Lights…what kind, how many, how high

When I first started designing I would have never told you that lighting was at the top of the list for most important elements in a design. Although in my coursework for design school, we had a whole section on lighting and different types.  It wasn’t until I designed one of my first projects and we invested in some quality lighting with the correct bulbs that I came to be a believer! I immediately went home and switched out all my lightbulbs and added in different types of lighting.

So…today I want to share with you ALL THE DETAILS about lighting!

Different Types of Lighting

First of all…we need to first discuss the different types of lighting

Ambience Lighting

Elegant kitchen with wooden cabinets and pendant lights.
Photo Source- Jean Stoffer Design

Ambient lighting is general lighting that is used to light up a full space. This could be recessed lights, track lighting, or overhead light fixtures in the center of the room.

Task Lighting

Elegant office desk with brass lamp and bouquet
Photo Source: McGee and Co.

Task lighting is exactly that. It is lighting that helps illuminate a specific task happening in that space. This could be a lamp next to a bed for reading, a desk lamp, lighting above a bathroom mirror, or strip lighting under a kitchen cabinet.

Decorative Lighting

Elegant living room with archway and modern decor.
Photo Source: W Design Collective

Decorate lighting is used for aesthetic purposes. This is lighting you could put in an entryway, over a dining table, or wall sconces.

Accent Lighting

Elegant kitchen interior with mirror and open shelving.
Photo Source: Seven Day Design

Accent Lighting is used to accent objects such as artwork, plants, or architectural elements.

Designer Tip: Art Light should sit about 6-7″ above the artwork. 

Choosing the Right Lightbulb

Ok…before we go any further in the lighting chit-chat…let’s first talk about a very important matter and one that can really make or break even the most beautiful light fixture…THE Lightbulb 💡.

Whenever I am on a job and the lightbulbs are not handy, the electricians will bring their lightbulb of choice…the $1 Sam’s Choice. I have nothing against Sam but these dreadful lights are enough to make anyone go mad.

I always allocate a 2700-3000 Kelvin lightbulb. GAME CHANGER

What does this mean exactly?

Kelvin refers to the color temperature. Color temperature is the visual warmth or coolness of a lightbulb’s illuminating hue. Not to be confused with a bulb’s wattage, or brightness, color temperature is measured in degrees Kelvin (K), named for scientist William Kelvin, who heated carbon and discovered how emitted light changed at various temperatures. (Your school lesson for today)

Light bulbs with higher K ratings have cooler (whiter) color temperatures, while bulbs with lower K ratings have warmer (yellower) color temperatures.

Sticking with the 2700-3000 Kelvin lightbulbs will make your lighting dreams come true. They put off the most beautiful warm light and everyone looks so beautiful under them. The higher (cooler) Kelvin lights are cold and sterile…nobody wants that.

Okee..Doke. Since we got all that out of the way, lets get to the fun stuff.

What Lights Should I Add to What Room

When deciding what lights to put in a room, I always like to ask myself…what is the function of this space.

For example, a kitchen has a very different function than a bedroom. In a kitchen, you need ample lighting to be able to see what you are doing. In a bedroom, you want a more ambient, soft lighting. So let’s dive in a little deeper into what lighting you should put where.

Designer Note: If you would like assistance on a lighting plan, many lighting stores will do a lighting plan for you for FREE if you are sourcing lightning through their stores. 

The Kitchen

Function of the space

To cook up some delicious meals and let’s be real…lot’s of conversation happens in the kitchen.

Lighting Needs

Recessed Lighting 

I don’t always love recessed lighting in every space possible because it starts to look busy and kind of like Swiss Cheese….BUT the kitchen is a perfect option for recessed lights. You want that overhead, ambient lighting so that you can see what in the heck you are doing and not lose a finger.

Decorative Lighting

Pendants are a fun addition to the kitchen lighting. If you have an open kitchen concept maybe you don’t want pendants in your view but often times, we do put a pair of fun pendant over the island. This is purely for aesthetics and can be used to illuminate the island specifically but not necessary.

Wall Sconces are also a fun choice in some kitchens. They again are mostly decorative but they are a nice way to layer in other types of lighting as well as, at night, if you don’t want the “in your face” overhead lighting, you can turn these beauties on.

A cute little lamp on an open shelf. I have been dreaming of my own cute little shelf lamps, like THIS ONE. I just think these are so sweet and a great light to leave on in the evening or even during the night if you still have littles getting themselves water.

