Small living room lighting ideas - simple ways to make a room feel more spacious

Find illuminating small living room lighting ideas that brighten a room and creat the illusion of space

Living room with pink and red accents and gold standing lamp./
(Image credit: Future)

Lighting is an essential consideration when designing any room, but even more so with small living room lighting ideas that have the potential to create the illusion of more space. 

Bad lighting will make any room feel dark and uninviting, but in small living room ideas, the effect will be amplified, resulting in a gloomy space that feels smaller than it actually is. 

But with some clever lighting tips, you can easily create a glowing ambience that feels perfectly cosy in the evening, and bright and open during the day. From lamp positioning to subtle wall fixtures, these small living room lighting ideas will transform the look and feel of your lounge. 

Small living room lighting ideas

‘Often small rooms feel small because of inadequate lighting,’ say the experts at Philips Hue. ‘Brighter bulbs in your light fixtures is a quick way to increase the amount of light in a room - just be careful not to go over the manufacturer’s recommended highest wattage. And if your room lacks natural sunlight, swap standard bulbs for smart bulbs that can easily mimic natural daylight.’

So if your lounge has no sparkle and could use a bit of a lift, be inspired by these clever small living room lighting ideas that will add brightness to your little space.

1. Layer lighting to stretch living room space

Living room with exposed brick wall, hanging lamp and ceiling pendant.

(Image credit: Future)

Dark corners and poorly-lit areas will make a small living room feel even more enclosed and poky. But get the living room lighting ideas right and it can have the effect of visually stretching the space and making the room appear larger than it is.

Opt for situating lamps or pendants at different heights for added dimension, as well as multiple opportunities for light at varying levels. This will provide you with specific sources of light where you need it, as well as for generally illuminating the room. 

2. Add wow with clustered lighting

Glass pendant lights above wooden side table and neutral sofa

(Image credit: Future PLC/Polly Eltes)

Save on surface space with small living room lighting ideas by opting for hanging pendants instead of a bulky table lamp beside a sofa or armchair. Cluster two or three lights together for visual impact and to create a focal point feature in modern small living rooms.

‘Cluster lights do more than add a little extra illumination,’ says Peter Legg, head designer at Där Lighting. ‘They act as a statement and create a warm and welcoming focal point.’

‘Spiralling silhouettes will cast illumination beautifully vertically. If you’re hoping to throw the light wider, consider a spider-style suspension which will allow you to stretch the individual flexes across the ceiling. Another option is a fitting that has a bunched effect, where all the shades are hung at the same level to give an increased glow.’

3. Make a stand with a stylish floor lamp

Living room with pink and red accents and gold standing lamp./

(Image credit: Future)

Too many random pieces of furniture can make a small area feel crowded. Firstly, learn how to arrange furniture in a small living room. Then save on floor space by opting for a floor standing lamp in a tight corner, which will take up less space than a separate side table and lamp.

If you’re positioning a floor lamp beside a sofa or armchair to provide light for reading by, then choose an adjustable head if you can so you can make sure light is directed on to the page. Aim for the light fitting or shade to be just above eye level when sitting down, a height of roughly 50-60 inches from the floor.

4. Consider background lighting in a TV area

Neutral living room with floating tv bench

(Image credit: Wayfair)

When lighting small living room TV ideas avoid placing lights where they will cause glare on a screen. Eyes often get tired from watching TV because of the big difference between the brightness of the screen and the rest of the room around it. 

Lighting up a wall behind the TV reduces the stark contrasts between light and dark and is much more kinder on the eyes.

5. Include lighting from different sources

Grey living room with mid-century furniture and glass pendant light

(Image credit: Där Lighting)

While a ceiling pendant is a great way of giving a living room a focal point and creating general background lighting, it’s always a good idea to include plenty of additional lighting sources too. By layering light and creating areas of light and shade, you can create cosier smaller spots within one larger space.

‘Different rooms require different kinds of lighting,’ says Peter from Dar Lighting. ‘While kitchens and bathrooms need to be bright, living rooms reflect your mood, so the lighting should be flexible so it can change with the mood you want to create, from bright and clear to warm and cosy.’

‘These effects can be achieved by layering your lighting, using ceiling lights, wall lights, table or floor lamps and using technology from simple things like dimmer switches and smart lamps all the way to lighting control systems.’

6. Put the focus on living room seating

Overhead image of living room with L-shaped sofa, patterned rug and pendant lights

(Image credit: Dunelm)

For small living room lighting ideas, use overhead illumination to focus on key areas, rather than purely for general background light. Consider doubling up on pendants above your living room seating so that the whole area is well illuminated. Put lights on dimmer switches if you can, so that you can adjust the light levels to make the space feel cosier when you’re relaxing in the evenings.

