How-To Guide: Lighting a Small Room

Many people give lighting less thought because it’s not as obviously exciting as, say, picking out a new piece of dazzling furniture or deciding on a room’s color scheme. However, lighting is one of the most important elements to any room, and makes a huge impact on how a room looks.

To prove that, just rearrange the lights in one of your rooms. The differences are immediately noticeable! There are new focal points, new islands of light, new dark places. It changes the character of a room, and can impact the functionality of working surfaces like tables and desks.

The Special Challenge of Lighting a Small Room

Lighting a small room is even more challenging, and becomes that much more important. In a small room you’ll probably have only one or two light sources to work with. That means placement is critical, as are factors like the height of the light bulb and the direction that the light is projected by the fixture.

When you get it right, the result is something that really shines, if you’ll pardon our pun. Great lighting adds depth and presence to a small room, and, depending on the room’s purpose, will excel either in bathing the entire room in a rich light, or lighting a single key part of the room while leaving the rest ambient and subdued.

But how do you figure out where to put the light? There’s no universal correct answer, of course. Instead, depending on your personal preferences and the purpose of the room, here are some suggestions.

Spreading the Light Around

If you want uniform, even lighting, the key is to use light sources positioned higher in the room, with upward-projecting light. Lighting a small room this way causes the light to add a skyglow to the ceiling and upper walls, casting an even light like sunlight on a cloudy day.

Wall Sconces

The Marshall wood and iron wall sconce from Lillian Home.

Our wall sconces, like the Marshall Wood & Iron Sconce, are a great choice for this, especially if the room has limited floor space or high ceilings. Place the lights so as to frame the room’s central focal point, such as a bookshelf or painting. We recommend two lights, either on opposing walls or on opposite ends of the same wall, to minimize shadows.

Before mounting the lights, have someone hold it in place while lit, so that you can fine-tune the final placement. Play around not just with where on the length of the wall you install the lights, but how high up as well.

Floor Lamps

A good floor lamp can achieve the same effect as a sconce, casting a lot of upward light that glows off the top of the room. This is a great way of lighting a small room evenly. Additionally, the lamp shade provides excellent shielding from the direct glare of the bulb, letting you use a powerful light bulb with less risk of getting a headache.

A lamp with a darker color scheme, like the Beatrix Wooden Floor Lamp, is sure to impress in rooms with a similarly rich, dark color scheme that features a lot of darker woods and reds or blacks in the paint job. For a light room, or to get a classic minimalist look, try the Sarasota Silver Leaf Floor Lamp, or go with a more substantial wooden base in the chic Wilson Wooden Floor Lamp.

To cut down on shadows, you can complement a floor lamp with a less intense table lamp on an end table or shelf in the opposite corner of the room.

Creating a Feature

The main alternative to evenly diffused illumination is lighting a small room more narrowly to create a featured area with strong visual emphasis. This technique focuses most of the light in one place while casting a much weaker, more ambient glow over the rest of the room. And you can set it up for either functional or aesthetic purposes.

Lighting a Nook

The Stella wood and glass hanging lantern from Lillian Home.

To create a functional little reading nook in the bedroom so that your mind can wander through the pages of a book while your partner sleeps, try mounting one of our hanging lanterns into the ceiling in the corner of the room, above your chair. The Stella Wood & Glass Hanging Light does a great job of this because it has a shade that reduces the amount of light it casts outward. We recommend you fine-tune this further by installing the light on a dimmer switch.

Your Friend the Table Lamp

Of course, we all know that table lamps are great for lighting a small room selectively. Their low placement gives the light less reach and less ceiling glow, while the table beneath them cuts the light even further. Ordinarily they are used in conjunction with other lamps, but when used alone they create a powerful focal effect.

For this kind of lighting, we like the heft and warmth of our pottery lamps. Place a matching pair on either side of a painting or window to put the focus on one wall, or use a single lamp on a desk, buffet, or credenza to highlight a prized furniture piece, houseplant, or meditation altar.

And while walls and corners are pretty easy to figure out, don’t be afraid to place feature lighting in the center of a room. If you have a floor outlet (or a convenient place to hide an extension cord) in your lounge or sitting room, you can put one of our lamps on a coffee or cocktail table, such as the Coco Cocktail Table, with a dim bulb or a dimmer switch, to create the perfect after-hours ambience for coffee or drinks.

Dazzle with Crystal and Glass

The Mati crystal lamp from Lillian Home.

Want to know a great trick? Lighting a small room up isn’t solely a matter of adding more bulbs. You can also add crystal or glass. Why? Because these transparent materials let light shine through, allowing more light to spread throughout the room, thereby making the existing light much more efficient.

Our glass tables and glass or crystal lamps, such as the Mati Crystal Lamp, make great partners, in all color schemes. Together they make a small room seem bigger, airier, and less cramped. For the ultimate technique, add a tall mirror to the room.

Small Room, Big Potential

Lighting a small room is the secret to making the most of the space. Now that we’ve given you some ideas, your imagination and personal decorating skills should be able to figure out the rest.

At Lillian Home, we offer a huge variety of unique and intriguing lighting fixtures for your home. There is something for every room and every personality. Shop our one-of-a-kind designs and modern styles with a classic touch at Lillian Home today!

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