Lighting is a crucial element in home decor that is often overlooked. The right lighting can make a home feel warm, inviting and stylish, while the wrong lighting can make a space feel cold and unappealing. When planning the lighting design for your home, there are several key factors to consider to create an interior illumination scheme that enhances your décor and creates the perfect ambiance in each room.

Assess Your Lighting Needs

The first step in planning your home’s lighting is to assess the different needs of each room. Consider the main activities that will take place in the space and how the lighting can be tailored to those uses. For example:

  • Kitchens require bright, task-oriented lighting over countertops and work areas. Ambient lighting is also needed to illuminate the rest of the kitchen.
  • Living rooms need a mix of accent lighting on focal points like artwork, as well as overhead and table lamps for versatile illumination. Dimmer switches allow you to adjust the lighting based on activities like watching TV versus reading.
  • Dining rooms should have a central chandelier or pendant to create an inviting glow over the dining table, along with sconces for ambiance.
  • Bedrooms need layers of lighting that can be adjusted for bright daytime functions versus relaxed, dim nighttime lighting. Wall sconces, reading lamps and overhead fixtures work well.

Choose Fixtures and Bulbs

The type of lighting fixtures and bulbs you choose will greatly impact the look, feel and function of your lighting design. Consider these tips:

  • Pendants and chandeliers make excellent central focal points, especially in rooms like kitchens, dining rooms and foyers. Choose wide fixtures that provide more ambient illumination.
  • Sconces mounted on walls provide directional uplighting or downlighting. Use them flanking beds or line hallways.
  • Track lighting offers flexibility through directional, movable spotlights. This is ideal for highlighting art or providing task lighting.
  • Recessed can lights create an unobtrusive, streamlined look. Use them to wash ceilings in soft light.
  • Table and floor lamps allow portable task and accent lighting. Choose adjustable designs.
  • LED bulbs last the longest, are energy efficient and offer natural-looking light. Select warm hues like 2700-3000K to avoid a cold, sterile look.

Layer the Lighting

The most effective lighting plans incorporate layers of illumination:

  • Ambient lighting provides overall general lighting. Chandeliers, recessed and track lights create ambient glow.
  • Task lighting offers directed illumination for specific tasks like reading, cooking or grooming. Under-cabinet lights, desk lamps and pendants provide task lighting.
  • Accent lighting highlights special features, from architectural details to art. Picture lights, wall sconces and spotlights create accent lighting.

By layering these three types of illumination, you can achieve the right balance of light throughout all the functional zones of each room.

Incorporate Dimmer Switches

Dimmers allow you to easily control the ambiance through different lighting levels. Use dimmers on overhead and accent lights to create brightness suitable for every activity and mood. Dimmers work well on most LED, incandescent and CFL bulbs.

Install dimmers in dining rooms, bedrooms, living rooms and media rooms where you’ll benefit from adjustable lighting. Some dimmer switches allow you to program and control settings right from your smartphone for ultimate convenience.

Consider Automated Options

Home automation systems take lighting control to the next level. Options like smart bulbs and wireless switches allow you to program and activate lighting scenes for certain times of day or activities. Other automated features include:

  • Motion sensors that turn lights on when you enter a room and off when you leave.
  • Outdoors lights that activate at dusk and turn off at dawn.
  • Gradual wakeup lighting that simulates sunrise to gently get you up.

Smart lighting offers the ultimate convenience plus energy efficiency. And it’s easily incorporated during new construction or remodels. But you can also achieve automated control through affordable DIY options to upgrade existing lighting.

Hire a Professional

While you can certainly plan home lighting yourself, for large renovation projects or new construction, consider hiring a lighting designer. Professional designers have extensive experience creating cohesive lighting schemes tailored to your home’s specific architecture and your family’s needs.

Interior designers usually have relationships with lighting designers to include as part of an overall renovation. Or you can hire a lighting pro directly. Make sure to see examples of previous lighting plans when vetting designers. This expertise comes at a price but is well worth it for large-scale, custom lighting redesigns.

Decorating 101: How to Plan Your Home’s Lighting FAQ

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about planning home lighting:

How many recessed lights do I need in a room?

As a general rule, you’ll want recessed can lighting placed every 2-3 feet for even illumination. In a 12 x 12 foot room, 16 lights works well. Adjust placement based on room size and fixtures used.

What color temperature LED bulbs should I use?

Choose warm white LEDs in the 2700K-3000K range to provide a natural, inviting glow. Cool white over 5000K will seem harsh.

Where should I putaccent lighting in my home?

Accent lighting works well highlighting artwork, architectural details like vaulted ceilings, collections like books or plants, and furniture or decor focal points.

How high should I hang a dining room chandelier?

Hang a dining chandelier approximately 32-34 inches above the table. It should hang just above eye level for a person seated at the table.

What are some examples of task lighting?

Desk lamps, under-cabinet lighting, sink lighting, and adjustable reading lights by beds are all forms of helpful task lighting.

When should I use dimmer switches?

Any rooms where you’ll benefit from adjustable light levels are great candidates for dimmers, like living rooms, dining rooms and bedrooms. Use them on overhead and accent lighting.


The strategic placement of the right mix of lighting fixtures and layers of illumination tailored to your home’s architecture and functions will ensure your spaces are properly lit. A blend of general ambient lighting combined with task lighting and accent lighting allows you to highlight your home’s best features while creating the perfect ambiance for both practicality and beauty. Hiring a professional can provide invaluable assistance designing an integrated, cohesive lighting plan. With the right home lighting scheme, you can showcase your décor and make every room inviting.