Types of Lighting for Every Room in Your House

One fixture—or brightness level—doesn't fit all. Learn how to effectively light each space in your home with these smart tips.

Each room in your home serves a different purpose, and the lighting choices should reflect that. Some areas—such as the kitchen or laundry room—require task-oriented lighting, while others—like living rooms—are better suited for more indirect, overall light. That means the type of fixtures, intensity of light, and location of lighting should all differ between spaces. To determine the best lighting for every room in your house, we turned to the experts at the American Lighting Association. Here's a breakdown of how to outfit each area of your home for optimal lighting.

Lighting for Kitchens

Most kitchens, especially larger ones, will need several types of lighting for adequate illumination. For ambient (or overall) lighting, choose a ceiling fixture or recessed can lights that evenly distribute light around the space. Then install light sources directly above work spots to provide task lighting. Pendants (which should hang about 35-40 inches above a surface) are a popular lighting option over an island, and undercabinet lights are great for food prep areas.

Top off your kitchen lighting scheme with accent lights for added function. Tape-lights ($23, The Home Depot) in the toe-kick area (between the cabinet and floor) can provide soft light for late-night trips to the kitchen. Strip lights or downlights can showcase dishes on open shelves or glass-front cabinets.

Task areas of the kitchen, such as the island or other spots where you typically chop vegetables, require more intense illumination. About 70-80 lumens per square foot is a good rule of thumb to keep in mind while shopping for light bulbs. In general areas of the kitchen not used for food prep, about 30-40 lumens per square foot will suffice.

Dining Room Fixtures

Your dining room is where conversation and socializing happens, which means a dark, shadowy atmosphere is not ideal. Good overall lighting is essential, so ceiling fixtures, including flush-mount and recessed can lights, work well in dining rooms.

For dining room lighting that makes more of a statement, a chandelier can be both decorative and functional for providing general light. When installing a chandelier, remember that it should hang about 33 inches above the table in a dining room with 8-foot ceilings. For every foot above 8 feet, add 3 inches to the above-table measurement. For the light bulbs, aim to supply about 30-40 lumens per square foot.

Living Room Lighting

Living rooms often serve many purposes, so you'll want lighting that can easily adapt for casual entertaining, cozy movie nights, and other activities. Flexible track lighting is a smart choice for living areas because it can provide ambient, task, or accent lighting. You can move, swivel, rotate, and aim individual lights to change your lighting scheme at any time. Adjustable beams allow you to produce the desired pattern or wash of light without changing bulbs.

If your living room includes a TV, create a movie-theater feel with lights that don't cause shadows or glare. Pendants are perfect living room lighting for when the TV is off. When it's on, dimmable sconces, track lights, and molding with uplights allow for safe movement without distracting from the action. About 10-20 lumens per square foot is usually suitable for living rooms.

Bathroom Lights

The wrong lighting in a bathroom can be unflattering or even unsafe. Avoid lights that point down at the mirror, as these will cast unwanted shadows. Instead, place fixtures, such as pendants or sconces, on each side of mirrors for more balanced lighting. For a shared bathroom, consider adjustable sconces that can adapt to specific lighting needs. Bright light is best for bathrooms, so plan to shine about 70-80 lumens per square foot.

Lighting for Hallways

As transition areas between rooms, hallways don't pose as many specific lighting concerns as other spaces. Choose a flush-mount ceiling fixture for inconspicuous light, or attach a few sconces along the wall for indirect lighting. You don't typically need particularly bright light in hallways, so 5-10 lumens per square foot is generally sufficient.