Rookie Mistake: Rules for Lighting

Rookie Mistakes: a series of common decor mistakes made by rookies… aka us. And no we are not judging because we have made (and continue to make) these mistakes too!

Remember the Rookie Mistakes series is a NO JUDGEMENT ZONE. We’ve both made ALL of these decorating mistakes in our own homes and simply want you to learn from us so you can make your home look amazing.

Rookie Mistake – Lighting

Use a lamp on your nightstand for lighting

Lighting is a tricky component when it comes to design. You have to think about fixtures, recessed lighting, lamps, bulbs, wattage, color temperature…there’s a heck of a lot going on here! And the biggest mistake we see is when people don’t really give much thought to the lighting in their homes and instead rely on overhead lighting to illuminate every space. Eek. That certainly isn’t going to make your home look its best.A sconce in the hallway is a good light source

That is a big rookie mistake in our playbook. Lighting affects the mood and energy in your home and it shouldn’t be an afterthought. Lucky for you, we’re here to review the rules for lighting and give you ideas on how to change up your lighting for a flattering look.

The Rules for Lighting

Rules for lighting to illuminate your home

Every Room Needs 2-3 Light SourcesEvery room needs 2-3 light sources if you follow these rules for lighting

First, don’t rely solely on overhead lighting to illuminate your room. In fact, try to have light from 2-3 sources in every space. Floor lamps, sconces, and table lamps can all bring additional light into your rooms.Rules for lighting in a homeTo really make a space feel well-lit and comfortable, place these lights in key areas around a room. And also try to place them on different levels (high, middle, low.)Sconces flanking a gallery wallOur guest room has multiple light sources. We have the fixture overhead (high), sconces on one wall (middle), and then a table lamp (low). This is the perfect combination for a layered look and it evenly disperses the light throughout the room.

Lighting Ideas for Each RoomUse sconces flanking a bed for even lighting

Here are some light source ideas for each room in your home…

  • Living Room – Use a combo of floor lamps, table lamps, and overhead lighting that is dimmable.
  • Bedroom – You want the lighting to feel cozy. Opt for sconces or table lamps.
  • Kitchen –  Overhead lighting should be crisp and bright. Add in additional light sources with pendants and under cabinet lighting.
  • Bathroom – You’ll want an overhead light (maybe in the shower) and then lighting near the mirror (either flanking it or above it).

Bulbs MatterChoose the right lightbulbs for your home

Light bulbs are where things get reaaaaallly tricky. Color temperature? Wattage? Kelvin? Lumens? What does it all mean?! It’s definitely confusing, but I’ll tell you what we do in our house.

We opt for LED bulbs because they last forever and they’re energy-efficient. The technology of these bulbs has changed dramatically and they now have a wide range of colors and brightness. In our house, I don’t want things to be too blue or too yellow. That’s why I purchase “soft white” bulbs (usually 2700 kelvins). The higher the Kelvin, the bluer the light looks. 2700 is the perfect “color” for our home.

Don’t Forget Dimmers & Smart TechnologySwap out normal light switches for dimmers

Dimmers are always a good idea and it isn’t too difficult to swap a normal switch for a dimmer switch (an easy DIY project!). A dimmer allows you to change the lighting based on the mood or activity in the space. Put overhead lights on a dimmer when possible, and you can even put lamps on a dimmer.Hook your lamps up to your Amazon Echo so they can dim and turn on and off with voice commandAll of our lamps are hooked up with our Amazon Echo Plus, so I can simply tell Alexa to turn on the lamps in the front of the house or in the bedroom every day. I have a night time ritual of going around the house around 6 pm, where I’ll lower the shades, light my favorite candle, turn off the overhead lights, and turn on the lamps. You have to plug the lamps into a smart plug (we use these ones) to make it work, but it does feel pretty cool and saves me time.

Oh, and if you want to get really fancy you can check out this blog post where we added LED lights to the back of our flat screen TV (to change the color based on what we’re watching!).

Our Favorite Light SourcesUse a floor lamp for more lighting in a room

Here are some of the lamps and fixtures we use in our homes, and others we just love! Hopefully, you can find a few you like to add to your space.

Are you ready to showcase your home in a flattering light with these rules for lighting? With a few more light sources, the right bulbs, and perhaps some smart technology…you can create a dreamy and layered space.


The Year of Casey

Hey there!

I’m Casey Finn, the voice behind The DIY Playbook. I’m married to Finn & mom to Rory and Ellis. Together we’re creating our dream home in Chicago, one DIY project at a time.