Light, including both natural and artificial sources, has a profound impact on the look, feel, and function of your home. Unfortunately, indoor lighting is also one of the easiest elements to get wrong—in small ways, for example choosing the wrong type of bulb for a fixture, and large ones, such as not having ample sources of daylight. Here’s how to get the lighting just right throughout your home.    

Let the Sunshine In

Whether from a window, glass door, or skylight, natural light helps interior spaces feel larger, and it’s a known antidote to depression. In a 2016 survey of 18,000 homeowners by HomeAdvisor, an online marketplace of service professionals, roughly 75 percent of self-described happy homeowners cited the abundance of natural light in their home as an important contributor to their positive mood. “When renovating, look for opportunities to include windows on multiple walls of a room,” says Marianne Cusato, an associate professor at the University of Notre Dame’s School of Architecture and a HomeAdvisor consultant. “That will capture natural light throughout the day as the sun moves around the house.” And daylight helps cut down on energy costs because you’re less reliant on electric lighting.

Make the Most of Mirrors

Hang an oversized mirror in the living room to reflect natural light, making the space feel larger. Remember that paint color can play a factor as well. Generally speaking, lighter hues make a room appear larger, especially if you choose a glossy or eggshell finish, which reflect light more than a flat, matte finish. Check our interior paint ratings for brands and models that deliver the best coverage, smoothness, and stain resistance.   

Create Layers of Light

Proper lighting improves the feel and function of a home, especially as you get older. A 60-year-old needs twice as much light as his 30-year-old counterpart, according to the American Lighting Association. It recommends three layers of light. The first is ambient light for overall illumination, from a chandelier or recessed canister light. The second is task lighting, such as undercabinet LED strips in the kitchen to make food prep easier. The third is accent lighting that introduces drama—think picture lights over a framed painting.

Install Dimmers

A simple swap of a wall switch can let you vary the light to suit the activity—from bright light during meal prep to low light for entertaining. Be sure to get a dimmer that is compatible with the lighting being used. Lutron, a major manufacturer of dimmers and other light controls, has a helpful online tool for checking compatibility. 

Pick the Proper Bulb

Use the information on the Lighting Facts Label, covering features such as color temperature and lumens. LED bulbs around 2700K (the K is for Kelvin temperature) on the color-temperature scale cast a warm yellow light similar to outmoded incandescent bulbs, making them a good general-purpose choice. Bulbs with a temperature around 3000K have a whiter light that’s better suited to bathrooms and laundry rooms. As for brightness, look for bulbs with 800 lumens to get the equivalent of a 60-watt incandescent.


Editor's Note: This article also appeared in the March 2017 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.