Your living room is the heart of your home. Instead of being purely functional, this particular room is multi-purpose - the perfect spot for relaxing, catching up on the latest TV and even hosting guests. While your choice of furniture, paint and artwork can set the theme, lighting (and a little bit of versatility) is the critical mood-maker.
However, because of the multi-use element of the living space, the lighting needs to be versatile, flexible and controlled. As a result, this particular room needs to include all three of the main types of lighting: ambient, task and accent. Ambient lighting is your overall illumination, which very often comes in the form of ceiling and overhead lights and/or natural lighting from windows. Task lights are functional and usually brighter, with a specific purpose such as reading. Finally, accent lighting is used to highlight a specific point in the room such as artwork or objects.
The first step to perfecting your living room lighting is with ambient lighting. In this article, we’ll be reviewing 15 ceiling light ideas for contemporary living rooms, handpicked by our interior design experts.
1. Experiment with exposed bulbs
Exposed bulbs are an ultra-chic way of livening up your living space. Options include minimal 100% bare bulbs (where your choice or availability of bulbs makes or breaks the look), or minimalistic lampshades that part-cover the bulb. Glass pendants paired with exposed bulbs are also a beautiful way of low-lighting a room with a modern touch.
However, one common grievance of exposed bulb use is that it can cause glare. But, there’s an easy fix. Hanging the pendants above eye level will easily reduce this. Another caveat is that while exposed bulbs are super aesthetically pleasing, using them in clusters is the best way to achieve the ‘functional light that actually emits light’ vibe.
2. Live under the spotlight
Stemming from the 70s, downlights and spotlights today are a minimalist way to light a room, while taking up the bare minimum in ceiling space. Ditch the circles in favour of squares and choose recessed lighting for the ultimate contemporary aesthetic.
Remember that spotlights will only light a small area by themselves, so spread them out across the ceiling and plan your must-have spots before installation. As always, keep the long-term in mind with anything that requires drilling holes into your ceiling. If you think there’s a chance you might not want recessed spotlights in a few years time, give it some extra thought.
3. Create a contrast
While living room lights are often placed in the centre of the ceiling, have you ever thought about creating a contrast of light? Try to light the centre of the room with one method, and the outside walls of the room in a different way to create highlights. For the evenings especially, an off-centre light source such as a low-hanging pendant could illuminate one half of your room, while your corner sofa could be lit by a task lighting such as a large (read: oversized) floor lamp.
Or, use a combination of ceiling lights, floor lamps and wall lights to create texture throughout your space. To light the entirety of your room, combine your main ceiling light with smaller pieces such as desk lamps, and accent lights to highlight your artwork or momentos.
4. Dim, dimmer, dimmest
For unbeatable day-to-day control of your room’s atmosphere, adding a dimmer to your ceiling light can make all the difference. As the most social room of your home, you’ll want to be able to control the difference between a brighter light for daytime use and setting the mood for hosting evening drinks alike.
Tech-savvy homeowners can pair smart lighting options with wifi and a phone (or voice assistant) to tweak the brightness and colours without leaving the corner sofa! Hey, any form of interior design that’s easy to use, changes the mood of the space and saves energy usage is a winner in our books.
5. Find your focal point
Ceiling lights don’t have to be purely functional. A large (usually low light) hanging piece can become a real showstopper. Generally speaking, large pendant lights in a living room will help the space itself to feel bigger by creating a focal point.
If you have the luxury of tall living room ceilings, a signature light centrepiece is the pinnacle of elegance. Instead of having ‘dead’ space between your furniture and ceiling, low hanging lights and chandeliers can effortlessly combine function with art and give the room a cohesive feel.
6. 2, 4, 6, 8
For the ultimate in lighting balance and symmetry, consider buying your lighting in pairs. Twin pendant lights can add a contemporary twist to traditional lighting, or use multiple pairs of lights. While it sounds like we’re shying away from odd numbers, two rows of three lights can also be used, or split across two rooms for design cohesion throughout the home.
7. Take a chance on a chandelier
If you’re not feeling particularly inspired by the word ‘chandelier’, let us let you in on a secret! Technically speaking, any fixture that hangs and uses multiple bulbs is a chandelier. Who knew?!
Initially hailing from the medieval period, chandeliers are now available with a fresh twist. Pendant chandeliers, lights embossed with feathers and sculpture-like lighting options are here to stay. This option is perfect for living rooms that need light to stretch over multiple directions, and doubles-up as an attention-worthy statement piece.
