Lighting for Form and Function

Lighting for Form and Function

One of the most important aspects of interior design is lighting, but unfortunately this is also one of the most complex. There are a great deal of things to remember when working with lighting, which can make the process a little intimidating for a do-it-yourself renovator or rookie interior designer. According to Real Simple, the two rules of thumb for lighting are:

1. Create light sources at different levels

2. Install appropriate task lighting in specialized areas

There’s also another rule to working with interior lighting, and that is that the design should be built around your décor, not the other way around. Changing out a wall sconce to properly match your décor can actually be an easier and less expensive process than trying to find the perfect furniture and accessories to match your light fixtures.

Traditional Recommendations

The standard light fixture remains an overhead light, but most overhead lights are best reserved for specialized areas of the house such as the kitchen or office. Often, overhead lighting can be garish and completely ruin the ambiance of your home; if you find your interior design looks a little washed out or too sharp under the light from above, there are other options to help soften the design without limiting visibility. First, use “soft white” light bulbs in your overhead fixtures. For efficiency and energy saving, CNet recommends making the switch to LED bulbs, which not only use less power and last longer than a standard bulb, but also come in a much wider range of shades and hues. A soft white LED bulb lacks the all too familiar “1970’s yellow” cast of an incandescent, promising to never clash with or oversaturate the colors of your interior design. The gentler glow also makes sure that the lighting in your home is working with you rather than against you.

Secondly, don’t limit yourself to overhead light fixtures. Tall standing lamps situate in corners and close to couches helps limit stark shadows by offering lighting from a different level than ceiling fixtures. You should also look into a couple small table lamps or lanterns for desks, tables, mantelpieces and anything else that sits below eye level. Layering light is key, as this breaks up shadows and helps mix the hues of your different bulbs—every house has a wide array of different bulbs in use at any given time, don’t worry—while simultaneously making sure that your home’s lighting is consistent on all levels. The last thing you want is to walk into what appears to be a well-lit study only to sit down at your desk and find that you can’t see a thing.


Limited Space Options

For those working with limited table space, there are other options to make your lighting consistent and maintain the ambiance of your interior design. While wall sconces, like those available from Lumens, are usually utilized for decorative lighting only, that doesn’t mean that’s all they’re good for. Decoist reports that a good wall sconce doesn’t just add a touch of elegance to your home, but also balances form and function like no other light fixture can. This is because sconces can be installed at almost any point on the wall above chest-level, providing the same layering of light you get from overhead, standing and table lamps, while not encroaching on valuable table or floor space.

This style of light fixture has been around for literally thousands of years, first coming into being as the brazier, popular and well-known from ancient Egypt clear up through the Renaissance and beyond. The design has maintained popularity through massive technological changes because it allows lighting of narrow hallways and wide open family rooms alike, while changing out the fixture itself to update your style is one of the simplest lighting installation jobs any electrician has ever seen.

The wall sconce is versatile: it works in small apartments and the largest of mansions, with design options that will fit right in regardless of the room to which it’s installed. Like pendant lamps, this is a fixture that fills in the gap between overhead and standing lighting, and it does so without putting a cramp in anyone’s style.

Designing for Your Home

Remember that when it comes to lighting your home, maintaining the correct mood is important. Save harsher lighting for highly specialized areas of the home such as kitchens, bathrooms and offices, while utilizing a gentler touch for the rest of your home. Aim to light from at least three different levels, starting at the waist, then level with the chest, and at least a little light above eye level to maintain visibility of those high corners. A room with dark corners seems small and uncomfortable, so put particular focus on maintaining brightness where it’s needed.

Light your home not just for daily life, but also for style! When you can balance form and function, there’s no reason to choose one over the other.


  1. I just got a new chandelier for our kitchen. Since it has half a dozen bulbs, it really does a great job of task lighting. I never realized how dark the island was!

  2. Richard Hicks says

    Picking the right fixtures can sometimes be daunting.

  3. Kayley says

    Honestly, people underestimate the effect lighting can have on your mood and the vibe of your living space. At the same time, I understand not having the time/funds to invest in proper lighting; I’m in the same situation. The only reason I know how important lighting can be is because I attended Kelli Ellis’ Design Camp.

  4. Rosie says

    there are so many really good ideas here, and many people don’t realize how much of a difference it can make.

  5. Karen Glatt says

    Getting good light fixtures with energy saving bulbs is so important on helping with high energy costs. I like to get LED lightbulbs, but they cost a lot of money. I do use CFLs and they work great in my home.

  6. Melissa S says

    There are a lot of good tips here. I have been thinking a lot about lighting and need to settle on something for my livingroom. Wall sconces may end up being our answer.

  7. I love those lights. They are so unique and creative.

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