Interior Lighting


It turns out that the easiest way to bring out the best in your home is just a flick of the switch.

Good lighting can completely alter your mood so it's important to make sure you have the best possible lighting. Lighting design is one of the most overlooked points of interior design especially when lighting design can be the key step in tying your room together.

Lighting design is divided into three key types of lighting: overhead lighting, ambient lighting, and task lighting.

Overhead lighting is standard in lighting design because it's usually built into the interior architecture. In living rooms and bedrooms, choose incandescent or CFL bulbs for the right amount of light that's not too bright. Try LEDs in places that require brighter lighting like kitchens and bathrooms. Consider adding a dimmer to bedrooms, living rooms, and dining rooms so you can be in total control of your lighting ambiance.

Ambient lighting creates a softer glow than the overhead lights above which can sometimes create harsh, direct lighting. Use table lamps and floor lamps to create ambient lighting throughout your room. Use lamps when you're looking for more relaxing feeling with lighting that will be gentle on the eyes.

desk lampTask lighting is essential in interior lighting design. Desk lamps are the most common form of task lighting, but you can incorporate task lighting anywhere you need direct light. In your lighting design, be sure to consider how you use the space and where you'd like additional light. Instead of carrying your makeup and mirror over to the window, add lighting to make your task easier.

Layer your lighting. Having overhead lighting, ambient lighting, and task lighting allows you to have a number of different combinations of how to light your space, depending on the mood you'd like to evoke. For the brightest space, turn your overhead lighting on with a few lamps lit. For a softer setting, use just the lamps to create a relaxed atmosphere. When you're working or reading, make sure you have appropriate task lighting so your eyes don't get tired.

room lighting

What Kind of Lighting Does Each Room Need?

There are two rules of thumb: You should have a mix of light sources at different levels to create ambience, and you'll need proper task lighting.

Living Room

Light three of the four corners, focusing one of those lights on an object (artwork, a plant, a prominent chair). Use a combination of table lamps and floor lamps, some with a downward glow and some that shine upward. Allow for reading in as many seats as possible with down-glowing lamps on three-way switches. If you have an overhead fixture, put it on a dimmer.

Dining Room

To draw people in, make the table the brightest spot in the room. Use a chandelier or a pendant light above the table, limitingthe total wattage to 100. Indirect lighting is better elsewhere in the room—it’s relaxing and flattering. Give the dining room a subtle glow with a pair of small table lamps on a sideboard or matching sconces on the wall.

room lighting
Dining Room Chandelier

Go for a fixture one-half to three-quarters the width of the table; anything larger will cast shadows on faces. Lights should be 36" to 48" above the table. Choose 36" for more intimacy and 48" if you want to stand around the table.


kitchen lightingFocus on overhead lighting (on a dimmer that you can crank up when cooking), and add lower light sources to illuminate your work surfaces. Pendant lights, under-cabinet lights, or even a sturdy table lamp can work well for additional lighting.

Kitchen pendants should clear the head of the tallest family member and not obstruct views—figure 36" to 48" from the top of the counter. The row of lights should start 12” to 15" from either end of the island or table, and should be spacee evenly within that span. Jake Electric can install your pendant lights right the first time.

bedroom lighting

Aim for a cozy atmosphere. Place reading lamps or sconces by the bed—but not pointed directly at the bed. If you have recessed or track fixtures, angle them away from the bed, toward the dressing area. On a low table, include a small, intimate lamp with a tinted low-wattage bulb to imitate candlelight.

When you read in bed, you want the bottom of the lamp's shade to be a little below your line of sight, or about 16" to 18" from the top of the mattress. A table lamp that’s 26" to 28" tall (base and shade together) usually works well.

The best choice for applying makeup is sidelights, such as a pair of sconces next to the mirror. An overhead light helps fill in any shadows on your face and also fully illuminates the room which is important when cleaning. In a large space, you might also want a light directly over the shower.

Bathroom Sconces

Mount sconces on either side of the mirror (36" to 40" apart is ideal) to cast even illumination across the face. Position the fixtures so the bottom edges of the shades are a little below eye level, or approximately 60" to 65" from the floor.

bedroom lighting

Overhead Options


Fixtures like these hug the ceiling. In a bathroom or a kitchen, their bright, whole-room illumination is useful; elsewhere they can be harsh. Calm one down by swapping in low-wattage bulbs, aiming for a total wattage of about 60.


These lights hang down a foot or so from the ceiling. Generally more charming than standard flush-mounts, they have a bit of the glamour of pendants but are short enough for head clearance in most spaces.


The term applies to any fixture suspended from a chain or a cord, including chandeliers. Best over tables and counters or in rooms with ceilings nine feet tall or higher. Tip: Add up the length and width of the room in feet and use the same number in inches for your fixture’s diameter.

Recessed Lights

Embedded in the ceiling, recessed lights or can lights are sleek, inconspicuous, and ideal for low ceilings. When it comes to size, smaller (about 3" in diameter) is more fashionable. Directional recessed lights can be set to beam toward a certain spot.

bedroom lighting
Track Lights

These are adjustable two ways: You can slide each fixture to where you want it, and then angle it to hit a specific area (great for accenting artwork or objects). Opt for small units in a finish that matches other metals in the room.

What’s the Deal with Dimmers?

They’re your best friend when it comes to illumination because they let you effortlessly adjust the feel of a room for mood or activity. Changing from switches to dimmers is a job for an electrician, but it can be a fairly easy to do yourself.

A tip: Dimmers are not just for overhead lights. You can put a lamp on a dimmer or even opt to have the entire room’s ceiling lights, table lamps, and floor lamps all on a single dimmer switch. Dimmers also save energy and extend the lives of bulbs.Jake Electric Mission Statement

What light bulbs should I use?