10 Living Room Lighting Ideas That Are Both Pretty and Functional

Highlight your home's best features by layering different types of lighting.

living room with gray couch and orange wall

Carson Downing

Lighting is one of the most important elements of a living space. Beyond illuminating the area, lighting has the power to influence the room's mood and how we experience it. It's also an excellent tool for highlighting your home’s best features and making a room appear larger than it really is. But expecting one light source to fulfill all your lighting needs is unrealistic.

Living rooms are multi-use spaces, so you’ll need to layer different types of lighting to cater to each activity. Lighting can be split into four key types: Ambient, task, accent, and decorative. Whether you're watching a movie, entertaining guests, or working from home, the light sources in your living space should adapt to your needs in the moment.

A good lighting design will go unnoticed, blending into the background and evoking the perfect mood for every moment. To help you make the most of your living space, we're sharing our favorite living room lighting ideas to brighten up a room.

01 of 10

Add Layers of Lighting

A green living room with several lamps and a brick fireplace

Max Kim-Bee

The way to create a successful lighting design is to build it in layers, distributing light sources at different levels of the room from the ceiling down. For example, you might lay the foundation with recessed ceiling lights or an elegant living room chandelier, followed by decorative wall lights and a few floor or table lamps. The idea isn’t to have them all lit at once, but to allow you to adjust the lighting level to suit the desired mood or activity.

02 of 10

Create Ambient Lighting

white living room with ceiling lights

Victoria Pearson

Start with ambient lighting to lay the foundation for your living room lighting scheme. This type of lighting provides the overall illumination of the space so you can see what you’re doing and move around safely—in other words, this layer is more about function than aesthetic. Ambient lighting tends to be overhead in the form of ceiling lights or recessed spotlights, though fixed wall lights and natural light provide ambient lighting too. Install dimmers to adjust the brightness level according to your needs while saving energy.

03 of 10

Light Up a Small Space

A small leather chair sits by a window underneath a wall sconce


Get strategic with your lighting, especially in gloomy corners with little natural light. Small downlights on dimmer switches can bring light to small corners, allowing you to use the entire space and create the illusion of daylight even on a dark, gray day. Illuminating dark corners is also a clever way to make a small living room feel bigger. In a cramped space, wall lights are best because they don’t occupy valuable floor or surface space.

04 of 10

Opt for a Practical Floor Lamp

farmhouse living room reading room
Tria Giovan Photography, Inc

This cozy living space is the perfect example of task lighting. A floor lamp like this provides the ideal light source for any task you want to perform while seated. Whether reading, doing the crossword, or trying your hand at embroidered decor, this small, direct floor lamp provides all the light you need—regardless of the light level in the rest of the room. The more adjustable the light is, the better, so you can alter the height or angle as necessary.

05 of 10

Pick a Decorative Table Lamp

a brightly colored living room with a clear green glass lamp

Greg Scheidemann

Table lamps are another form of task lighting, but they can be decorative too. A colorful base or shade is a great way to add a splash of color to the space. Likewise, a living room lamp with an attractive shape can provide a design statement, even when it is switched off. Distribute table lamps evenly around the room and turn them on at night to create a relaxing atmosphere.

06 of 10

Turn Light Into Wall Decor

living room with gray couch and orange wall

Carson Downing

You don't have to sacrifice the aesthetics to provide functional lighting over a couch or seating area. Turn lighting into a work of art with decorative wall sconces. Here, gold sconces are framed by the decorative wall paneling the same way a featured art print is, making the gold lights appear part of the decor.

07 of 10

Opt for Multi-Functional Lighting

small sitting room with cozy couches and colorful decor
John Bessler

Ceiling fans are popular living room features, especially during the summer season. A fan can regulate a room's temperature and keep you cool and comfortable while you relax or entertain. Add another level to their utility by opting for a ceiling fan with lights. With so many modern designs to choose from, you're sure to find a style to suit any interior. Be sure to measure your space before upgrading your ceiling fan; there should be a minimum clearance of 82 inches between the bottom of the fan blades and the floor.

08 of 10

Highlight Your Favorite Decor

a living room with a large abstract picture of a tree stump

Adam Albright

Draw attention to your favorite works of art with picture lighting. Good lighting can elevate artwork to its full potential and make it look gallery-worthy, even if it was an inexpensive find. Wall lights like can also be used to highlight sculptures and books in an open-shelving unit.

09 of 10

Install a Statement Ceiling Light

Living room with dark gray walls and pink rug
Annie Schlecther

Have some fun with a statement-making modern ceiling light. Living room chandeliers and large cluster lights are a great way to make the most of tall ceilings, drawing the eye up with a decorative feature. Place your ceiling light in the center of the room and use it to guide the layout of your space, with the coffee table positioned directly underneath it and seating arranged around that central focal point. 

10 of 10

Embrace the Versatility of Wall Lights

Living room with black accent wall

John Bessler

Wall lights are an easy way to create atmosphere and add a decorative flourish to a living room. They can draw attention to nooks that might otherwise get overlooked while bringing focus and definition to a space. They can also help you zone larger rooms, or make small spaces feel bigger and more spacious. Place them at eye level to avoid glare from the exposed light bulb and match the shades to the room’s style for a cohesive look.

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