Task Lighting

A lot of times, you can incorporate lighting under the upper cabinets to illuminate the countertops. This helps decrease shadows too from overhead lights.

Accent Lighting

There are many strip lighting options you can add inside glass cabinets to enhance beautiful dishes. Lighting may also be added inside drawers when you open them or cabinets. This would be considered more task lighting but still another way to add layers of lighting to a space.

The Living Room

Function of the Space

The Living Room is a space to gather and enjoy the company of one another. You may also read in this space, watch television and relax.

Lighting Needs

Ambient Light

I would stay away from recessed light in the space because you don’t need to light it up like a Christmas tree. I would opt for a beautiful overhead light that fits your style and personality. If you have shorter ceilings you may opt for more of a semi-flush-mount or flush-mount light. If you have taller ceilings you can go with a larger light.

Lesson Learned-I had a recent project that we had been searching for the most perfect light for quite some time. My client found a light she really loved and I shared the admiration. The hard part the whole time was finding a light fixture wide enough for the great room. Unfortunately, I didn’t even look at the height of the light because 1) the ceilings were 10′ tall so I just assumed and 2) I was just so excited we had found the light. Needless to say…tall people would have had to duck under the light so we had to send the light back. Learn from my mistake! 

Task Lighting

You will want a floor lamp next to a reading chair if this is a space in your living room. You may also consider a lamp on side tables if you would like to read in this space plus everyone looks beautiful in the softness of lamp lighting.

Accent Lighting

Anywhere you want to highlight something in the space or shadows exist…add some accent lighting. This could be over artwork or in a corner behind a plant.

Decorative Lighting

So many options here. You could have some sconces flanking a piece of art above the fireplace or even lamps again on the entertainment center or a cutie little shelf lamp again.

The Dining Room

Function of the Space

Eating 🙂 and many hours of laughter and good conversation

Lighting Needs

Ambient Lighting

A fun linear chandelier is a nice touch above a dining room table. This overhead light is enough light to illuminate the table. If your dining room is large enough, you may need some recessed lights available to brighten the room if needed.

Designer Tip: Dimmable’s when available are a great option to still use the overhead lightning but decreased the intensity.

Decorative Lighting

Wall Sconces or Candlestick holders on the walls are also a fun way to add lightning into a dining room. This style reminds me of a beautiful traditional dining room space with so much character.

The Bedroom

Function of the Space

Sleeping…this seems to be a bit silly stating the obvious. You may also enjoy reading in your room or if you. have an accent lounge chair, hanging out in it.

Lighting Needs

Ambient Lighting

A beautiful overhead light or fan is just the ticket for a bedroom. You do not need recessed lighting in a bedroom (doesn’t that just sound awful).

Task Lighting

The other type of lighting I would always have in the bedroom is wall sconces or table lamps next to the bed. In case you missed my table lamp post…read HERE. This will give you an idea of how tall your lamps should be.

Another task light that may be helpful is a floor lamp for a reading nook. So quant and cute!

Decorate/Accent Lighting

If you notice that your bedroom has strange shadows or other areas you need to add lighting, feel free to put in some additional lights.

The Bathroom

Function of the Space

Human Hygiene, putting on your make-up and doing your hair…all things need sufficient lighting.

Lighting Needs

Ambient Lighting

The bathroom is another space I would use recessed lighting overhead. Light that puppy up!

Task Lighting

Vanity lights either placed above the mirror or flanking the bathroom mirrors is a must and also strange if you don’t have. There are so many fun options out there these days! (I will also say, you could do a ceiling pendant over the mirror as well for a different look)

Decorative Light

Not always to code, but a beautiful chandelier above a bathtub is also lovely!

How High Can You Go


Dining Room Light


Dining room chandelier height guide infographic.


Ceilings Over 10 Feet


Guide for choosing light fixture size for high ceilings.


Ceilings Under 10 Feet


Chandelier placement guide for low ceilings with furniture illustration.


Kitchen Islands


Diagram showing proper lighting placement over kitchen islands.


This post has been a long one…if you are still with me I want to leave you with this….


Places to Find Lighting

Evolve Lighting

Visual Comfort

Shoppe Amber Interiors

McGee and Co.

Lulu and Georgia


Schoolhouse Electric 



Hudson Valley Lighting 

Shades of Light



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