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Designers Agree This Is the Most Common Lighting Mistake

Words By Olivia Lidbury
a kitchen with a table and a bench in it

Photography by Alexander James; Design by HÁM Interiors

Good lighting: get it right and you’ll be rewarded with the most welcoming and ambient of spaces.

Get it wrong, and you’ll be calling your electrician back sooner than you can say ‘dimmable LED’. Lighting can be a real head-scratcher, and the panic of installing too many rather than not enough sources often results in the over-use of spotlights, which is the bug-bear of every Expert we spoke to. As Stefani Stein points out: “Nothing kills the mood faster than feeling like you are gathering in a cafeteria rather than a home.”

You can’t moodboard how your plan will work in situ before installing it, but you can arm yourself with our Experts’ best lighting tips. Here, they shed light on how to successfully illuminate a space.

a living room filled with furniture and a chandelier

Photography by Tim Street-Porter; Design by Garrett Hunter

Draw the Eye Up

Recessed lights have given overhead lighting a bad rep. But as Kirsten Blazek of A1000xBetter explains: “Ceiling lights can anchor a space and visual interest. A flat ceiling can lack atmosphere, but adding an ornamental fixture will draw the eyes up.” Carley Page Summers agrees: “the right ceiling light enhances the overall design of a space, and they come in so many different shapes, sizes, and colors that they can truly make a huge impact.”

Tom Cox of HÁM Interiors suggests choosing a style that is “architectural and punchy—like a verdigris lantern—which adds a textural presence to a room and defines the space over a table or seating area.”

Garrett Hunter thinks a paper pendant is a failsafe bet. “There's something about the way light transfers through the paper that creates the perfect level of warmth.”

a hanging light with a candle inside of it
Rose TarlowButtercup PendantSHOP NOW
a white paper lantern hanging from a string
Le KlintBouquet Pendant LargeSHOP NOW
a kitchen with a sink a counter and a window

Photography by Malissa Mabey; Design by Alex Adamson

Get Layering

Lights are accessories in their own right, so dress your room as you would yourself. For Kirsten, the perfect combination involves accent lighting, floor, and table lamps. Tom also favors a smorgasbord of sources, with “a variety of different styles from overhead to wall, task, and low-level table and floor lamps.”

Whatever style you go for, Carley says, if in doubt, always add a shade. “Lighting with shades on, gives a softer, more pleasant glow to a room.”

a wooden chandelier with five white glass shades
Roll & HillDel Playa Two Arm PendantSHOP NOW
a light that is on the side of a wall
Evolve Lighting & Co.Toggle SconceSHOP NOW
a drawing of a lamp on a white background
PRBItalian Brass Floor LampSHOP NOW
a kitchen with a large center island with chairs

Photography by Yoshihiro Makino; Design by And And And Studio

Play Dim

If you’re planning a rewire, get thinking about circuits and dimmers. Experts are unanimous on dimmable sources playing a key role in a well-lit space, while a five-amp socket, which allows you to control every light source at the flick of a switch, is the meaning of convenience. Stefani suggests that at the least, ceiling lights should be installed with a dimmer.

a dining room with a table and chairs

Photography by Sam Frost; Design by Stefani Stein

Deck the Walls

“Sconces are a fun tool because you can place them on almost anything,” says Arianna De Gasperis of And Studio. Kristen rates them for the way they break up large walls: “When you need to use something other than art, sconces will lend that extra dimension.” For Stefani, a plug-in sconce paired with a small-scale painting is a favorite combination for a dining room.

a pair of sconces with lamps on each of them
PRBPair Of Pietro Chiesa Wall LightsSHOP NOW
a white light that is on top of a stand
VerellenEclipse LightSHOP NOW
a kitchen with white cabinets and counter tops

Photography courtesy of Alex Adamson

Bring in the Warmth

“Supporting characters” is how Arianna affectionately refers to table lamps. Safe to say, she can’t live without them. Nor can Alex: “I love the sculptural element a table or floor lamp adds. A room always feels more lived-in and inviting with lamps and you can’t beat the warm glow they give at night.” Garrett takes it one step further with his love of double lamps: “I place them on kitchen counters away from messy areas.”

a lamp with a white shade on a white background
Hudson Valley LightingCurves Table LampSHOP NOW
a table lamp with a wooden base and a beige shade
Roll & HillThe LaddiSHOP NOW
a kitchen with a table and stools in it

Photography courtesy of Carley Page Summers

Color It Happy

If you listened in science class, you’ll know that kelvins are the primary unit to measure temperature. In the design world, 2700k is the happy number which gives off a warm glow. “In terms of light temperature, residential and hospitality spaces ideally should never be above 3000k,” warns Garrett. “When lighting becomes too white, spaces end up looking like shopping malls or nail salons.”

Alex Adamson suggests changing out any overly bright or blue LED bulbs for “a natural warmer white and notice how much more relaxed the space feels.”

a living room filled with furniture and a large window

Photography by Yoshihiro Makino; Design by And And And Studio

Level Up

Alex regularly swaps out lampshades for a custom look. It’s a hack which also gives a new lease of life to something you’ve had for a while. “You can transform the shape and scale of any fixture or add texture and pattern for more personality.”

a lamp that is sitting on a table
The Expert VintageHans Bergström Table LampSHOP NOW
a floor lamp with a white shade on it
PRBBöhlmarks Adjustable Floor LampSHOP NOW
a living room filled with furniture and a fire place

Photography by Alex Zarour; Design by A1000xbetter

Play With Scale

Kirsten reveals that linear or oversize shades can often make a room feel bigger—a great hack for a small space. Meanwhile, Carley favors a dramatic ceiling fixture to instantly transform a space.

a lamp that is sitting on a table
Rose TarlowChinese Ceramic Jar LampSHOP NOW
a white and green lamp hanging from a black cord
RuemmlerParchment Hide Pendant LampSHOP NOW
a living room with a chair and a lamp

Photography by Caitlin Atkinson; Design by And And And Studio

Don’t Be Afraid to Experiment

“Be playful and use lighting in unexpected ways and places,” encourages Arianna. Instead of dropping a pendant over the dining room table, put one in the corner of the living room to create a vignette and use a series of sculptural sconces in the dining room. “Unexpected moves stand out and can transform the character of a space.”

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