Today the living rooms is not reserved just for special occasions, but is often the social hub of the home.It is the place to curl up with a good book, visit with friends, watch TV or entertain. Unlike the kitchen and bathroom, where the position of the light fixtures is pretty much determined by the built-in furniture and appliances, the living room can have a more flexible lighting plan.
In new construction you generally see recessed lights in the ceiling. They provide the ambient light for the room and work really well because they are so inconspicuous (unless you overdo it and end up with the dreaded "Swiss-Cheese Effect".). Recessed lights don't necessarily have to be laid out in an even grid pattern. They can be arranged so that you have lights clustered over high traffic areas and spread out evenly in between. Theoretically several recessed lights or one chandelier could provide all the light that is needed in a living area, but the result would not be that pleasing, since all the light would be coming from above. (Think hospital waiting room. Bland at best.)
It is better to have several layers of light in a room. Start by illuminating points of interest in the room. Find architectural details like artwork on the walls, a bookcase, heavy beams or a natural stone fireplace. Once they are lit this alone will add a considerate amount of accent light to the room. Some older living rooms only have one single electrical box in the ceiling for a chandelier. We often see spaces where the ceiling lights were replaced by track lighting in an attempt to modernize the room. The only problem is that the track is now just sitting there in the middle of the room asked to do a task it not intended for. The result: glare and discomfort.
Track lighting is ideal for illuminating artwork. By highlighting your photos, paintings and various art pieces you will gain the ambient light that bounces back from the walls, but doesn't shine directly into anyone's eyes. In a smaller living area this might do it for the ambient layer of light. In larger spaces you can add wall sconces or ceiling lights. Torchieres that light the ceiling can expand the space visually. Depending on the color of your walls and ceiling and the design of the floor lamp this uplight can create a warm and cozy atmosphere or a crisp clean look.
Once you have lit your focal points, look for your task areas: Your favorite reading chair, a sitting area, a baby grand piano. You want "pools of light" to give these areas atmosphere. It's all about creating a feeling of comfort well being. Lifestyles change over time, and furniture gets moved around. That's the reason portable lamps work so well in a living area. Portable lamps are flexible. You can move them around and change the shade color to fit the decor. Dimmers are a good way to help the change the mood of the room. As an added benefit, dimmers extend the life of the bulbs considerably.
Table and floor lamps with fabric shades add a warm and friendly ambiance to the room. The warm circle of light invites you to sit down, relax and curl up with a good book. Don't be afraid of being eclectic in your lighting choices. Got an old lamp base from your grandmother that has sentimental value, pair it with a fresh shade and feel good about setting it on your modern side table. Re-purpose an industrial desk lamp. It's all about being creative!
Last week I did a house consultation in a home where there was no overhead lighting in the living room except for two rows of track lights aiming towards the sofa "for reading". Horrendous glare, no matter where you were sitting or standing in the room. Simple fix: By moving the track close to two opposite walls and aiming the track heads at a beautiful painting, a huge rough-hewn beam and a colorful wall with family photos the room received enough general light bouncing off the walls. The rest was then filled in with table- and floor lamps. We changed a ratty looking shade for a new one in a neutral tone. Result: An inviting space with warmth and focus on what matters to this couple. Cost: a few hundred dollars.
I do so many home consultations where all I do is to haul a few floor and table lamps out from various nooks and crannies throughout the house and demonstrate how creating "pools of Light" creates atmosphere. We also try to find just the right "wow" pieces to make an instant impact in your room. We are all about finding good lighting solutions for every budget. You can create ambient light by placing a $25 floor can light behind a potted plant or by using it to highlight a sculpture. It is all about creating the space YOU feel comfortable in.