This time of year is not my favorite for several reasons. For one, it’s so cold outside that even venturing out to check the mail feels like a task that’s best left for spring. For another, the bone-dry winter air has my already dry, sensitive skin barely hanging on by a thread. And finally, the short hours of daylight and perpetual cloudiness make my whole home feel sad and gloomy. With the exception of permanently attaching myself to my space heater and humidifier, there’s not much I can do about the first two problems. But what I can do is make some simple tweaks to my home lighting situation to make everything feel warmer and brighter.
If your space is feeling similarly dark and dreary this time of year, your lighting is likely the issue. Read on for a few easy home lighting tricks you can use to create a brighter, more inviting space.
1. Stop relying on overhead lighting
If your home lighting feels harsh and unflattering, I’d be willing to bet an overhead light is to blame. Because these types of fixtures project light downward, they create shadows that can make you and everything else in your home look wonky and unattractive. Especially if you’re hoping to set a warm, cozy mood, overhead lighting is not your best option.
Instead, make use of lighting that’s less harsh and closer to eye level. Bring in shaded or frosted-glass lamps (for your floor or on tables) that will create a much softer glow. Wall sconces are another great option—they provide light from a side angle that helps eliminate shadows. If you’re renting or simply not too keen on electrical work, opt for plug-in sconces that mount directly to the wall without the need for hardwiring.
2. Let in as much sunlight as possible
Sunlight is few and far between during the wintertime, so it’s important to make the most of what you’ve got. Be sure to open your curtains and pull up the blinds during daytime hours to let in as much natural light as possible. Bonus: This will also help your home feel warmer in the colder months!
If you don’t want to give up the privacy window treatments provide, consider layering your curtains. Using a double curtain rod, hang curtains in a sheer material closest to the window—these will offer a bit of privacy during the day while still letting in plenty of light. Over top, add curtains in a more solid material that you can pull closed in the evenings.
3. Vary your types of lighting
If we’re getting real technical here, there are three main types of lighting you should know about: ambient, task, and accent. Ambient lighting, AKA general lighting, refers to the primary fixtures you use to light up a room (think ceiling lights or floor lamps). Task lighting, on the other hand, is designed to brighten a space for a specific activity, like the lamp next to your sofa that you turn on to read. And lastly, accent lighting is meant to (you guessed it) accentuate a certain feature in the room, such as a piece of art on the wall.
The best way to maximize your lighting is to use a bit of each type in every room. In addition to the main fixtures that likely came with your space, add in a combination of floor lamps, table lamps, picture lights, pendants, or wall sconces to create a layered look. Having a variety of light sources also allows you to adjust your lighting according to your mood or the task at hand. For example, you could turn all the lights on in your kitchen while you’re prepping dinner, then rely on just the ambient light when you sit down for the meal.
4. Choose the right bulbs
If you’ve ever stood in the lightbulb aisle baffled by all your choices and wondering what TF all those numbers on the boxes mean, same. But let me shed a little light on what you should actually be looking for. When it comes to light bulbs, the two key things you should care about are color temperature and brightness.
The color temperature, AKA how warm or cool a light feels, is measured on the Kelvin scale, where the higher the number, the bluer or whiter the light will look. A lower Kelvin measurement means a warmer, more yellowish light. For areas like the living room and bedroom, the sweet spot is somewhere around 2,700 Kelvins, which is usually labeled something like “soft white” or “warm white.” These bulbs will help create a cozy atmosphere. If you prefer a brighter, cleaner look (which you might want in your home office or for your bathroom vanity, for example), look for bulbs with a color temperature around 3,000-3,500 Kelvins.
The other key factor to look at is brightness. This is measured in lumens, where more lumens equals more light. How bright you like it depends on personal preference, but keep in mind that you’ll likely need more lumens in areas like the kitchen and bathroom than you would in your bedroom or living room. If you’re not sure how much light you need, dimmable bulbs are always a solid choice for added flexibility.