15 Easy Ways to Instantly Improve Your Home's Lighting
1. Choose a Lighting Focal Point
Not all fixtures—chandelier, lamps, sconces—should be the same size. Otherwise, the eye searches for visual clarity without landing on anything specific. For a large space, such as a dining room or family room, a chandelier makes a great focal point. In a smaller-scale room, think about a distinctive floor lamp or vintage-inspired sconces flanking a piece of wall art.
2. Consider Scale When Selecting Light Fixtures
Lighting shouldn't overpower a room—but it shouldn't get lost either. Scale matters when choosing the best light fixtures for your space, and a few guidelines can help you get the look right. The length plus the width of any room in feet should generally equal about the diameter of a chandelier in inches. For example, if you have a 10x10-foot room, your fixture should be about 20 inches in diameter.
3. Layer Lighting for a Balanced Effect
Layers are important when it comes to lighting. For the best balance, aim for at least three sources of light in every space, including the powder room or foyer. In small spaces, you can reduce the bulb wattage and size of the light fixtures to accommodate fewer square feet. Just don't ignore the accent layer, which helps to highlight the extra details you've used to finish your rooms.
4. Use Dimmers Wherever You Can
Dimmers can instantly change a room’s atmosphere—and help you save on your electricity bill. Install dimmer switches in as many rooms and with as many fixtures as you’d like to gain more control over your lighting. Use dimmers to change the mood and balance artificial light with natural light.
5. Use Lighting in Unexpected Ways
Lighting is so much more than overhead fixtures and portable lamps. Besides adding functional task lighting, you can use pops of illumination to give your home an unexpected glow—and a personalized touch. Some of our favorite outside-the-box lighting ideas including hanging a pendant bedside or highlighting a bookshelf with mini lights that highlight artwork or other display pieces. You could also uplight a plant by hiding a small spotlight next to a large container and turning it at about a 45-degree angle up toward the foliage.
6. Get a Lighting Control App
Let's say you're watching TV on the couch and left an upstairs light on, or you're going on vacation and don't want the house to look vacant. Or maybe you want to turn on the living room lamps before you get home so you’re not walking into a dark house. With the help of today's easy-to-use smartphone and tablet apps, you can control your home's lighting, window treatments, temperature, and more. Many apps also have settings you can define, so with the touch of a button, your lights can be set to “dinner party” or “wake-up time.”
7. Swap Out the Lightbulb You Leave On the Longest
Consider changing out the bulbs in the light fixtures you use most often, such as in a kitchen or an entryway, for energy-efficient models. Energy Star-labeled bulbs can have a significant impact on your home's energy conservation: you can save $40-$135 in energy costs per bulb and cut energy use by about 75% and generate 75% less heat. Plus, in order to be labeled as an Energy Star bulb, the bulb must be backed by a manufacturer’s warranty.
8. Find a New Ceiling Fan
When was the last time you updated your ceiling fan? If you don’t remember, now may be the time for an upgrade. Newer ceiling fan motors use much less energy and operate cooler to the touch than older motors. Many are also much quieter than older fans, and modern designs are available in all decor styles.
9. Fix Your Media Room Lighting
TV-focused spaces need less overhead light and more ambient and task lighting, such as lamps. This helps to reduce glare on screens. Good task lighting also means the overall room can be dim, but someone wishing to read can have ample lighting, thanks to a table lamp. Consider natural sources of light when planning a media room and install good light-controlling window treatments so a sunny day doesn’t dampen your entertainment pursuits with harsh rays.
10. Change the Oldest Lighting Fixture in Your Home
Lighting manufacturers have made it easier than ever to replace energy-hogging fixtures and bulbs with those that last longer and trim utility bills. When you're at your lighting showroom, simply look for products with the Energy Star label. Plus, old light fixtures can quickly date a space. Replacing old chandeliers and flush-mount lights with fresh models can take years off your home’s looks.
Related: How to Install a New Light Fixture
11. Pick a New Shade
Lampshades have more practical design power than they get credit for. Lighter-color versions can help diffuse light in a wider circle. A dark shade concentrates the light, focusing it on a surface. A new shade is also a chance for you to try out a punch of color and pattern before you redo a whole room.
Related: Expert Lighting Tips for Your Home
12. Replace a Light Switch
Newer bulbs respond better to newer switches. With wireless options (usually operated with wireless remotes), you can control light from around the room or elsewhere in the house. Being able to control lighting with a remote is a smart solution if you’re looking for how to improve lighting in a bedroom. Once you’re cozy in bed, you don’t even need to get up to turn off or adjust the lights.
13. Check the Height of Your Dining Room Chandelier
What's the secret to a beautiful dining room? An eye-catching chandelier, of course. To make your space really shine, keep this lighting tip and rule of thumb in mind: in general, the bottom of a chandelier should be about 30 inches from the top of your table.
14. Swap Your Holiday Lights for LED Versions
Americans gobble up 2.22 million kilowatt hours of electricity each year to power mini holiday lights. Make the switch to LED lights and reduce your contribution (and December light bill). LED holiday bulbs can trim your energy budget and last about 30 holiday seasons, according to the EPA.
15. Add an Exterior Fixture
Beautiful light is great, but safety and convenience are also top concerns for exterior fixtures and landscape lighting. If you have a dark entrance—a side door, a garage door—install either one sconce or a matching set. You'll stop fumbling for keys and feel more secure, too.