Hanging pendants at a lower height will make them more of a focal point, but make sure that they are not too low so there’s a danger of bumping into them. Aim for pendants to be hung roughly 7ft above floor level, the lower a pendant is, the larger it will look.

7. Make artwork the focus

Living room with antique frames and art and picture lights on wall.

(Image credit: Future)

Floor space is at a premium in compact spaces, so opting for unusual wall fixtures will be a small living room lighting idea saviour. Wall sconces are a great way of framing the area around a sofa, but going one step further with picture lights will make your decor shine. 

It's an easy formula for making sure your gallery wall ideas are seen, and it will add plenty of interest to a living room if you're looking to make it feel homely and personal. 

'Try using wall rather than table lights in small living rooms to avoid cluttered surfaces,' adds Charlie Bowles, director of Original BTC. 'Or, hang pendants low over sofas to create dramatic or intimate seating zones.'

8. Create a relaxing mood with well-lit rooms

Living room with grey l-shaped sofa, picture rail and standing lamp.

(Image credit: Future)

As we’ve said before, while general ambient lighting is essential in any room, it can feel flat and one-dimensional if there are no additional lighting sources to supplement it. Known as mood lighting, it’s this extra light that gives a room atmosphere, creating cosy living room ideas with no dark corners closing-in the room.

Lamps are the easiest way of boosting small living room lighting ideas and can be placed and plugged in exactly where you need the extra light. A well-lit room will have overall brightness provided by ambient light, plus light in darker corners that will help create an inviting glow and draw the eye around the space.

9. Go for focused overhead lighting

Grey living room with sofa and arc floor lamp

(Image credit: IKEA)

For overhead lighting with a cosier feel, swap a standard pendant light for a floor-standing lamp. Arc-style floor lamps are a great choice for small living room lighting ideas, providing visual interest and with an over-reaching arm that can provide targeted lighting where needed.

Try positioning an arc-style floor lamp behind a sofa ideas for small living rooms to take the place of an overhead light. It will create extra task lighting for reading or hobbies and when not in use, the arm can be swung back out of the way.

10. Max your living room space with mirrors

Dark living room with green sofa and mirrored alcoves

(Image credit: Pooky)

Boost light levels and increase the feeling of space in a small living room with strategic positioning of mirrors. A large floor living room mirror propped against a wall to capture incoming light from a window, will reflect it around the room, making the space feel lighter, brighter and instantly more spacious.

Mirrored panels fitted into the alcove recesses either side of a fireplace are another way of beefing up light levels in a small living room. Position a lamp close by so that its light is reflected back into the room, which will give the space added sparkle and throw more light around the room.

What is the best lighting for a small living room?

As with any size space, whether you're working with large or small living room lighting ideas it’s always best to opt for a combination of different types to create a layered lighting scheme that will leave no dark corners or shadowy areas.

Ambient light is the first layer to consider. This includes natural light from windows as well as general background lighting from overhead lights such as pendants, chandeliers, spot lights and tracks. Ambient lighting should be considered as the base of a lighting scheme and will need extra layers added.

Task lighting needs to be added to a room to provide targeted light for performing tasks and activities, such as reading, studying and hobby work. Task lighting can be provided by table lamps, desk lamps, swing-arm lamps, floor lamps and directed track lights.

Accent lighting is used to highlight architectural details and decorative features.This can include picture lights, recessed lights, strip lighting and uplighters. Mood lighting can be a combination of all of the above and is used to make a living room feel warm, cosy, relaxed and inviting.

How do you add lights to a small room?

The most effective small living room lighting ideas and schemes are those that are planned in advance, with fixtures and fittings factored in at an early stage. This will enable cabling to be concealed prior to any building or decoration work being carried out.

However, adding portable and plug-in lights to an existing scheme is an easy option that won’t require any extra fitting work or channelling out of walls for cabling. Start by assessing the room and working out the areas where you need most additional light. While existing ambient light might be sufficient, working out how and where you can boost it with task, accent and mood lighting are the key areas to consider.

Lisa Fazzani
Deputy Editor

Lisa is Deputy Editor of Style at Home magazine and regularly contributes to sister title Ideal Home. She has written about interiors for more than 25 years and about pretty much every area of the home, from shopping and decorating, crafts and DIY to real home transformations and kitchen and bathroom makeovers. Homes and interiors have always been a passion and she never tires of nosying around gorgeous homes, whether on TV, online, in print or in person.

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