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Our living rooms serve many purposes - from cozy movie nights and lively game nights to quiet spaces for reading or doubling up as a work-from-home office. It is therefore no surprise that the lighting we use in our living room plays a big role in how we perceive the space.
Meet the experts
At Living Cozy, we work closely with industry experts to bring you advice and recommendations you can rely on. In this article, you'll hear from the following pros:
Buying a living room lamp is not as simple as heading to the nearest furniture store and picking out the first lamp you see. For a functional space, you need to take some factors into consideration.
You need to consider how much space you have available in your living room before buying a lamp. For example, a large, ceramic table lamp may be an eye-catching feature, but it could dominate a small space. A thin, antique floor lamp could be great for a cozy atmosphere, but what if you need more light in a large space?
“Large living rooms demand larger lamps. Smaller designs can look out of place and get dwarfed by their surroundings," explains John Barnes, senior content manager at Lamps Plus.
Consider where you want to place the lamps, and how they're incorporated into the other furniture. A floor lamp should not be in the way of where you want to walk, while a lamp on an end table should not prevent you from placing a coffee mug or glass of wine on the table.
Our top tip is to always measure your space and carefully consider the size of the room and the number of lamps you need. Heather Mastrangeli, the founder of Innovatus Design, agrees: "The size of the room is more so going to dictate how many lights are needed as opposed to their size."
Lamps are more than just home décor, they naturally serve a purpose too - to light up your space. So, before you purchase just any old floor lamp, consider how much light you need in the area.
"Think about the activities that will take place in the living room and how lighting can be used to enhance these activities," Keely Smith states.
Do you need a bright light at eye level to help you navigate the room, or a few smaller table lamps to create an inviting atmosphere without blinding your guests? If you have a favorite reading chair, then a task lamp should do the trick.
You also need to consider which direction the lights need to shine. Steff Cheng, the founder of Steff Stuff Design, explains it best: "Uplights are useful for general lighting and mood, downlights and task lights used for specific locations where things like reading or highlight architectural elements (like a step) are important. Table lamps and floor lamps with a shade, and preferably on a dimmer, are great for decorative intrigue."
How the Room is Used
Your lighting needs go hand-in-hand with how you use the room. If you have an open-concept house, then your living room may function as a dining space, a playroom, the setting for date nights, and a games room.
If you predominantly use the room during the day, then you will need fewer lamps. Steff Cheng reminds us "that daylight and windows are a considerable source of lighting."
You should also aim to mix and layer lighting when you use the room at night. Lamps, ceiling lights, and wall lights can all work together, and the light you use will transform the room's atmosphere.
Having multiple light sources "allows you to turn light sources on or off depending on the room activity, helping to create warm and appealing room spaces,” according to John Barnes.
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Types of Lamps
According to Heather Mastrangeli, there are many different types of lightning that can be used in the living room: "Table lamps, floor lamps, accent lamps, task lighting, and general overhead lighting too."
Let's consider some of the different types of lamps that are commonly used in the living room.
A table lamp works well in a living room with a side table or a console. This type of lamp sits on top of these furniture items, casting a soft light.
"Table lamp sets are great to look at. They are a quick and easy way of decorating," John Barnes explains.
Table lamps come in many different styles. A minimalistic or geometric metal table lamp works well in a modern or contemporary room, while a ceramic table lamp fits in with a more bohemian or farm-chic style.
This type of lamp will work best when placed next to the sofa or perhaps on a coffee table pushed against the wall.
According to Keely Smith, a floor lamp is perfect for ambient lighting, especially when placed in the corner of the room. Floor lamps light up larger areas of the house than table lamps, and therefore they work well beside sofas or behind larger furniture items.
You can play around with the lamp shade to lighten or darken the room and find a shade style that matches your design.
Types of floor lamps:
Arc Floor Lamps: An arc lamp has a curved rod, leaning over circularly from the base of the lamp. This is the perfect lamp for providing down light over furniture pieces.
Tree Lamps: This lamp has several lighting fixtures and rods attached to the same base, like the branches of a tree. Each lamp typically has a small shade and a directional bulb.
Tripod Floor Lamps: This lamp is modern yet practical. It features a light set on three legs in the shape of a tripod. It is typically used as a corner accent.
Task lamps are for - you guessed it - doing tasks. These tasks are typically things that you need lots of light for, like reading, sewing, knitting, or tinkering with tools. "Task lamps are ideal for providing focused lighting for specific activities such as reading or working on a laptop,” says Keely Smith.
Where to Buy Lamps
"When it comes to purchasing lamps for your living room, there are many options available online," says Keely Smith.
That doesn't mean you can only shop online, though. Often times it is actually better to go into the store, so you can see the texture of the lamp shade, the exact color, and how it will match with your sofa, as well as the size.
Antique stores, secondhand shops, and furniture stores all typically have great floor and table lamp options for your living room.
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Living Room Lamp FAQs
How many lamps are needed in a living room?
Keely Smith explains that “The number of lamps needed in a living room will depend on the size of the room and the lighting needs." A smaller room will require fewer table lamps, while a larger room may need more than one floor lamp.
“If you have a small living room, three lamps will allow you to have a table lamp in between seating and a table lamp to supplement. While for larger rooms, you may need to add accent lamps to a console table and have multiple table or floor lamps,” adds Heather Mastrangeli.
Do lamps need to match?
It really depends on your own style. "When it comes to matching lamps, it is not necessary to have all lamps match," Keely Smith says.
However, your lamp choices still need to complement each other! John Barnes explains it best: "If you have a coastal style room, a farmhouse living room, or a Mid-Century space, choose designs in that particular style. The lamps don't have to exactly match, but they should be the same in style."
But when is it appropriate to match lamps? "If the space is generally symmetrical, and you want to keep it that way, then by all means, get matching lamps," Steff Cheng heeds.
Should I have a warm or bright light in my living room?
Living rooms are typically for relaxing, and although you can have a bright overhead light, your lamps should be warm to create an inviting mood without harsh lighting.
Ash is the founder of Living Cozy. He's been featured by publishers like MyDomaine, Realtor, Real Homes, Architectural Digest, The Spruce, Homes and Gardens, and more. As a writer his work has appeared in publications like FastCompany, TNW, and Entrepreneur.
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