from a Pro Designer

Liveblogging the January Cure:
I (Do Not) Love Lamp

Go to January Cure Main Page for links to all the posts so far.

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(Image: Janel Laban)

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