open concept home with kitchen and living room light fixtures

How to Design Lighting in a House

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

Lighting is an important aspect of every room in a home, with different spaces having different requirements. The lighting in a house can drastically affect the usability of space after dark and can affect the overall mood. Having the proper lighting can also be a matter of good health and safety. Whether building a new house, undertaking a big renovation project, upgrading existing elements, or redecorating, knowing how to design lighting in a house is more important than many people think.

Homeowners should consider the purpose of each room and lighting needs in conjunction. People should also think about the ambiance that they wish to achieve in different parts of the house, along with whether they want to be able to adjust the amount of light in a room to match different moods. Naturally, the fittings and fixtures play a big part in designing home lighting too; homeowners will want installations that match their tastes, décor schemes, and overall home appearance.

This comprehensive guide will cover everything you need to know when wondering how to design lighting in a house.

Understand Types of Lighting

There are three main types of lighting: task, ambient, and accent.

Task lighting, as the name suggests, provides a light source for completing a range of day-to-day activities. Essentially, it illuminates specific areas that are used for particular tasks. For example, kitchens typically require task lighting in areas where preparation and cooking take place. A home office will generally have task lighting that illuminates the desk. The focus in a bathroom is often the mirror.

nursery with wood crib and light fixture

Ambient lighting is the overall light source for a room. Sometimes referred to as background lighting, it is the light that allows you to see the entire area. It is generally considered the most important type of lighting as it allows you to see clearly, thus also using the space safely.  

Accent lighting highlights certain features, such as a piece of art or part of the building; it draws attention to a particular object or architectural element. Some homes have little to no accent lighting.   

There are various ways to achieve each type of lighting, including downlights, pendant lights, recessed lights, LED strips, spotlights, table and free-standing lamps, sconces and wall lights, chandeliers, and lanterns.

Calculate the Amount of Light Needed Per Room

To work out how much light you need for each room, you first need to measure the square footage. Next, you should determine the foot candles. The figure for foot-candles depends on the particular room. As a guide, these are the foot candles generally needed for each part of the house:

  • Hallway: 5–10
  • Living room: 10–20
  • Dining room: 30–40
  • Bedroom: 10–20
  • Bathroom: 70–80
  • Kitchen: 30–40, but 70–80 in high-use areas (near stove and sink)

Multiply the area in square feet by the foot-candle figure to obtain the correct amount of lumens needed for each room. A lumen is a unit used to measure light.  

Aim to make up the total number of lumens for a room from a mixture of light sources. Use a combination of task, ambient, and accent lighting to create what’s known as layered lighting.

Try also to have lights that operate independently from each other so as to allow greater flexibility with the amount of light on a day-to-day basis. Dimmer switches can be a great idea too.

Create a Floor Plan

porter lighting dallas tx open lighting

Creating a floor plan is a key step when thinking about how to design lighting for a house. Drawn to scale and including major features, such as windows, doors, and furnishings, a floor plan allows you to visualize how the lighting position, brightness, and type of light will illuminate different areas.

Consider what you will actually be using each area for and mark your floorplan to show where you want to install task lighting. Similarly, think about the positioning of accent lighting too.  

Set Your Budget

Before starting to purchase lighting, it’s important to know your overall budget. You don’t want to extravagantly complete one room but then have little budget left for the rest of your home.    

Consider the Aesthetics

Light installations can greatly affect the appearance and mood of a space, so thinking about the overall look that you prefer is paramount when designing lighting for your home.

Compare various styles and themes of light fixtures and fitting. Think about colors, shapes, and size. Do you prefer bold statement pieces or more subtle light sources, for example?

Avoid Common Lighting Mistakes

Many people grossly underestimate the cost of quality light fittings. Make sure you have a reasonable and feasible budget to work with.

Remember that you don’t need too much artificial lighting in your home. Don’t have more lighting than you actually need.

Understand what you want to use each space for to properly know your lighting needs. It’s common for people to forget about things like reflections and glare from flooring, mirrors and other shiny surfaces. Don’t forget to consider various lighting types too, rather than simply relying on lots of downlights.  

Design Your Lighting

under cabinet and kitchen island lighting

Armed with plenty of knowledge and understanding, it’s time to design the lighting for your house. Be creative and consider different types of fittings that match your tastes. You may want to consider custom-made lighting if there’s nothing available that ticks all of your boxes. And, always keep in mind that you’ll likely want to keep whatever you choose for a significant period of time.

Visit Porter Lighting

Proudly serving the DFW area since 1941, Porter Lighting is a trusted choice for anyone thinking about how to design lighting in a house. Visit the showroom to browse a wide selection of fittings and get tips and inspiration. There’s something for everyone when it comes to lighting, from chandeliers, fans, and lights for outdoors, to lighting for over an island or pool table, pendants, sconces, and shades.

The expert team can transform your dream lighting into reality, for a home that looks great, is well lit, and that you love. Enjoy beautiful lighting artistry in your home and top-quality service when you work with Porter Lighting.   

Lighting Design

Not only can lighting enhance your atmosphere, but it can have a truly unique setup that promotes your home’s best features and the moments it curates. With knowledge and professional experience, we hope to bring quality lighting design to your home.