One of the perks of picking a chandelier is that their heights are usually adjustable, giving you versatility whether you have a low or high living room ceiling.
8. Flush it out
Flush and semi-flush mounted lighting is another oft-overlooked option. Flush lights sit ‘flush’ to the ceiling, where semi-flushed will hang several inches between the ceiling and the fixture itself. Luckily, the designs available today have come a long way since grandma’s spare room - questionably-shaped pink ceiling lights, anyone?
From ring-light-esque centrepieces to sculptural marvels, flush mounted lights are a great spacesaver, and perfect for living rooms with low ceilings. The general rule of thumb here is pick a flush mount for low ceilings and semi-flush if you have a bit more space. However,for larger living rooms, they won’t effectively light every nook and cranny, so will need to be paired with task and ambient light sources.
9. Bring on the bulbs
While it’s easy to think that all bulbs are (almost) the same, the type of bulbs you use can change the mood, atmosphere and level of lighting available. If you want to brighten up a darker room, LED bulbs are your best bet. Energy-efficient, long-lasting and bright, LED bulbs are the ideal pick. If you’re leaning more towards pendant lighting, Halogen bulbs are a good idea, but beware: they get hot when used!
Your bulb choice will also affect the atmosphere in your room. Choose warm soft glows (~300 kelvins) for relaxing after-dinner sofa sessions, or cool whites (~500 kelvins) to energise and brighten. Both options come with a range of screw cap sizes or bayonets, so check your light fittings before shopping.
10. Let it burn
While we agree that ceiling lighting using candles could quickly become high-maintenance and messy, we suggest faking it. Suspended lights with faux candles and chandeliers with small flame-like bulbs can add a homely feel to any living room.
On the subject of burning, if you have a fireplace in your living room it’s important to incorporate this into your lighting plans. As a real feature piece - especially when lit - you don’t want your native lights to overshadow or spoil the warm glow of the fire. So, as well as your day-to-day lighting, think about which lights are appropriate when it’s on, and whether your ceiling lights complement, contrast or crush the atmosphere of the room.
11. Play with colour
Whether you’re using complementary or contrasting colours and patterns, your choice of lighting can create a new dynamic in your living room. Start by picking your general colour palette and core furniture pieces such as our fabric Model 03 Chaise sofa. If you choose darker furniture pieces, use light white lighting to lift the room and make it appear bigger. For lighter living room pieces, you can afford to go for darker and warmer lighting options.
12. Fix up your fan
While the idea of a ceiling fan might initially make you squirm, there are plenty of uber-contemporary styles available. If you’re imagining an off-white four-bladed spinny thing, think again! Much of what’s available today is not only bladeless or sans visible blades, but combines modern lighting with functional air circulation (although we can’t promise it won’t collect dust!).
13. Go au naturale
If the main source of light in your living room is natural light, embrace it! Large windows, white or neutral curtains and a bright window trim can make all the difference. Then, consider installing additional light sources above your most frequently used areas in the room, such as above the sofa, above the coffee table, or near a bookcase.
For rooms with limited natural light, you might find your room feels dark. One of the top interior design tips for dark living rooms is to move the space around so the furniture is angled towards the light, rather than away from it. The natural light will then reflect off your furniture, which has a big impact especially with living room staples such as sofas, stools or rugs.
If you’re ready for a more contemporary sofa in front of window ideas, look no further.
14. Make it metal
Metal lighting is a trend we’re seeing more and more of recently. For a minimalistic use of metal, consider plain monochrome black, grey or white ceiling pendants so your visitors’ eyes are drawn to your other centrepieces, with the bulb visible from underneath. Often, these are used for kitchens and dining tables.
For living rooms, metal is most commonly seen in the form of geometric and cubic patterns paired with exposed bulbs. As a result, metal pendants are becoming a staple for contemporary interior designs. With styles now including almost all conceivable shapes, the metal or ‘wire frame’ look is set to stay when it comes to interior lighting.
15. Create a cluster
Whether you have tall or short living room walls, cluster lighting can make all the difference when it comes to creating an ambience. Instead of using a single pendant light, choose a group of three, four or five pendants to create an effortless contemporary feel. Take your pick of bulbs, clear or styled pendants to mix this look up.
To make a smaller room feel larger, create a multi-level cluster of lights. Not only does this create the illusion of height, but it will light your living room in multiple places using just one fixture.
Hopefully our 15 ceiling lighting ideas have given you some inspiration for your living room project. While lighting is essential to the mood and atmosphere of the space, furniture is an equally important element to create a theme and synergy.