Design Mistakes – Rules for Lighting

I started my Design Mistakes series many years ago. It began as a way to showcase some of the mistakes I made around my own home, while helping others to learn the dos and don’ts when it comes to home design. Well, it quickly turned into my most popular series here on the blog!

Here are the top five posts from the series. Or you can peruse them all right here.

Design Mistake – Relying Only On Recessed Cans

My rules for lighting
Dining Table Chandelier

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 I see is when people don’t really give much thought to the lighting in their homes and instead rely solely on the overhead lighting to illuminate every space. That certainly isn’t going to make your home look its best.

My consistent home habits
Our Kitchen Pendants

Lighting affects the mood and energy in your home and it shouldn’t be an afterthought. Lucky for you, I’m here to review the rules for lighting and give you ideas on how to change up your lighting for a flattering look.

My Rules for Lighting

Our home tour at night
Bedroom Table Lamp // Sconces

I always say rules are meant to be broken. So consider these just guidelines as you figure out the best lighting plan for your space. But, trust me, incorporating these ideas into your home will make a HUGE difference.

Every Room Needs 2-3 Light Sources

sconce hack to add light to your bedroom
Jan’s Bedroom Sconces

First, don’t rely solely on the overhead lighting to illuminate your room. In fact, try to have light from two to three sources in every space. Floor lamps, sconces, and table lamps can all bring additional light into your rooms.

Jan's main bathroom reveal with a freestanding tub
Chandelier in Jan’s Bathroom

To 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. This is the guideline, no matter the space. Whether it’s a bedroom, bathroom, or kitchen, these spaces should all have various light sources.

My rules for lighting in your home
Sconces in My Main Bathroom

Our main bathroom has multiple light sources. We have recessed canned lighting, a flush mount fixture, and then sconces on the wall. This is the perfect combination for a layered look and it evenly disperses the light throughout the room.

Lighting Ideas for Each Room

Our home tour at night
Chandelier in Our Hallway

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.
  • Bathroom – You’ll want an overhead light (especially in the shower), and then lighting near the mirror (either flanking it or above it).
  • Kitchen –  Overhead lighting should be crisp and bright. Add in additional light sources with pendants, under cabinet lighting, and in-cabinet lighting. This blog post dives into our kitchen electrical plan.

Don’t be afraid to have some fun with your lighting too! We added tape light to the inside of our glass cabinets and we can control the color and brightness with a remote control. It’s great for parties! You can read more about all of the lights we have in our kitchen over in this blog post.

Light Bulbs Matter

How to choose the right light bulb

Light bulbs are where things get really tricky. Color temperature? Wattage? Kelvin? Lumens? What does it all mean?! It’s definitely confusing, but this post breaks it down in full detail.

Free home upgrades - change your light bulbs

We opt for LED bulbs because they last forever and they’re energy-efficient. The technology of these bulbs has changed dramatically and you can now find 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, which are usually 2700 kelvins. The higher the Kelvin, the bluer the light looks. 2700 is the perfect “color” for our home. In terms of brightness, I opt for 800 lumens.

LED light fixtures in a kitchen

When we renovated our house, we added recessed lighting to every single room and used these LED cans. They don’t even require light bulbs (so cool!) and you can change the color temperature directly on the back of them! I have them all set to “soft white”, but if I wanted one room to be a little cooler, I could easily pop it out and change the switch on the back.

We also put them all on dimmer switches. You can even retrofit your old cans with these and they’re easy to install. You basically just screw them in, like a light bulb.

Don’t Forget Dimmers & Smart Technology

Adding smart dimmer switches

Dimmers are always a good idea and it isn’t too difficult to swap a normal switch for a dimmer switch. (It’s an easy DIY project and here’s my video tutorial.) 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.

My rules for lighting in our home

All 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 nighttime 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) to make it work, but it does feel pretty cool and saves me time.

Outdoor Lighting Matters Too!

Our backyard at night
Our Backyard at Night

My rules for lighting apply to the great outdoors too! We like to think of our backyard as an outdoor room and an extension of our home. Lighting makes the space feel special at night. From string lights, to lanterns, and even tiki torches, these all work together to make it feel magical. You can read all about our outdoor lighting setup in this blog post.

my rules for lighting in your home

Are you ready to showcase your home in 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.


More Lighting Posts

The Year of Casey

Hey there!

I’m Casey Finn, the voice behind The DIY Playbook. I’m a Chicago gal teaching you how to design, DIY, and maintain your home…by yourself! Learn more about me right here.

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