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8 Common Home Lighting Mistakes – And How to Avoid Them

Create Ambiance and Function with the Right Lighting Design 


How many times have you walked into a dimly lit house and felt dreary, cold, and uncomfortable – and wished you could get out as quickly as possible? This reaction just goes to show the decisive role and aesthetic value lighting has in the look and feel of a home.

While lighting may not be the first thing that people consider when imagining or thinking of building their dream home, its a major design feature that must be addressed at the planning stage. The moment you choose a style and blueprint for the home, you also have to consider a lighting design for the future home.

Because lighting sets the tone – and ambiance – for the home’s exterior and interior, it’s essential to have a plan that may be modified from room to room. Lighting is the finishing touch – the element that makes the room alive, much more welcoming, warm, appealing, and attractive.

1-story, 3-bedroom Farmhouse style home with attractive lighting

From the solar lights that line its front yard to the small overhead lights on some windows, and both sides of the front door, this lovely one-story, three-bedroom Farmhouse style home illustrates how a well-designed lighting plan adds to a home’s curb appeal. The 2,520-square-foot residence includes a covered front porch with timber accents, and 2.5 baths (Plan #206-1013).


There are many options for home lighting, as well as some challenges to overcome when creating a lighting design for your dream home. Lets walk through some common lighting mistakes in the home – and how to fix them.


1.  Wrong Size Lighting Fixture

You may love chandeliers and pendant lights. However, your “must-have” fixture has to complement the space you have in mind for it. For example, an oversize hanging light is out of place in a small to medium size Great Room or living room – since the fixture will just overwhelm the entire space – just as a too-small fixture will be dwarfed by a space thats too large and voluminous for it.

Solution: Measure, measure, measure – the ceiling height, square footage in a specific room, furniture, and most importantly the light fixtures you have your eyes on. Don’t be shy about asking the showroom’s lighting professional for advice regarding appropriate fixtures for particular spaces in your home. An expert is a big help with decor inspiration, the latest technology, and the perfect lighting fixture for your space. 

A gorgeous star-like chandelier completes the look of this magnificent Great Room in an amazing one-story, 2593-square-foot contemporary Prairie style home with four bedrooms, four full baths, and two powder rooms. The light fixture is the perfect size for the large, high-ceilinged space (Plan #161-1085).


2.  Inadequate Lighting Source

In many living rooms and large master bedrooms, theres a ceiling fan in the center of the room with some kind of light fixture as the main source of light. By depending solely on the ceiling-fan light, some areas in the room will be left without proper illumination.

Solution: Think of using layers of light. In addition to the overhead light, use recessed lights on the ceiling and around the perimeter of the space. You can also position lamps or pendant lights on both sides of the sitting area in a living or family room and the bed in a bedroom – for night reading. 

Master bedroom with dramatic 10-foot-tall ceiling in the boxed tray style

This master bedroom in a European style Ranch house impresses with its 10-foot-tall boxed tray ceiling. In addition to the light in the ceiling fan, recessed lighting within the box and around the perimeter of the room make the ceiling a focal point and provide dramatic lighting that accentuates the walls and artwork – and table lamps provide task (or reading) lighting (Plan #153-1210).


3.  Skimpy Small-Space Lighting

Sometimes there’s been a lack of attention and planning in lighting small spaces like powder rooms, pantries, and closets. This is a similar situation to bedroom lighting where the overhead light is insufficient for the space – leaving some areas dark and shadowy.

Solution: In today’s homes where powder rooms, pantries, larders, closets, laundry rooms, and mudrooms are among the most popular features, lighting can be stylish and even state-of-the-art. Plan – and pay attention to – design details in these small spaces. Consider LED lights, wall sconces, and under cabinet lights – to give the space a soft glow and make it roomy and inviting.

Powder room with dramatic lighting emanating from the wall sconce and behind the mirror

An eye-catching, unusual wall sconce and soft decorative lighting from behind the mirror over the vessal sink and vanity add to the stylish look of this powder room in a 2,862-square-foot Contemporary style Ranch home with an open floor design, two bedrooms, 2.5 baths, family room, and covered front and rear porches (Plan #161-1104).


4.  One-Dimensional Lighting

Not using enough layers of light tends to make a space seem uncomfortable and even cluttered. As with most things, dont use too much or too little of one kind of lighting.

Weve all heard of ambient, task, and accent lighting. So plan on using all three in every room – and the result will be a beautiful and functional space.

  • Ambient or general lighting - an overhead fixture that illuminates the entire
  • Task lighting – functional lighting for a specific activity like reading or cooking
  • Accent lighting is used to focus on a particular element or decorate a space.

