I don’t think it would be an exaggeration to say that I firmly believe lighting is one of the most important aspects of any great room design. From overhead lights to accent lighting, it makes a world of difference in how the room looks and feels.
Of course, full disclosure, I’m not much for turning on our overhead lights. We get tons of natural light throughout the day in our house, and in the evenings I prefer to use more ambient lighting and lamps than anything else. But that doesn’t mean I don’t spend a ton of time obsessing over what the overhead fixtures should be!
Replacing the builder-grade lights in our house (aka: all of them) has been on my to do list since the day we moved in. But, lights can be expensive, and they’re one of those things I think are often worth the splurge! So, it’s taken a bit of time. But, we recently swapped out a few lights in our great room and I thought it was the perfect time to chat a little about how I choose the right light fixtures for our home.
Tips for Choosing Light Fixtures
I’m no pro when it comes to home design, but I know what I like and I’ve learned a lot through trial and error! Here are five questions I ask myself when I’m picking out new lights.
1. What Else is in the Line of Sight?
First and foremost, I always think about the room itself. Is it a room without much happening in it? Or, is it a room that’s pretty busy already? In the case of our great room, there’s a lot happening. Our entry, living room, dining room, and kitchen are all one uninterrupted space. So, I have to be aware of that when I’m planning lighting!
That doesn’t mean I have to keep things simple or boring, of course. It just means I need to take extra care to think about how things play together. In a space like ours, I personally wouldn’t mix finishes or go with lights that don’t feel super connected. Since it’s all one big room, it’s important to me that all of the lighting really flows together. Also, I wouldn’t choose anything too statement-y. There’s a ton of furniture, art, and decor in the space already, so we need the lights to quietly layer in!
2. How Do the Shapes Play Together?
This is something I put a ton of thought into when I was picking out the new lights for this space. Our living room light is round, and I love how it mirrors the round coffee table and really makes the cavernous space feel a little more cozy. If we also did a round fixture in the dining room, it might feel repetitive.
I originally planned on something linear over the dining table, but I worried about having something that would take up too much visual space. It’s the part of the room with the most going on around it (it’s essentially a pass-through between the kitchen and living room!), so I needed it to not feel overwhelming. I landed on something with a rounded shape (but not an obvious circle) that feels really light and airy. It balances the space between the two rooms really nicely, and is the perfect complement to the living room light!
For the kitchen, I wanted to do something a little more bold. The old pendants above the island were really small and dainty, and they just didn’t ground the space as well as I would have liked. I don’t love our white cabinets (I’d prefer something wood toned!), so adding in dark, bold accents really helps make the space feel more “me”!
3. Where Do I Need the Brightest Light?
This is another important consideration. You don’t want to choose a fixture that barely gives off any light in a space where you are constantly using the overhead light! We considered a bigger version of the island pendants for our dining room, but we actually use that light more than any other overhead light in our house, and they don’t give off enough light.
In the kitchen, however, we have four recessed lights that we use all the time, so it’s no big deal if the pendants are more for mood lighting! Just ask yourself how much light the fixture you’re eyeing will give off, and if it will be enough to meet your needs!
4. What Finishes Do I Already Have In the Space?
Let me start by saying I’m a FIRM believer that mixing metals and finishes is not only okay, it’s a great idea. It makes a space feel layered, intentional, and dynamic. But, I do think you should be thoughtful about it!
The great room is a great example. Before we swapped out the lights, our island pendants were black and gold. They worked great because we have lots of other black accents in the kitchen, but I wanted them to feel more connected to the other lighting. Because of how busy this space is, I wanted all the lights to be the same finish. That’s not to say mixing them wouldn’t work just fine if done right…it’s just about what you prefer!
I know, I know – it’s all very subjective. But, that’s design! Just take the time to ask yourself what other finishes you have in that space and if you want to match them or be intentional about layering in something new. A good rule of thumb is to repeat a finish at least three times in a space. So, if you add a fixture with a silver finish, be sure to also add in some silver-toned things in other spaces throughout the room and it’ll feel like it fits.
5. What Makes My Heart Happy?!
This is perhaps the most important question to ask yourself, and it also might be the one that makes you throw all the other questions out the window!
I can give you tips all day long, but what really matters in the end is what you love. Even if you break every design “rule” in the book, if it makes you smile when you walk through the door, you’ve landed on the right light fixture!
These new lights make the biggest difference in our entire great room, and it’s really motivating me to work on all of the other builder-grade lights we have in the house. One of the biggest lingering decisions I have is what flush-mount lights to use throughout our hallways, so I’m working on a roundup of ideas to share later this week. Maybe you can help me decide?!