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An artful combination of track lighting and accent lighting puts the spotlight on this living room's artwork and vintage furnishings. These fixtures use halogen bulbs for a bright white light that renders colors more accurately than ordinary incandescent, and lends an extra sparkle to fine wood veneers and gilt picture frames. A vintage floor lamp rounds out the room's illumination while also acting as a reading lamp beside the easy chair on the right.
Globe-shaped paper lanterns are inexpensive and unobtrusive, and they cast a soft, even, omni-directional light that's both pleasing and effective. Such lamps are available in a wide variety of sizes and can use either standard incandescent or compact florescent bulbs.
Hung either individually or in groups from a ceiling, these lighting fixtures provide a mobile-like effect that's equally attractive whether the bulbs are on or off. While often used in contemporary interiors, the minimalist lanterns work just as well in updated traditional interiors such as this one.
Sconces are lighting fixtures that attach to the wall, rather than the ceiling. They may be equipped with shades, as these are, or with glass diffusers to soften their light, as they're often installed at or near eye-level.
In living rooms, sconces are often installed in pairs, typically over the mantelpiece or on either side of the fireplace. There they help define the room's focal point, and provide accent lighting that complements firelight when a low light level is appropriate--as when hosting after-dinner gatherings.
Make up for the lack of natural light in a windowless basement living area by installing a false skylight. While it works like florescent-panel recessed lighting, a false skylight creates the impression of sunlight by using daylight-spectrum florescent tubes hidden behind a translucent diffuser.
In this installation, the panel was made to look like a bank of traditional double-hung windows, adding to the effect. Placing the "skylight" dead center in the room and bouncing the light off a white rug and light-colored furnishings further brightens the room.
The most classic of all living room lighting fixtures is the chandelier. Generally positioned in the center of the room directly over the main seating area, these elaborate lighting fixtures are at once the room's main source of illumination and works of art. Their sculptural shapes fill the void between the ceiling and the living space, and their twinkling, often candle-shaped bulbs provide a multi-point illumination that softens shadows and makes the room's highlights sparkle. Dimmer switches in the chandelier's lighting circuit allow varying light levels.
For lots of light from an unobtrusive source--such as the illumination needed in this basement living room--it's hard to beat recessed lighting. With illumination provided by halogen, incandescent, or compact florescent bulbs, recessed can lights allow you to position a focused, downward facing beam exactly where you need it. You can overlap beams, as in this room, for overall illumination from a virtually invisible source. Dimmers and separate switches for various light banks allow you to change the character and emphasis of a room's illumination to suit various purposes. Separate, smaller recessed fixtures highlight art objects in the wall niches.
These latter-day fanlights come in many varieties. They include globe-shaped fixtures such as this one, along with multiple lamps on three or more arms extending from the bottom of the fan, or even contemporary-style mini-spotlights that can be selectively aimed similar to track lighting. Some fanlights can be dimmed by a radio frequency, wall-mounted or hand-held remote control.
Special bulbs rated for fan light use are recommended, as these are resistant to the vibration caused by the fan--something that can cause regular bulbs to fail prematurely.
Skylights are a dramatic way to bring daylight into a living room. They're especially effective at adding sunshine to areas that window light can't reach, such as this corner framed by a large brick chimney and an interior wall. Because they face upward, skylights bring in a great deal of light for their size.
To bring light into a room in an area without much ceiling space, consider a tubular skylight. These fixtures literally pipe daylight in from a collector on the roof to a diffuser in the room's ceiling, without the expense of building a finished skylight well.
In many ways, the oldest lighting fixture--the window--is still the best. It brings lots of broad-spectrum daylight into a room. The window's shape, trim work, muntins, and moldings add interest to the wall. And they offer a view that makes the room seem as big as the outdoors. Finally, south-facing windows offer passive solar heat gains that can keep a living room warm and welcoming in cold climes.
If you're considering replacement windows, think big: This grouping pairs large double-hung windows with a trio of clerestory windows to add architectural interest--and lots of light--to this living room, while still allowing plenty of wall space on which to hang artwork.