Modern kitchen with recessed ambient, under-cabinet, and pendant lighting

This spectacular kitchen in a two-story, 5,170-square-foot Modern style home with five bedrooms and 5.5 baths uses the three types of lighting to create an attractive and functional space. To light up the entire kitchen, there are well-positioned recessed ceiling lights. The second and third types are the under-cabinet lights and the pendant lights over the kitchen island, which serve as both task and accent lighting (Plan #161-1084).


5.  Overused Recessed Lighting

Don’t overwhelm rooms in the house – kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, Great Room, media room – with recessed ceiling lights because these particular lights cannot properly illuminate the space. The lights can either be overly bright or keep some areas in the dark. Besides, youll only be wasting energy.

Solution: Try not to rely too heavily on recessed lights. Design a plan where you can figure out the right number of recessed lights for the size and specifics of the space. Don’t be afraid to use pendant lights, sconces, chandeliers, track lights, or wall, table, and floor lamps.

Some experts advise adding controls to the lights that you already have installed: “Put them on separate switches so they can be turned on separately, or add a dimmer for additional control.”

Entertainment/media room with recessed, wall-sconce, and pendant lighting

Controlled recessed lighting is exhibited in this media/entertainment room in a lovely two-story Luxury style home with Craftsman influences. To balance the ceiling lights, there are pendant lights over the bar and wall sconces flanking the TV screen. In addition to the media room, the 3,897-square-foot residence has four bedrooms, 3.5 baths, a library, a loft, main- and second-floor laundry rooms, and a kitchen with an island, peninsula eating bar, and walk-in pantry (Plan #161-1067).


6.  Lack of Control

Speaking of controlling lights, neglecting to install dimmers, sensors, and timers is a “no-no” in a home’s lighting design. When a room is too dark or too bright, having a dimmer allows the homeowner to find a happy medium with the lighting.

Solution: As natural light changes from day to dusk to night, our eyes need to adjust to the changes in mood and brightness. Installing dimmers and controls fixes the lighting problem and sets the right mood for the right time of day or night. More importantly, having control of the home’s lighting results in energy efficiency and substantial savings on the electric bill. 

Roomy lower-level recreation room with wee=ll-lit billiards table and bar

Dim the lights and shine the spotlight on the billiards table. Walk into this spacious recreation room in a luxurious two-story, four-bedroom Mediterranean home and see the way the lights are dimmed in the hallway entry and around the bar area. Control of the lights allows the eyes to adjust slowly from a dimmed area to a brighter lit one (Plan #161-1034).


7.  Too Much of a Good Thing

You can create a lot of issues for yourself by not being aware that too many pieces of furniture in a room creates lighting problems. For starters, too much furniture makes a room look smaller and cluttered. It is also likelier for the light fixtures to create shadows as they bounce off the items in the room.

Solution: In this case, less is more. With fewer – and brightly colored – furniture pieces, the space becomes brighter. Instead of creating shadows, the light will bounce efficiently and illuminate the room properly. 

Great Room with high ceiling, large windows, and smart furniture layout

This huge, high-ceilinged Great Room in a spectacular two-bedroom, 2.5-bath Contemporary-style Ranch features furniture pieces that are arranged stylishly and comfortably. The space is not overwhelmed with extraneous furnishings that can potentially cause lighting problems. As it is, the large windows allow a great amount of natural light to filter in; the furnishings complement each other, so the light fixtures are not likely to create shadows (Plan #161-1104).


8.  Underestimating the Power of LED

Because they are new in the lighting design landscape, LED lights are not being used enough in the home. Described as “the latest and fascinating technological advancement in the lighting industry,” LED lights are small, solid bulbs that are energy-efficient, long-lasting, and powerful.

Solution: Adapt LED lights into your lighting design plan. LED lights are more durable and consume less electricity than incandescent bulbs. They are much cooler, sturdier and easier to install. LED lights also work off a large temperature scale and provide better and cooler colors.

Smart bulb LED lights in this modern living room can change to any color imaginable to suit your mood or occasion using a smartphone and smart bulb app (photo credit: © Kutt Niinepuu, Dreamstime).


Think of these challenges as motivation to create a lighting design thats energy efficient and provides the home the ideal balance between brightness and mood.  


Footnote: The bottom photo in the lead image of this article is a spectacular two-story, 6,403-square foot European-style Country home with five-bedrooms, 4.5-baths,a  Great Room with a fireplace, and a huge kitchen with a kitchen island and eating bar. For more on this amazing home with its many luxurious features go to Plan #161-1030


Additional Sources:

Certified Lighting


Beautiful Things Lighting 


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