Living room lighting ideas – improve the light and set the right mood for relaxing

Whether it's pretty or practical (or both!), lighting is crucial when it comes to your living room
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  • Lighting will set the tone of a living room and should never to be underestimated – though sadly, it often is. It might help to think of lighting a room in the same way you’d dress a bed. With a bed, you start with the basics (a sheet, duvet and pillows) and then add to them with cushions and throws. Similarly, when you’re lighting a room, you start with the primary level of lighting (ambient lighting) and then add in task lighting where you need it.

    Your ambient lighting will take the form of a principal light – for good distribution, use a pendant, chandelier or spotlights – plus any natural light from windows, doors or skylights. You can then add your task lighting, which is especially useful if you’re also using your living room as a home office, or a place to settle with a good book. Adjustable desk lamps and table lamps both fall into this category.

    Get every element of your scheme just right with our living room ideas

    You might also want to think about what colour light is best for a living room. Soft or warm white bulbs have a more traditional, cosy feel and are a good way to make a larger room feel relaxed and welcoming. Cool white light, on the other hand, is more energising, and probably better if you have an open-plan space incorporating a kitchen and dining area. 

    Read on to discover more of our living room lighting ideas.

    1. Make a statement with a lighting sculpture


    Image credit: David Parmiter

    Contemporary lighting can serve as a striking focal point in a living room, and if you are blessed with high ceilings, you can really go to town with dramatic and angular fixtures. This owner didn’t let her home’s distinctive Victorian character stop her from indulging in her love of up-to-the-minute design, and picked a modern three-arm take on a chandelier.

    She has cleverly chosen fixtures and fittings – such as the picture ledge side table and shelves – with strong black lines to bring cohesion to the look.

    2. Shed light on a reading corner with an oversize adjustable lamp


    Image credit: David Giles

    For a quiet moment with a book, select an enormous Anglepoise-style lamp with a flexible arm and head to direct the light exactly where you need it. This large-scale design can also create the perfect spotlight for any budding entertainers at family gatherings…

    3. Make a grown-up display of string lights


    Image credit: Simon Whitmore

    Fairy lights don’t have to be exclusive to Christmas trees and kids’ rooms. Pick the right design and they can be used tastefully to light up a dark corner. Cotton ball string lights like these are ideal – provided you stick to tones like white, taupe or soft grey, you’re on to a style winner.

    4. Add colour and pattern with a mix-and-match lampshade and base


    Image credit: Dominic Blackmore

    The right table lamp can brighten up a room even when it’s turned off. The trick here is to mix pattern with block colour and to take two contrasting colours to come up with a combo that really pops. For a more coordinated look, reflect the same colours in combination elsewhere – here, you’ll see them echoed in the sofa and cushions.

    5. Pick a fashionable flex


    Image credit: Dominic Blackmore

    The lamp flex – AKA the cable that runs to the plug socket – is having a moment. No longer the poor cousin to a a flashier shade or even bulb, it’s being allowed to make its own style statement with colour and pattern. Here, a blush pink flex stands out against a simple glass base and graphic monochrome shade, and coordinates with carefully chosen ceramics.

    6. Match your lighting to the furniture


    Image credit: Simon Whitmore

    Despite its importance, lighting can often look like an afterthought. Avoid this (even if it is the case!) by picking lighting in a colour that perfectly matches a key room feature. In this case, it’s a sofa, but it could be your curtains, wallpaper or a rug. Suddenly, your lighting choice looks very deliberate and put together – who would know?

    7. Introduce some skylights


    Image credit: Simon Whitmore

    You might think adding roof lights is a huge structural undertaking, but it can be surprisingly easy – especially if you only opt to add one or two. However, the transformation will be instant and dramatic. Velux is a good place to start your research – and if you’d prefer a larger roof lantern, try Apropos.

    8. Glam up with a chandelier


    Chandeliers might not be as popular as they were ten years ago, when shabby chic fixtures were all the rage. But they can still be a classy and contemporary lighting option. To bring them up to date, pair them with a scheme that’s rich in deep jewel colours such as amethyst purple, sapphire blue and emerald green, and brass and bronze-finished furniture and accessories.

    9. Bring symmetry and order with matching table lamps


    Image credit: Dominic Blackmore

    Take a tip from the interior designers and double up for a more professional, put-together look for a living room. Two identical table lamps used either side of the sofa can really anchor a scheme, especially when set on matching tables, with the colour of the lamp bases picked out again in cushions and other details.

    10. Complement a coastal theme with lanterns


    Image credit: David Brittain

    For a relaxed vibe, nothing beats candlelight – and popping said candles inside a lantern will reduce the dangers associated with a naked flame. For total safety, you could even consider using LED candles instead, as once they are inside the lnttern, you’ll barely notice a difference.

    Rustic washed designs like these work beautifully in a coastal-themed living room – a polished aluminium would work just as well. Or you could transform your living room into a North African Kasbah by mixing up lanterns large and small, in bronze, brass and other metallic finishes.

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