Home Lighting Guide: Functional, Decorative and Layered Light

Choosing the right lighting can make or break a space. These tips shine a light on key considerations

Credit: BC Home and Garden

Jennifer and Megan of A Good Chick to Know let us in on how to effectively light up a space

Both functional and stylish, lighting offers visibility and visual interest throughout the home if you let placement, personal preference and personality take the spotlight

Many people overlook the importance of lighting – both in style and placement – when designing a space. Lighting sets the mood, the ambience, the feel. No matter what your architectural or decor style, it is the lighting that starts the story. It is also something you want to get correct during any renovation. Misplaced or poorly chosen lights can be a challenge to correct once a job is complete.

Lighting can be broken down into three levels: a functional element that provides the necessary visibility to navigate the space; a decorative element that supports the esthetic you have chosen for your home; and a layering tool that creates spatial divide and gives the room personality.

Here’s a lowdown on the three lighting levels:

1. Functional Lighting

Functional lighting encompasses fixed light sources like pot lights designed with the sole purpose of providing essential light. Pot lights are most commonly found in high-traffic areas like kitchens, where visibility is key, and in open-concept living spaces. Pot lights are also found throughout great rooms as an overall background light.

The most important factor to consider when installing pot lights is placement. You want to ensure that the areas where you need the most light (i.e. above the sink or workspaces) receive it. Be mindful to stick to a grid format for overall pot placement. Having a scattered layout of pots in the ceiling will create a sense of visual clutter in the room even when the lights are off. It’s also essential to include dimmers on all pot lights so that they can provide subtle illumination in the evening.

2. Decorative Lighting

This includes fixed lights that are ceiling or wall mounted, such as pendant lamps and sconces. These are the lights that tell your style story. Do you like super modern, traditional, industrial? Don’t be afraid to “mix-not-match” styles here and look into custom options.

Many cool found items or personal treasures can be converted into custom lights. (We always use Clint Moroz of Space Lab to create wickedly unexpected one-off lights for clients.) Play with scale, especially above the dining area and consider using unique pendant lights in areas where flush-mounted lights are typical (i.e. hallways), as long as the ceiling height permits.

3. Layering Lighting

These are your accent lights – the floor lamps and table lamps that add personality to your room while creating inviting areas in which to gather and relax. Here is where you can really have fun with your choices.

Unlike fixed lighting, lamps are easy to move, swap and replace as you get the urge to change up the look of a room, so treat these lights as part of your decor. Don’t be afraid to group table lamps of varying sizes to create a unique vignette that does double-duty as a light source. This is also a great opportunity to try out vintage lighting.

Check out your local vintage hot spots or even thrift stores for hidden gems for easy and often affordable lighting options. Opting for a pre-loved piece will bring a sense of story and life to your room.

Learn more about designers Jennifer Scott and Megan Baker at A Good Chick to Know.

Originally published in BC Home & Garden magazine. For regular updates, subscribe to our free Home and Garden e-newsletters, or purchase a subscription to the magazine.