The Remedy for Three Commonly Made Mistakes that Impact a Living Room’s Presentation: Part 2 – Lighting

blog1-jpgWhether you are looking to stage or to implement some type of decorating change in your living room, first take a critical eye to your room to see if you have possibly made the following mistake — correcting this alone can have a huge impact and probably won’t cost a dime to fix! Read on to discover this first mistake of several that we will be discussing in our blog.

Mistake #2: So, in the first topic we tackled the “conversation factor” in your living room and so next we are going to address the lighting. Now that we are in these darker winter months, this topic is quite apropos given that we are spending more time indoors and much of that time is spent with the lights needing to be on. Proper lighting in a room is big on the short list of things that make a room more appealing. In staging, we want to ensure that all rooms are properly lit for photographing and viewing purposes and to help the house feel warm, inviting, and filled with light (whether it be natural lighting or not). And while most of us aren’t concerned about the photography piece when it comes to staging our homes for living, the rest of the benefits are definitely desirable.

Your living room may be flooded with natural light during the day, but how does it appear once the sun goes down? Most of the time we spend in our living spaces is actually in the late afternoon through evening hours and so it is really important that these spaces feel right during these times of high use— and yet, most often, the light use in the room is not right for the space or the tasks at hand.

The biggest mistake we see in this area is 1) over-use of overhead lighting and 2) not enough ambient, accent, and task lighting. The over-use of overhead lighting is an understandable issue—most of our homes’ wall light switches are wired to turn on the overhead light, and we tend to naturally reach for this switch when we walk into a room. The problem however, is that overhead lighting on its own, and at full strength, is often too harsh and it casts light in such a way that doesn’t create warmth or coziness in a space. We have seen poorly chosen overhead light fixtures that either cast a dim glow over everything with light that is too weak to be of use or, on the other extreme, lighting that is way too bright for the space, making room and everything in it appear loud and brash as opposed to an intimate retreat. With either of these scenarios you and your other household members and guests are not enticed to spend much productive time in the room (whether you or they realize it or not).

But do not despair! The solution is easy and it comes with employing the concept of “layered” lighting. By layering accent, ambient and task lighting (and maybe upgrading your overhead fixture to something more interesting — or at the very least, changing its switch to a dimmer), you can achieve a room that invites you to sit down and relax with the paper or share a glass of wine and conversation with a guest.

Think of the lights as having different functions for different aspects of the room and the way the room is used. You want to have good light to read by; you want the dark corners to be lit appropriately; you want to cast a warm glow from various angles in the space. One overhead light cannot achieve this — but with some help from plug-in fixtures, you should be well on your way to achieving a comfortable and aesthetically pleasing space.

Using table lamps next to sofas or chairs where reading occurs is a great start. Putting a floor lamp in a corner that doesn’t get much light, will warm that space up and actually have you notice it. Our recommendation would be to get an architecturally interesting floor lamp for a space where the lamp will be in plain view as opposed to something plain-Jane, but if budget is an issue then perhaps a plain floor lamp can be strategically placed behind a chair or next to a tall floor plant, etc. In the same vein, putting smaller lamps up on top of bookshelves or on consoles or perhaps a desk in your room, will further enhance the cozy-factor in your space. Consider using three way bulbs to amp up the lighting or create more mood lighting as needed!

With this consideration of layering your lighting, having three separate plug-in light fixtures in your room (in addition to your overhead light) would be a good rule of thumb for most average size living rooms. For small spaces, you can probably eliminate ever having to turn on that overhead light if you have three different lamps deployed.

If you need some further instruction on this topic, take a look at this article from Ballard Style Studio. It goes into more detail about ambient, accent and task lighting for all of the rooms in your house and provides a general formula for figuring out how much wattage you need in a room based on its square footage:

Now, go out and buy yourself some lamps! J

Stay tuned for the next commonly made mistake in living rooms and its easy fix!