Shopping for lighting can be complicated.
It’s easy fall in love with the design of a light fixture or lamp, notes interior designer Maggie Griffin, but how will it illuminate your space? How will it work with the lighting you already have? And which variety of lightbulb will provide the kind of light you need?
Here, three interior design experts — Griffin, founder of the Atlanta-based Maggie Griffin Design; Jennifer Bunsa of Bunsa Studio Interiors and co-founder of WorkRoom Miami; and Caitlin Murray, founder of L.A.’s Black Lacquer design — offer advice on choosing the best lighting for any room, and on navigating the range of new lightbulbs and LED technology.
Although many people worry about having enough light, the biggest challenge is usually avoiding glare, says Bunsa. Many houses have can lights in the ceiling which flood a room with light. Make sure those are on a dimmer, and then add other fixtures and lamps that offer a softer glow.
Rather than choosing a fixture that functions like a spotlight, Bunsa says, “I always try to shop for things that are more like glowing globes that are a little bit warmer.”
Griffin agrees: For a more appealing effect, she says, you might choose a fixture with several bulbs that give off softer light, rather than just one very bright bulb.
And when choosing bulbs, consider their color temperature. “It makes a space feel a lot warmer if you go with the warmer color temperature,” Bunsa says.
Frame one area
Lighting can draw attention to your favorite art or furnishings, says Griffin, and create a strategic pool of light in one part of a room.
For a client in Atlanta, she added sconces to the sides of kitchen cabinets to give light both practical and beautiful around the kitchen sink. She also suggests hard-wiring some light fixtures into bookcases to showcase items on the shelves and bring an extra glow.
Don’t hang too high
Griffin says people usually err on the side of hanging lights too high, rather than too low.
Instead, aim to hang fixtures low enough to “make the room feel more cozy and intimate,” Griffin says. Bunsa says this is especially important around dining tables and kitchen islands: “If it’s a space where you’re going to be sitting and having a conversation,” she says, “make sure people’s faces are lit” rather than having light looming above them.
A change of style
Using a mix of vintage and modern light fixtures and lamps can make a room more appealing and shake up its style, Murray says.
A vintage lamp or fixture “adds character and soul and makes it feel not so cookie-cutter,” she says, and rewiring an old piece is more environmentally sustainable than buying new.
Experimenting with a range of styles, Griffin says, “gives you a chance to let your personality shine through.”