Margaret Chambers: Plan Your Home Lighting Like a Professional

Balance is important to interior design, and lighting is no exception. Even the most beautifully designed rooms will look unbalanced if poorly lit.

To help your decorations look their best, you’ll need to light each room with care. 

The first step is determining the primary functions for each of your rooms. Odds are that you’ll want task lighting for your study and mood lighting for your bedroom. Make sure to decide on your desired color temperature for the lighting, too. Lower temperatures are warm and yellow, while higher temperatures are closer to blue daylight.

Task lighting should generally be three times brighter than the rest of your lighting. Recessed lights and pendant lights are reliable solutions for this. Another place where you may want to install task lighting is above the countertops in your kitchen (in this case, under-cabinet lighting strips can be handy). 

Mood lighting is typically created using a balance of many softer light sources in the same room. Including dimmers in your plans will give you more flexibility in controlling brightness levels. 

A popular new trend is to install one light switch that controls all the lights in a particular area or room. As a designer, I prefer these “smart lighting systems” because having one switch on the wall looks cleaner than having three or four together.

Ensure that each light fixture performs a specific task, whether highlighting an area, creating depth, or illuminating a cabinet. There’s a saying, “If you light everything, you light nothing.” Although it’s tempting to plot lights throughout the room, you do need shadows to create variation and atmosphere. 

Lighting can also establish focal points in a room. Use recessed lighting to draw the eye to a central seating area or a piece of art over the fireplace. Just make sure not to project light directly onto a mirror, as this will create glare. Instead, highlight the mirror frame with a series of wall-mounted lights on opposite sides. 

Much has changed in lighting just in the past few years, and a professional can help you navigate the latest technologies.

You’ll be glad you went through the extra effort to give your rooms a beautiful glow — after all, a room that is well-lit is well-used.

Margaret Chambers, a registered interior designer (RID) and American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) member, leads Chambers Interiors and Associates. Her colleague Caitlin Crowley helped edit this column. Visit for more design advice.

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Margaret Chambers

Margaret Chambers, a registered interior designer (RID) and member of the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID), leads Chambers Interiors and Associates. Her colleague Caitlin Crowley helped edit this column. Find more design advice at

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