Living Room/Family Room

When designing a lighting plan for a living room or family room, you need to consider the variety of activities that occur there. You’ll want to include general lighting for entertaining and watching television, task lighting for reading or sewing, and accent lighting for artwork, plants, and interesting architectural features. Dimming controls are ideal for the living room because they allow you to design the lighting to suit each mood and activity (see lighting controls).

Fireplaces made of brick or stone can be emphasized with recessed downlights installed in the ceiling over the mantle to create an intriguing grazing effect across the surface. Wall sconces on each side of the fireplace are an attractive addition that draws attention to the fireplace area, while providing general lighting for the living room.

Reading requires task lighting that comes from behind the reader’s shoulder. This can be accomplished by placing a floor lamp either at the right or the left of the reading chair. The bottom of the shade should be located at eye level to avoid glare.

Paintings can be highlighted with low-voltage, tungsten-halogen picture lights. These frame-mounted lights spread a beam of bright, white light across the face of the painting.

House plants can be accented by aiming an uplight can at the wall behind the plant, creating a dramatic silhouette of the plant against the wall.

Bars can be lighted from above with recessed or track fixtures, or with miniature, low-voltage pendants that hover intimately over the bar.

Glass shelves and glassware can be accented by two recessed adjustable fixtures. The use of low-voltage fixtures with tungsten-halogen bulbs will emit a bright white light that will make glassware sparkle, while providing added illumination for serving and cleanup.

TV, video games, and computers require low-level general lighting that does not wash out the screen’s image nor reflect into the viewer’s eyes. Miniature track lighting can be installed under shelves to provide both general and accent lighting. Choose from accent spots, mini-lights, and compact or linear fluorescent light sources.

Game tables require bright, even overhead lighting. Shaded pendants equipped with either incandescent bulbs or energy-efficient compact fluorescent tubes are one solution (see illustration). Or, install two recessed downlights over each half of the table.