Not all light fixtures are designed primarily for illumination. These starburst-shape sconces, for example, are accent lighting primarily designed to add shape, texture, and contrast to a wall. They also counteract the paneled wall's tendency to absorb light, accenting the beauty of the wood while preventing the room from feeling too shadowy and gloomy. As are most sconces, these are symmetrically placed flanking a focal point--in this case, a large mirror.
The development of new types of lighting fixtures such as track lighting, recessed lighting, and fan lighting has overshadowed the old-fashioned floor lamp, but they will never replace it. Floor lamps come in many styles; are portable, allowing for flexibility in use; and cast light up, down, and out simultaneously, producing an even light that minimizes harsh shadows. Furthermore, floor lamps create interest at eye level and their availability in many materials and types means that they'll never go out of style.
Versatile track lighting has many virtues: it can act as a down light, a flood light, a spot light, and an accent light. Fitted with enough light fixtures, a track lighting system can also serve as a room's overall illumination system. Furthermore, track lighting is flexible, allowing you to change the location and direction of the individual fixtures to suit various room arrangements.
The tracks themselves offer at least two decorating options: Paint them to match the ceiling, and they practically disappear. Or, paint them in a contrasting color, as here, and they function as decorative trim work, forming a border around the ceiling.
A glossy white tray ceiling makes the most of this living room's recessed lighting. The can lights shine down on the room's light-reflective white furniture and glass coffee table top, bouncing the light back up to the ceiling. From there, it showers down on the room, creating a bright, evenly lit space that's a delight to spend time in.
Pure white paint reflects significantly more light than does even a slight tint of off-white; glossy surfaces reflect more than other textures.
With its large bank of windows, white walls, woodwork, ceiling, and tabletop, this room requires little in the way of supplementary illumination. Accent lighting from two sconces, one over each bank of built-in shelving, plus a small chandelier over the table, fit the bill nicely. The sconces are mounted high on the wall, spilling light over the collectibles and accent pieces that fill the shelves, adding to the room's visual interest.
Paper-globe lanterns cast a diffuse light in this contemporary, vaulted living room. Round mirrors on the wall echo the lanterns' shape and reflect some of the globes' light. Together, the globes and mirrors create a playful effect that resembles bubbles suspended in a cool blue pool.
The lanterns have a practical advantage, too: They're so inexpensive, they can simply be replaced when they get dusty, avoiding a tedious cleaning task.
Usually a room requires more than one type of lighting to create the desired ambiance. This living room uses table lamps flanking the sofa and easy chair for reading light; recessed lighting to illuminate the artwork on the wall behind the sofa, a pair of sconces (one out of view to the left) to signal the transition from the main seating area to a reading nook, and finally a fanlight in the reading nook for general illumination. Consider various lighting types when planning your lighting scheme.
There's nothing like firelight to connote coziness and romance. This living room makes the most of it: In addition to the blazing hearth, dozens of candles, amassed on a tray suspended from the ceiling beams, add a cheerful glow to the opposite end of the room. White walls and ceiling reflect the maximum amount of the precious flame-sourced light during evening hours. The room's rustic furnishings and exposed beams complement the firelight's nostalgic feel.
This lighting option turns the typical floor lamp on its head by mounting a floor lamp shade on a lighting fixture suspended by its cord from the ceiling. The choice of a dramatic black-and-white shade amps up the effect. With thousands of lampshades to choose from, this option offers a clever way to achieve a custom look at very little cost. Recessed can lights supplement the hanging fixture when greater amounts of light are desired.
Hanging from the intersection of two beams in this coffered ceiling, a pendant lighting fixture illuminates a reading nook beside the fireplace. Often used in high-ceilinged rooms such as libraries and great rooms, pendant lights bring the source of illumination closer to where it's needed--and provide visual interest overhead.
Here, the lamp's vintage design complements the updated arts-and-crafts style of the room. At night, the light has the effect of visually lowering the ceiling, creating a sense of coziness and security.