5 Lessons My 30s Have Taught Me About Mood Lighting

published Feb 16, 2023
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Cozy scandinavian style living room with a rack, a comfortable seat and a table lamp in winter.
Credit: TG23/Getty Images/iStockphoto

One of the most beautiful parts of aging is reflecting on personal evolution, and noticing its footnotes in your self-expression and style. At 16, when the only thing I cared about was pop culture and getting my first kiss, my room reflected such with celebrity posters and framed photos of Brendon Urie. In college, I graduated to butterfly chairs and desk accessories to match my studious focus… and the need to pass out after a night of underage drinking and Asher Roth. 

My post-graduate 20s were marked with political statement pieces and too many pillows. But as I entered my 30s, I noticed my investment steered away from collecting fun tchotchkes and honed in on lighting. Though I could overreach here and say the shift had something to do with personal enlightenment, I believe my focus shifted because, at 32, I understand the effects a room can have on my mental health, sensuality, and focus — and I want to be as in control as possible. 

Here are the five lessons I’ve learned about lighting since turning 30.

Credit: Viv Yapp

Lighting will romanticize your life. 

There’s been quite a bit of chatter about romanticizing your life over the last couple of years. As it relates to interior styling, I believe lighting can influence how you perceive your own life. Big overhead lighting can be stressful on the eyes and put a spotlight on what’s missing or unkempt. On the contrary, a room full of candles, for example, suggests a life of comfort, cozy energy, and calmness. 

Credit: Erin Derby

Your mental health and productivity will thank you later.

To attend college, I left sunny Georgia for Ohio, a place known for bitter winters and sunless seasons. That’s when I was first introduced to seasonal depression, or seasonal affective disorder. I dressed up my dorm room with “happy lights” (and started going to therapy) and learned how vital sunlight can be for both styling and mental health. Today, I use full-length mirrors to bounce light off windows and doors and usher in the sunlight wherever possible. 

Credit: Erin Derby

Warm lighting is always a good idea. 

Though it comes down to personal preference, in my eyes, warm lighting is the superior option. Warm lighting produces a softer, yellowish hue reminiscent of a cozy fireplace. Some studies suggest that warm lighting even helps promote a better night’s sleep (in contrast to blue light, which can signal to your brain that it’s time to be awake). Pro tip: Don’t neglect the lampshade. I’ve found warmer tones go best with warmer light. 

Credit: Viv Yapp

Experiment with colors for a sexier evening in.

Most people have experimented with candles when looking to set the mood. It’s a timeless touch that will always feel sexy and sensual. To lean even more into an erotic tone, though, try playing with colors. “Bathing in an orange glow can help bolster your sex drive and playfulness, while purple is considered the sexiest bedroom color,” writes Well + Good’s Mary Grace Garis.

Accent nooks and corners with side lamps. 

One of the simplest and most effective tricks I’ve learned? Replace your overhead lights with several side lamps. The area of my home that I’ve transformed the most this way has unexpectedly been the kitchen. The warm lighting allows for a cozier and more pleasurable experience any time I spend there, whether I’m whipping up dinner or assembling a charcuterie board for friends.