Closet Lighting Ideas and Options

Why should your favorite shoes hide in the dark? Shine a light on your best clothing and accessories with these closet lighting suggestions.

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By: Caroline Shannon-Karasik
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While organization is certainly key to keeping any closet in order, even the most efficient storage can, quite literally, remain unseen without appropriate closet lighting.

12 Lighting Ideas for a Closet

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Relocate (Your Closet)

If your home wasn't blessed with an ample built-in closet, then relocate the space. Look for a natural light source in your home — perhaps it's an unused second bedroom — and build your closet around it. Make the window the centerpiece of your space, and you can really see how you look in that little black dress. Design by LDa Architecture & Interiors

Glam Up With a Centerpiece

Add a classy focal point to your closet if you have some extra square footage. Designer Erica Gelman of House of Design opted for a black glass chandelier. "It's centered in the middle of the room right above the chaise longue, not only giving the dressing area task lighting, but it also allows the space to feel glamorous," she says. Extra lighting comes from natural light through the balcony doors and a table lamp at the makeup vanity, as well.

Bright White Looks High-End

If you're working with an open space, head-to-toe white is one of the best ways to imitate real sunlight. To avoid a laboratory feel, install an over-the-top fixture with multiple light sources. This opulent crystal chandelier is perfect because it adds both drama and high wattage. Just remember to take off your shoes before entering, or you'll be steam cleaning those carpets every week. Design by Refined LLC

Cozy Up to a Space With Warm Light

There are two components to this closet that give it a pleasant glow: natural light and warm paint. Designer Lisa Adams of LA Closet Design used a custom track lighting system with directional, low-wattage pendant lights. Directional lights are great for illuminating specific items in the closet. Combined with a flat sandy-toned paint, this lighting style gives off a cozy glow instead of a stark fluorescent color. The decorative vases, pullout belt trays and hanging sections give it a special touch.

Highlight High-Gloss Finishes

If you're working with a small space, complement your closet's lighting with high-gloss white paint on your walls, shelves and drawers. Suzanne Haughland of Decori Designs says the high beams will bounce off of the white, making the space look wider and more inviting. She also recommends adding sconces to illuminate the whole space and installing mini light sources so corners can't hide.

Hide a Wall Aglow

At first glance, you may not catch where the main light source in this closet comes from. That's because it's expertly hidden within the wall, leaving opportunity to hang a quirky chandelier that may not give off the best light. The modern dark wood gives the space a masculine feel, but cubbies don't go unnoticed with small highlights and track lighting. The main-stage mirror is not only handy for putting together your stylish outfit, but it also provides an essential reflective surface for the wall of LED bulbs. Design by Annette English and Associates

Track Lighting As an Easy Alternative

Use large track lighting on both sides of your walk-in closet to highlight your textiles like works of art. A great alternative to painstakingly installing small lights within cubbies, the adjustable heads on the fixtures make it easy to direct the light to a particularly dark corner of the space. You'll want a high-watt bulb to really make the most of your track lighting, so opt for LED or CFL bulbs, as they give off a clean white glow without radiating a high amount of heat that can be stifling in a small space. Photo courtesy of Artistic Designs for Living

Use Dimmers in Tricky Spaces

Lighting can be tricky in closets with odd shapes and small corners. These S-shaped shelves are a unique design, and with lights recessed and built into each shelf, the dark space is relatively well lit. Lisa installed the lights on a dimming system, which allows you to monitor the varying needs and functionality in the closet.

Brighten Up the Americana Look

The inspiration for this closet is the classic Americana look. Without the right lighting, a dark-wood closet can quickly turn shadowy. But the wood's gloss gives off a reflective surface, opening up the space while the mirrored backs and glass cabinets add more dimension. The candlelight sconces fit in well with the closet's rustic theme. However, if you're working with a space that doesn't have a natural light source, you may want to increase the wattage. Design by Murphy & Co. Design; Photo courtesy of Phillip Mueller Photography

Give It the Green Light

A big closet that saves energy? Yes, there is a way to have it all. This closet design features Kichler Lighting's Pro LED Linear lighting, which offers an even flow of light that uses 75 percent less energy than incandescent bulbs. The product is discreetly mounted on the front panels, facing into the closet's hanging area and directing light onto the clothes. The string of pods is wrapped around the three sides to highlight without using precious space.

DIY Lighting for the Small Closet

The truth is, most of us just don't have 400 square feet of closet space. A typical closet tends to be drab and narrow with inadequate light. If you're looking to simply create better light in a space that doesn't allow for much innovation, try using ribbon lighting along your hanging rods in addition to a general ceiling fixture. If you have cabinet doors, try wiring the lights to be on automatic switches so lights turn on automatically when you open the doors. These are easy solutions that don't require an electrician or a month's salary. Design by LA Closet Design

There's No Such Thing As Too Much Light

Don't forget what your closet is all about: your clothes. True color and texture come to life in natural light, even on a cloudy day. Your closet lighting should mimic the sunlight that bounces off both ground and vertical surfaces. "Going with direct/indirect lighting helps create a wash of light without distinct shadowing to try to simulate exterior lighting," says Laurence Tamaccio of Design Destinations. Your ceiling should be a relatively neutral white so that the light from the fixture can bounce off the surface while also casting light directly down, out and around. "It's important to have plenty of light — even 'too much light' — in dressing areas," he adds. Photography by Greg Benson

A closet with an ample amount of space, such as a walk-in closet, allows for creative lighting solutions like chandeliers and other overhead decorative fixtures. Large track lighting that runs along either side of a closet is also a simple choice that will keep individual cubby spaces and shelves well-lit.

Simple do-it-yourself closet lighting options include light fixtures that are mounted to the walls or ribbon lighting that runs along the perimeter of a closet. Be sure to also choose warm, light paint colors that will help a space to look large rather the contained feeling dark colors can give a small closet.

Of course, if a total renovation is in the works, then careful planning can also allow for better closet lighting. When designing your new closet, consider relocating to a space that allows for a window to be in the midst of your clothing storage. This allows for natural closet lighting, keeping your items in clear view.

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