Lighting fixtures are so important to the overall ambiance of the room in which they are placed; moreover, the fixtures themselves are accessories to the décor, and should be chosen with that in mind. In fact, lighting choices are an integral part of “finishing” a room’s décor. The goal, of course, should be to choose a lighting source that adequately illumines the room and melds into the surroundings as though it was custom made for the space. Just as the wrong earrings, belt, or handbag can make an outfit seem mismatched and unsightly, so to can the lighting choices ruin an otherwise well-accessorized home.
Living areas, in particular, are susceptible to flawed lighting choices. Usually the main part of the home in which most time is spent, living areas should be studied carefully prior to the addition of any ornamentation in the form of lighting fixtures. The décor of the room dictates the lighting sources to use, where to place them, and the finishes that should be sought.
To begin, examine the area’s inspiration. Is this a traditional area? Is it contemporary? Perhaps this room is reminiscent of a beach cottage. Regardless of the design, there are so many lighting options, that you are bound to find several that can be integrated into the room’s motif.
Perhaps this is a traditional area, with a formal living room and neutral base tones. This area, then, should be softly lit, preferably with recessed lighting that can diffuse a golden glow over the area. Accent these overhead lights with table lamps featuring scrolled, wrought iron or brushed bronze bases. The lamp shades can offer a coordinating hue; however, in this area, it is best to avoid bright white or any vivid color. Muted, earthy tones are the finest choice for shade color. Additionally, a smoother texture for the lamp shade will provide a clean and polished look; choose a wheat or natural colored linen or faux suede for visual depth and interest. This room must avoid the pleated, accordion style shade of yesteryear. Also well suited to this area are lighting fixtures that resemble antique pieces, such as lanterns and candles. Again, though, wrought iron and bronze are the ideal finishes.
A Victorian décor, on the other hand, calls for delicate crystal or glass for the base of table and accessory lamps. Overhead lighting can be best achieved with a chandelier of crystal, or a tiered-style suspended fixture with miniature, floral-accented shades. Tassels suspended from the shades are also a nice decorative element for this area. Floor lamps with arched stems and cut- or etched-glass shades are lovely in the Victorian room, particularly when placed to the side of a wing back chair or chaise lounge.
Perhaps your room is contemporary and modern. This space calls for simplistic fixtures–no ornate jewel tones and frou-frou add-ons. Industrial, silver and brushed nickel finishes on utilitarian pieces are best to keep the space clean and minimal. Lighting should be bright, but not harsh, so opt for pieces that make dramatic statements with a minimum of glare. Overhead lighting is best achieved with a close-to-ceiling fixture that features the least amount of ornamentation as possible. Floor lamps are better choices for this space than table lamps. Opt for floor lamps with slender bases and simple, unusual shades in grays, whites, or blacks. Once again, brushed silver and nickel are the ultimate finishes for this space, as they exude minimalism yet complete the room and relieve the sense of starkness and sparseness that can be problematic in the modern home.
Of course, there is a vast array of décor possibilities, and these are just a sampling. To choose the best possible lighting, survey the area–is it too large for one chandelier? Are recessed lights an option? How much light do you need to create and where in the room? Beyond this, remember: lighting, both in the way in which illumination is provided and in the fixtures themselves, can seamlessly pull together the décor or it can detract atrociously from the room’s design.