Small living room lighting ideas to make rooms feel brighter and bigger

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  • Lighting is a key factor to consider in any room scheme, but planning small living room lighting ideas is essential if you want to maximise light when space is limited.

    Bad lighting will make any room feel dark and cheerless, but in a small living room idea the effect will be magnified, making the space feel darker, gloomier and smaller than it actually is. However, get the lighting right and it’s a win, win situation. Good lighting can make a small living room feel warm, cosy and inviting, and will open up the space so that the room feels brighter and bigger too.

    Small living room lighting ideas

    ‘Often small rooms feel small because of inadequate lighting,’ say the experts at Philips Hue. ‘Brighter bulbs in your light fixtures is a quick way to increase the amount of light in a room – just be careful not to go over the manufacturer’s recommended highest wattage. And if your room lacks natural sunlight, swap standard bulbs for smart bulbs that can easily mimic natural daylight.’

    So if your living room has no sparkle and could use a bit of a lift, scroll on and be inspired by these clever lighting tricks and easy tips that will make any small living room feel lighter and brighter.

    1. Layer lighting to stretch living room space

    Grey living room with panelled walls and coffee table

    Image credit: Future PLC/Dominic Blackmore

    Dark corners and poorly-lit areas will make a small room feel even more enclosed and poky. But get the lighting right in a small living room and it can have the effect of visually stretching the space and making the room appear larger than it is.

    Teaming pale walls with a layered lighting scheme is one of the easiest ways of making a small living room feel bigger. Pale, light-reflective colours will bounce incoming light around the room, banishing dark areas and making the space feel light, bright and airy.

    Position lamps at different levels to spread light coverage throughout the room. Lamp tables are the perfect height to illuminate living room seating, but positioning lamps on higher shelves and surfaces will boost light levels and help create a more balanced scheme.

    2. Include lighting from different sources

    Purple living room with wooden framed armchair with wooden sideboard with table lamp

    Image credit: Där Lighting

    While a ceiling pendant is a great way of giving a living room a focal point and creating general background lighting, it’s always a good idea to include plenty of additional lighting sources too. By layering light and creating areas of light and shade, you can create cosier smaller spots within one larger space.

    ‘Different rooms require different kinds of lighting,’ says Peter Legg, lead designer at Där Lighting. ‘While kitchens and bathrooms need to be bright, living rooms reflect your mood, so the lighting should be flexible so it can change with the mood you want to create, from bright and clear to warm and cosy.’

    ‘These effects can be achieved by layering your lighting, using ceiling lights, wall lights, table or floor lamps and using technology from simple things like dimmer switches and smart lamps all the way to lighting control systems.’

    3. Put the focus on living room seating

    Overhead shot of large L-shaped sofa filled with cushions

    Image credit: Dunelm

    In small living areas, use overhead lighting to focus on key areas, rather than purely for general background lighting. Consider doubling up on pendants above your living room seating so that the whole area is well illuminated. Put lights on dimmer switches if you can, so that you can adjust the light levels to make the space feel cosier when you’re relaxing in the evenings.

    Hanging pendants at a lower height will make them more of a focal point, but make sure that they are not too low so there’s a danger of bumping into them. Aim for pendants to be hung roughly 7ft above floor level, the lower a pendant is, the larger it will look.

    4. Make a stand with a stylish floor lamp

    white living room with white sofa and floor lamp with yellow and green accessories

    Image credit: Future PLC/Joanna Henderson

    Too many random pieces of furniture can make a small living room feel crowded. Save on floor space by opting for a floor standing lamp in a tight corner, which will take up less space than a separate side table and lamp.

    If you’re positioning a floor lamp beside a sofa or armchair to provide light for reading by, then choose an adjustable head if you can so you can make sure light is directed on to the page. Aim for the light fitting or shade to be just above eye level when sitting down, a height of roughly 50-60 inches from the floor.

    5. Add wow with clustered lighting

    black living room lighting ideas with glass pendant lights suspended over the side table

    Image credit: Future PLC/Polly Eltes

    Save on surface space with small living room lighting ideas by opting for hanging pendants instead of a bulky table lamp beside a sofa or armchair. Cluster two or three lights together for visual impact and to create a focal point feature in a small area.

    ‘Cluster lights do more than add a little extra illumination,’ says Peter Legg at Där Lighting. ‘They act as a statement and create a warm and welcoming focal point.’

