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How To Select Light Fixtures For Your Home - Best Tips And Mistakes To Avoid

Updated: Jun 17, 2023

Let’s talk lighting.

It's funny how something so simple can go so wrong. I’ve discussed kitchen lighting in a past blog post (read here), but I don’t think I ever covered lighting in other rooms, and I don't think I've ever discussed an overall guiding principle about lighting.

Maria Killam, True Colour Expert and Interior Decorator, once said, “A room should have a minimum of 6 lights”.

While I understand what she’s saying, let’s face it. Not every room has the space for 6 lights (that is, not counting any ceiling lights). I do believe, though, that recessed lights should never be on. I hate them!

The only place I appreciate recessed lights are in a shower, basement and closets. Other than that, my love is for creative lighting, including light fixtures of all sorts. I'm talking about pendant lights of all colors, shapes and sizes. Sconces that add a touch of class. Chandeliers that glitz and glimmer. Cozy bedside lamps.

I know you’ve seen those homes where rooms have rows and rows of recessed lights and nothing else. I've lost count at how many houses I have seen that the only lighting in a room is recessed. Why?! The lighting itself is harsh, and let’s face it, the fixtures aren't the prettiest things around.

Luckily there are a ton of options and ways you can create a perfectly lit space without switching on those can lights. In this blog, I'm going to talk to you about how to pick light fixtures.


Pendants are perfect for task lighting over a sink or an island. You can place them in the bathroom in between mirrors and even hang them from a bedroom ceiling. Unless a ceiling fan is absolutely necessary, switch out those hideous dust collectors and place a nice pendant in the center of the ceiling.

When I'm picking a pendant light, especially with kitchen pendants, I like to be brave and bold. There are a million different styles of pendant lights out there. I like the colorful ones made from interesting materials and attractive shapes. These lights do double-duty: they illuminate your space and add beauty and character to the room.


Please don’t get these confused with pendants. Sconces attach to the wall and create a warm glow in a small area. They're the perfect task lighting for kitchens, bathrooms, over beds and near entryways. Give me an area that needs light, and I am sure to select a sconce before anything else!

When choosing sconce lighting, I like to select it in pairs or sets. Whereas pendant lights are chosen to make a statement, sconce lighting often reinforces the existing style in the room. Some sconce lights are flush with the wall, while others protrude outward.

Like pendant lighting, you can easily find sconce fixtures with a lot of character. I encourage anyone seeking sconce lights to shop around and don't settle for something ordinary. Get something that looks just right.

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Semi-flush Lighting

Pendant lights on low ceilings can create hazards. If you have a low ceiling and don't think you can safely install a pendant-style fixture, a semi-flush is a great alternative.

I’m not talking about the builder-grade semi-flush light fixtures found in apartments and new construction homes - you know the ones I'm talking about? Some of them look like a white plate bolted upside down on the ceiling? Others are characterless and made of plastic.

I’m talking about having fun with these! There are so many funky lighting options that would definitely make you and your guests go wow! Think: fixtures made from sea glass or hand-blown glass. Edison bulbs. Brushed brass formed to an unusual shape. Light fixtures that throw light in fascinating patterns around the room.

Be brave. You can always replace a light fixture if you decide you don't like it. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Table Lamps

I can’t stress this enough, put a lamp on your side tables (unless you have fabulous sconces above). In your bedroom, living room - heck even in your dining room - add a table lamp!

There are certain size guidelines that I recommend you follow.

For the bedroom: don't choose a bedroom lamp that's taller than your bed frame. If you have a high headboard, I’d opt to stay in the 24-27” height range.

Make sure your nightstand is sized correctly in proportion to your bed. A nightstand that's too small will make the area look unbalanced. I usually take the width of the bed and divide by 2 to help me choose the width of the nightstand.

Choosing a lamp for the living room? For living room lamps, go big or go home, haha! Seriously though - just like the bedroom, everything needs to be balanced in order for larger lamps to work. 24-inch to 30-inch lamps are a great fit. If you're in doubt and want to go shorter, opt for a wider base.

More Amazing Lights!

Floor Lamps

Floor lamps are a must in living rooms, family rooms, bedrooms, entryways (you get my point!). Floor lamps are perfect for those reading areas or in a corner that may fall flat. If there’s not enough room for a piece of furniture, I usually pair the floor lamp with a large plant. I like plants that make a statement, with big fronds or leaves and a presence that looks healthy.


These are larger than pendants and are often found in two-story foyers, over the dining room table, or in the kitchen eating area. There are some basic rules for sizing for these.

Over an eating area: avoid any fixtures that are too small or too large. The best way to achieve this is to select a fixture with a diameter somewhere between half and three quarters the diameter (or width) of the tabletop. For example, if the dining room table is 48 inches wide and 60 inches long, the chandelier that is 24 inches to 36 inches in diameter would be an appropriate size to compliment the table. The ideal height is 30 to 36 inches off the table.

In a large room: some sources say you should add together the dimensions of the room in feet and then convert the feet to inches to determine how wide the chandelier should be. So in other words, in a room that's 12 feet by 10 feet, the chandelier should be 22 inches wide.

One important thing to remember when chandelier shopping is that your chandelier doesn't need to be made of crystal in order to be beautiful - or to be considered a chandelier. These elegant light fixtures can be made of nearly any material, from wood to stained-glass. Shop around and keep an open mind before committing to one kind of chandelier.

Need Help With How to Pick Light Fixtures? Call me!

Choosing lighting can be challenging. Some people simply don't feel empowered to make creative lighting decisions for themselves, while others are overwhelmed by the whole task.

Choosing the right lighting is an art, but also a matter of knowing what the options are. If you're interested in how to pick light fixtures and wanting some help with your bedroom lamps, kitchen pendants, living room lamps and more, call your interior designer in New Jersey.

I have strong feelings about lighting because lighting affects our everyday lives so much. Lighting keeps our interiors safe and also sets the very mood that we feel while we're there which is why lighting matters to your complete room design. Contact me today to find out what I can do for you and how we can get started with your project.

Until next time,

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