12 Expert Tips for Lighting Your Great Room

From choosing the best light bulbs to installing dimmers, follow our 12 designer tips to create the perfect lighting plan for your great room.
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December 05, 2014

Photo By: Brian Patrick Flynn

Photo By: Brian Patrick Flynn

Photo By: Brian Patrick Flynn

Photo By: Brian Patrick Flynn

Photo By: Brian Patrick Flynn

Photo By: Brian Patrick Flynn

Photo By: Brian Patrick Flynn

Photo By: Brian Patrick Flynn

Photo By: Brian Patrick Flynn

Photo By: Brian Patrick Flynn

Photo By: Brian Patrick Flynn

Photo By: Brian Patrick Flynn

Expertly Lit Space

Thanks to a mix of table lamps, ambient lighting and cost-saving bulbs, this lavender-toned great room is beautifully lit both day and night. See the elements that went into this room's lighting plan.

Energy-Efficient Light Bulbs

As CFL (compact fluorescent bulbs) continue to become the most popular choice for energy-conscious homeowners worldwide, manufacturers continue to fine tune the way they look and function. Designers have started to embrace CFLs, as they're now compatible with dimmers and provide white or blue light, mimicking the color temperature of natural sunlight. To ensure that the colors of your interior read truly, it's smart to invest in higher-end bulbs rather than ones that give off yellow light.


Hardwired electrical dimmers can drastically change the look and feel of any space, especially a great room with multiple lighting sources. Although there are many styles available, designers suggest streamlined toggle dimmers, which look just like any other basic light switch and come in white, off-white, black and metallic tones. If you're interested in adding dimmers to your great room, estimate approximately $85 to $175 per switch for professional electrician services.

Junction Boxes

Pendant lights installed over utilitarian areas, such as kitchen islands or wet bars, provide functional task lighting and delineate these areas from nearby zones. Before installing a group of pendants, first consider the electrical costs for additional junction box installation. Electricians will have to locate joists, then reinforce the space between them to fasten the pendants to the junction boxes with equal spacing. This can be a labor-intensive, time-consuming process that involves messy drywall repair. Consult with an electrician to get an estimate for installation, since the total cost could equal or exceed that of the light fixtures themselves.

Odd-Numbered Pendant Groups

Interior designers suggest grouping pendants in odd numbers for a balanced look. Groups of three or five seem to work best, depending on available ceiling space. For a polished look, keep the spacing of all pendants equidistant.

Striking Chandelier

In addition to supplying great rooms with sufficient light, chandeliers can also serve as sculptural art. When choosing a chandelier, take into consideration the materials it's made from, how they complement other materials in the space, and how the shape will read from far away and close up. Here, a forged iron fixture with hand-blown glass detail adds an elegant yet rustic punch to the space. Its graphic shape reads just as true from adjacent rooms as it does when seated below it.

No-Fuss Wooden Lamps

Weathered wooden table lamps are an excellent choice for great rooms frequented by children or pets. As opposed to ceramic or glass lamps, which are fragile, rustic wooden fixtures are durable, and if they're knocked around or scuffed, the imperfections will simply add to their worn aesthetic.

Simple Lamp Shades

Lamp shades can have a significant impact on the look and feel of a great room, depending on what they're made of. Silk or satin shades are ideal for a polished, formal look, while those covered in burlap or linen offer a relaxed, casual vibe. To create a dim, moody atmosphere, consider dark-colored lamp shades. If you need bright light, on the other hand, it's best to choose light-colored paper shades, with white being the most effective.

Tabletop Dimmer

Tabletop dimmers offer a cost-effective way to customize the task lighting of your great room. Available at most home improvement stores and designed for use with non-CFL bulbs, these cost less than $15 and work just like basic extension cords. To keep the dimmers hidden from view, it's best to tuck them just behind the lamp or near the arm of a sofa.

Timeless Ceramic Lamps

Ceramic lamps lend a classic, traditional touch to a great room. However, ceramic is fragile and possibly harmful to children if knocked over. To ensure safety, keep ceramic lamps on high-sitting console tables or inside of lockable display cabinets.

Updated Chandelier Sleeves

An easy way to give any chandelier a clean, modern look is to replace its sleeves, the cylindrical covers that sit just below each bulb, concealing the wiring of each arm. To do this, simply remove the chandelier bulb, then lift the existing sleeve from the arm and slide the new sleeve into place. Bright, white sleeves can lighten up an otherwise dark chandelier, whereas black sleeves will recede and almost disappear.

Globe Bulbs

To add an unexpected twist to a traditional chandelier, consider swapping flame-shaped bulbs for globe-shaped bulbs. Their rounded appearance is clean and modern, and they can instantly make an older fixture appear years newer.

Proper Lighting Height

When chandeliers or pendants are installed above tables or work surfaces, interior designers suggest hanging them with the bottom of the fixtures sitting between 30 and 36 inches above the table top. However, in great rooms with soaring ceilings, this range can vary greatly. For rooms with ceiling heights above nine feet, consider raising the fixture one inch for every additional foot of height.

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