    ‘Spiralling silhouettes will cast illumination beautifully vertically. If you’re hoping to throw the light wider, consider a spider-style suspension which will allow you to stretch the individual flexes across the ceiling. Another option is a fitting that has a bunched effect, where all the shades are hung at the same level to give an increased glow.’

    6. Consider background lighting in a TV area

    Grey living room with floating tv bench

    Image credit: Wayfair

    When lighting small living room TV ideas avoid placing lights where they will cause glare on a screen. Eyes often get tired from watching TV because of the big difference between the brightness of the screen and the rest of the room around it. Lighting up a wall behind the TV reduces the stark contrasts between light and dark and is much more kinder on the eyes.

    7. Create a relaxing mood with well-lit rooms

    Small pale lemon living room lighting ideas with cream sofa, armchair and desk

    Image credit: Future PLC/Dominic Blackmore

    As we’ve said before, while general ambient lighting is essential in any room, it can feel flat and one-dimensional if there are no additional lighting sources to supplement it. Known as mood lighting, it’s this extra light that gives a room atmosphere, which in a small living room will make it feel cosy and inviting with no dark corners closing-in the room.

    Lamps are the easiest way of boosting a living room lighting scheme and can be placed and plugged in exactly where you need the extra light. A well-lit room will have overall brightness provided by ambient light, plus light in darker corners that will help create an inviting glow and draw the eye around the space.

    8. Highlight decorative features

    Neutral living room with alcove lighting

    Image credit: Future PLC/Dan Duchars

    Accent lighting helps create more visual interest and is used to accentuate key features of a living room or draw attention away from areas that aren’t as visually pleasing. Use accent lighting to highlight artwork or decorative objects, to emphasise architectural details like plasterwork and mouldings or to illuminate shelving or display cabinets.

    Make a feature of alcoves in a small living room, by running strip lighting underneath shelves to draw attention to items on display. For a super-easy option, try flexible LED strip lighting that simply sticks to the underside of shelves and cabinets.

    9. Go for focused overhead lighting

    Grey living room with arc floor lamp over sofa with chaise

    Image credit: IKEA

    For overhead lighting with a cosier feel, swap a standard pendant light for a floor-standing lamp. Arc-style floor lamps are a great choice for small spaces, providing visual interest and with an over-reaching arm that can provide targeted lighting where needed.

    Try positioning an arc-style floor lamp behind a sofa to take the place of an overhead light. It will create extra task lighting for reading or hobbies and when not in use, the arm can be swung back out of the way.

    10. Max your living room space with mirrors

    Small living room with black walls and mirrored alcoves

    Image credit: Pooky

    Boost light levels and increase the feeling of space in a small living room with strategic positioning of mirrors. A large floor mirror propped against a wall to capture incoming light from a window, will reflect it around the room, making the space feel lighter, brighter and instantly more spacious.

    Mirrored panels fitted into the alcove recesses either side of a fireplace are another way of beefing up light levels in a small living room. Position a lamp close by so that its light is reflected back into the room, which will give the space added sparkle and throw more light around the room.

    What is the best lighting for a small living room?

    As with any size living room, it’s always best to opt for a combination of different lighting types to create a layered lighting scheme that will leave no dark corners or shadowy areas.

    Ambient light is the first layer to consider. This includes natural light from windows as well as general background lighting from overhead lights such as pendants, chandeliers, spot lights and tracks. Ambient lighting should be considered as the base of a lighting scheme and will need extra layers added.

    Task lighting needs to be added to a room to provide targeted light for performing tasks and activities, such as reading, studying and hobby work. Task lighting can be provided by table lamps, desk lamps, swing-arm lamps, floor lamps and directed track lights.

    Accent lighting is used to highlight architectural details and decorative features.This can include picture lights, recessed lights, strip lighting and uplighters. Mood lighting can be a combination of all of the above and is used to make a living room feel warm, cosy, relaxed and inviting.

    How do you add lights to a small room?

    The most effective lighting schemes are those that are planned in advance, with fixtures and fittings factored in at an early stage. This will enable cabling to be concealed prior to any building or decoration work being carried out.

    However, adding portable and plug-in lights to an existing scheme is an easy option that won’t require any extra fitting work or channelling out of walls for cabling. Start by assessing the room and working out the areas where you need most additional light. While existing ambient light might be sufficient, working out how and where you can boost it with task, accent and mood lighting are the key areas to consider.

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