How to Properly Light and Furnish Your Home

Authored by Kelly Wearstler

Interior Designer

The best interior design celebrates the comfort and joy of family life while helping you live better and feel better. It can also be a daunting task, as there are so many choices, colors, and materials to choose from. When it comes to properly lighting and furnishing your home, Kelly Wearstler has advice on how to simplify the process.

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The importance of lightning cannot be overstated. It can change or alter the architecture of your room, highlight certain pieces, and create an overall mood.

Go natural whenever you can.

Natural light is the most beautiful light—it’s warm, it’s sexy, and it makes you look and feel good. Let it in wherever you can, even if it’s just a sliver of the sun.

Did you know?

Linen curtains work well in rooms that get too much natural light. This gauzelike fabric blocks a lot of the strong rays while still letting in plenty of light.

Provide lights at different heights.

Successful lighting lets your eye travel around. Place light sources at different levels of the room—low, medium, and high—to create visual interest and enhance the architecture. For variety, include a combination of floor lamps, table lamps, pendants, etc.

Use architectural lighting for wayfinding.

Architectural lighting means any source of lighting that’s attached to the architecture, like a step light, sconce, or pendant that hangs above a table. These provide wayfinding, which means they guide people through the environment and help them better understand and experience the space.

Dimmers make a huge difference.

Dimmability is important, as it can easily create a mood or enhance a task. There are many different dimming solutions on the market, so choose a material that fits the design of your room. An electrician or handyperson can help with installation.

Did you know?

If you have dimmability on your light fixtures, you might as well go with a high wattage of bulb—up to 100 watts, depending on your wiring and fixtures—because you can then dim it as low as you want.

Experiment with bulbs and shades.

Every type of bulb, whether clear, etched, frosted, etc., has its own glow. Furthermore, every shade will direct or diffuse the bulb’s light in a different way. See how the two interact and which combination achieves the desired warmth and illumination for your room.

Did you know?

LED strips, while architecturally popular, can be initially cold. They become noticeably warmer around 2,700 Kelvins.

Manage your cords.

Cords don’t just have to be functional, they can also be decorative. Power strips are available with cotton and silk cords and come in a variety of colors, and swag cords are an option that can enhance the design of your room.

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Comfort is key.

Functionality and warmth are more important than looking cool and being sculptural. You want a comfortable, intimate sense of place.

Did you know?

Always test out a chair before you buy it. If the chair isn’t suitably comfortable but does a lot for the design of the room, make sure there are other, more comfortable options in the room as well.

Items can be different and still balanced and symmetrical.

Your furniture doesn’t have to have the exact same size or weight to be symmetrical—there just needs to be a balance. A square table could be larger than a rectangular one, but the balance and proportion can still work.

Did you know?

Just like you don’t have to wear the same pair of earrings, you don’t have to have the same pair of chairs next to each other. Opposites attract.

Tell a story of form and design.

All these shapes come together to tell a story and create movement and magic in the room. Whether you furnish your room with items that look like they were found at the beach and are rounded, soft, and warm or something more cubist and sharp, follow that story. Not everything has to have that shape, and you can certainly have some contradictions, but it’s a great way to start out.

Vary the materials.

Different materials make the room look and feel more interesting. This doesn’t apply to just the furniture—if you have two rugs, make sure they have a different construction pile. If your walls are painted with a high gloss, then your ceiling could be flat.

Use mirrors to make a small space feel larger.

This isn’t limited to just a mirror attached to the architecture. You can use a collection of several mirrors, freestanding mirrors, or even a single small mirror to open up the space.

Did you know?

You can also use furniture with legs to give the room the appearance of height, as it gives your eye somewhere to travel between the floor and your furniture. However, if you have a small room, make sure your furniture doesn’t have a high back, because this will make the space seem smaller.

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