It’s amazing what lighting can do. It can transform a space. Bring good cheer. Create high drama. Even put you in the mood for romance. Of course, there are different types of lighting and they all have their place. When “layered” properly, lighting can elevate the look and feel of a living room from livable to luxurious.

Here are some living room lighting ideas to help you layer lighting like an interior design pro.

Types of Lighting

Interior design takes into account three types of lighting:

  • ambient lighting
  • accent lighting
  • task lighting

Ambient Lighting

Ambient lighting is your “general” lighting or your main source of light. During the day, natural lighting provides the ambience. When it’s dark outside, light fixtures take over as your ambient lighting source.

Types of Ambient Lighting:

  • track lighting
  • recessed lighting
  • pendant lighting
  • chandelier lighting
  • flush/semi-flush mount ceiling lights
  • ceiling fans with lights

One common mistake people make when it comes to lighting is thinking “one and done.” For example, you might have found the perfect chandelier, but that type of lighting is only one part of the three-part harmony.

A well-lit room layers ambient lighting with accent lighting and task lighting. This layered lighting approach not only makes life more comfortable, but it also helps you avoid dark corners and that “shadow effect” you get when light is not uniformly distributed throughout a room.

You too can layer lighting like a pro.

Accent Lighting

Accent lighting—also known as directional lighting—is designed to illuminate objects and architectural elements worthy of special attention, including artwork, woodwork, pottery, sculptures, souvenirs and so on.

Picture lights, commonly used in museums and art galleries, are a great example of accent lights.

Types of Accent Lighting:

Task Lighting

Yet another essential element for properly layered lighting, task lighting illuminates areas to help you get the job done, so to speak. Whether you’re reading, crafting, or working on your laptop, lighting should meet your specific lifestyle needs.

Types of Task Lighting:

NOTE: Integrating candlelight infuses a fourth layer of lighting to the scene. Try staggered candle holders for that much more interest. And if candles make you nervous, flameless candles are a wonderful alternative.

Gold candle holders with candles inside lit to create ambiance.

Living Room Lighting Inspiration & Ideas

Looking for some bright lighting ideas? Here are the top suggestions from our interior design team when it comes to achieving the best lighting for your living room space.

Add a Modern Touch

Even if you don’t have ultra-contemporary taste, modern lights for your living room can still look right at home. They can bring a light and fresh sensibility that’s always welcome. What’s more, modern lighting commingled with more traditional furnishings can be so interesting and eclectic—really adding personality to a space.

For a modern look, you might opt for:

It’s Hip to be Square

Whether on floor lamps, table lamps or pendant lighting, it’s very hip to be square. The linear look is crisp, clean, sculptural—and simply striking.

Modern table lamp with chevron pattern on the blocky wood base of this brown lamp

Modern BROWN WOOD AND SILVER FINISH POLY TABLE LAMP in front of a white wall with a canvas frame.

Clear as Glass

Be it in your ambient lighting, accent lighting or task lighting, transparent glass is proving that less can be so much more.

exposed copper fittings and clear glass pendants have an industrial touch

Shine On

Whether you love high-sheen chrome-tone metal or that “tarnished” look that’s so in vogue, the glam factor of metal light fixtures can really help your style shine.

zimbroni brown three drawer night stand with aniela table lamp

Drum Roll

Cylindrical drum shades on table lamps and floor lamps have always conveyed a clean, modern look. Pair with a round base…now you’re talking.

contemporary brass table lamp on a end table with a plant and books next to it.

Additional Living Room lighting Ideas:

Ample Ambient

If you can, it’s always best to have two types of ambient lighting. For example, pendant lighting or chandelier lighting—in combination with recessed lighting—can ensure ample/well-distributed ambient lighting throughout your living room.

Off Center

If you plan to install pendant lighting or chandelier lighting in your living room, don’t feel the need to center the light fixture in the middle of the room. To achieve the best lighting for your living room, pendants and chandeliers should actually be centered over your seating area. The result is a much more cozy and intimate mood.

Urban styled room with high ceilings and a pendant light hanging down over the living room.


If you have a high/vaulted ceiling, you can create an intimate atmosphere by ensuring your pendant or chandelier lighting is low enough to feel “part” of the room. With that said, an extension rod might be in order, as would an adapter if you have a sloped ceiling.

Mix it Up

Mixing different shapes and heights of task lighting (e.g., floor lamps and table lamps) can really enhance the layered lighting experience.

Dramatic Elegant Pillow Back Lemoore Couches with Pewter Tone Nailhead Trim

Arc de Triumph

Be it your budget or the fact that you’re renting a space, you might not be able to install ambient lighting. The next best thing, arc floor lamps that spread light beyond traditional floor lamps.

Black Finished Metal and Black Marble Arc Lamp

Matte Black Finished Metal Arc Lamp

Create Visual Symmetry

The best lighting for your living room is a merger of form and function. And by form we mean the art of symmetry.

Symmetry can be as simple as flanking both sides of a sofa or loveseat with table lamps or a table lamp and floor lamp of like styles—or mounting a pair of wall sconces by a fireplace mantel. It’s a look that helps balance the room visually and evenly distribute light so that everyone in the room can enjoy just the right amount of light.

When it comes to bright lighting ideas, sometimes two is better than one.

Ultra Soft Textured Cream Sisal Sofa and Loveseat Set

The simple styling and plush comfort of the Bremond set make it perfect for a contemporary look and cozy feel

Take Advantage of Natural Light

Some of us are lucky enough to have homes with great natural light. For those who have to work harder to achieve the best lighting for the living room, here are a few suggestions:

Sheer Simplicity

If you must have window treatments, make them as sheer as possible, and opt for curtain rods that allow you to push the curtains to the side of windows to allow as much light in as possible.

Mirror, Mirror

Incorporate lots of mirrors, including mirrors across from windows to grab and reflect as much natural light as possible. A full-length mirror between two windows is another great trick, since it “fools” the eye into thinking there’s another window there.

shapely teardrop glass pendant

Full Transparency

Opting for transparent types of lighting—whether ambient lighting, accent lighting or task lighting—helps lighten up a room in more ways than one, while letting a room’s natural light be the focus.