Lighting Tips to Set the Mood in Any Home Space

Kathryn Marsh
Written by Kathryn Marsh
Updated February 13, 2014
remodeled kitchen with new lighting
"All the lighting elements in your room should work in harmony to create an interesting and unified outcome," says Kathryn Marsh. (Photo courtesy of Deb Gronseth)

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Lighting is often overlooked, but it is one of the quick changes that can transform a room. Lighting can enhance the color on your walls and make the lines of furniture look crisp and clean while allowing artwork to be seen clearly. 

What lighting can do

Good lighting makes a space feel comfortable and elicits positive reaction, while bad lighting can impede the intended function and make an attractive room feel dreary and unattractive.

Lighting sets the desired mood and atmosphere of a space. Dim lighting makes a space more intimate and cozy, while bright lighting is more business-like and energizing. 

Lighting also directs or draws attention. Using focused lighting over a dining table within a dimly lit room makes table settings of food and drink more eye-catching. You can use lighting to emphasize or modify the perception of a space. For example, lighting that illuminates the ceiling gives the appearance of it floating upward.

Planning your lighting

Approach the lighting of your room with a plan, just as any other aspect of your design.  You should take into consideration the atmosphere and function you desire. Will it be efficient, businesslike, restful or cozy? 

Keep in mind the specific purpose for which lighting is required. Will the area be used for working, dining, reading, watching TV or a combination of activities?

Depending on your goals for your room, you will choose one or more of the three categories of lighting: ambient, task or accent lighting.

Ambient lighting, also called general lighting, is the overall lighting that fills your room. Task lighting is designed to facilitate specific tasks, such as reading, sewing or working. Accent lighting is used to highlight or emphasize specific objects or areas in your room.


When adding lights to a room, consider the importance of layering. The guidelines of layering are function, mood and harmony. 

The functional aspect of layering refers to how you will blend the three categories of lighting in a room based on the activities and desired function of your room. What are the ambient lighting needs of a room? Can they be satisfied with a single ceiling fixture or several? Will there be a need for reading lamps? Will you use table or floor lamps for this? Are there any specific areas that you wish to highlight, such as a piece of art or an architectural feature in the room? 

In addition to functional considerations, your layering plan should take into account the mood you want in your room. The type of fixture you choose will convey or express a mood. If you want a traditional mood, you have to choose fixtures that are suitable. The level of intensity of your light will also affect the mood.

Harmony is the balance between unity and variety. All the lighting elements in your room should work in harmony to create an interesting and unified outcome.  

Putting all of the pieces together

Your layering plan should have variety.  It should use different lighting fixtures for different tasks. It should make light flow in different directions. Some lights should point up and some down, and some should cast light in all directions. 

Vary the height of your light fixtures. Plan for different levels of light intensity in various parts of the room – some brighter and some dimmer. 

If you follow these guidelines, you can create interesting and practical lighting. There is no question that a well-lit room is beautiful and makes living and entertaining that much more enjoyable.

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As of Feb. 13, 2014, this service provider was highly rated on Angie's List. Ratings are subject to change based on consumer feedback, so check Angie's List for the most up-to-date reviews. The views expressed by this author do not necessarily reflect those of Angie's List.

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