Lighting for Modern Living

Light attracts. In fact, lighting is integral when it comes to creating a comfortable, safe, and uniquely styled living environment. This post is dedicated to helping you light up your life with natural lighting ideas and organic lighting tips that will adding some “amazingness” to your everyday living space.

modern lighting ideas for living room

Lighting is in our DNA. For thousands of years, we’ve been using the same styles of lighting... Sconces used to be torches that were used to line dark hallways, and chandeliers had many small lights in the form of candles. Lamps were similar shapes and were lit with kerosene. And thankfully, modern lighting carries on the same homage to style and functionality, but with a much simpler electric light bulb. (Quick cheers to Mr. Edison!)

Different types of lighting for different needs

There are four types of lighting: ambient, task, decorative, & accent

Ambient is intended for exactly what it sounds like -- to illuminate a space. Task lighting offers brighter more concentrated light to carry out tasks such as cooking, applying makeup or working at a desk. Decorative lighting can come in many forms such as sconces, pendants and chandeliers. Accent lighting is meant to accentuate a space, such as up lights that shine on the side of a wall.

  • One fixture can serve several functions.

  • A dining room chandelier is decorative but also supplies ambient light to the dining room and task lighting to illuminate the table at mealtime.

  • A recessed can light can be task, ambient, or accent, depending on its location.

  • The best lighting schemes use several, if not all four, types of lighting, which entails taking a layered approach.

organic lighting in a modern kitchen

Consider how you will be using your rooms. Perhaps the dining room table will serve a dual purpose as an area to do weekly homeschooling with your kids or for scrapbooking during the weekend. If you work from home, the dining room may be a great place to host client meetings during the day.

With plenty of natural light, daytime meetings around the table likely won't require a lot of additional light. However, you'll want ambient and task light during the evening for dinner time at the table and late night Monopoly games.

Knowing the four types of lighting will help you to assess your own lighting needs for each space in your house. So let's take a look at the different rooms.

Designer tip: Consider the varying lighting needs in your dual purpose spaces to help eliminate the need for purchasing extra lighting fixtures later.


Room by room design guide to sustainable lighting

a functional kitchen requires ample lighting fixtures

No room is more critical for good lighting than the kitchen, and yet many homeowners overlook this space when it comes to shedding some light.

The International Residential Code (IRC) says that one overhead light is enough. No way, we say! (Unless you’re the brave soul who feels comfortable slicing your stir fry in the dark.)

red chili peppers being sliced in a modern kitchen

Recessed Can Lighting in the Kitchen

Poorly lit kitchens are usually due to a misunderstanding of where recessed can lights need to be placed for effective task lighting on countertops. Most countertops measure 10 to 15 foot-candles (fc) with all lights blazing. However, the National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA) and the Illuminating Engineering Society (IES) recommend a minimum light level on countertops of 50 fc.

  • In simple terms -- to deliver enough light, cans must be directly above the counters, eight to 12 inches out from upper cabinet faces. If they are placed farther out, the cook will block the light.

  • What to do? A quick and effective remedy is to install under-cabinet lighting. Look for energy saving LED strips or halogen fixtures that put out more than 500 lumens per foot.

  • In an effort to conserve energy and avoid too much glaring light, at JS2 Partners we design our kitchens with several series of overhead ambient lights on different switches. An inner set of lights is focused around the island and central areas of the kitchen, while the outer ring illuminates the countertops and traffic areas.

Modern Farmhouse Kitchen by JS2 Partners Healthy Home Builders

Kitchen Island Pendant Lighting

A lot goes on at the kitchen island. It's a gathering spot for laptops, card games, dinner prep, and more, having plenty of lighting over the kitchen island is a must. Decorative pendant lights can be combined with well-placed recessed cans to provide ample lighting for this multi-use space. In fact, it's not uncommon for large kitchens with taller ceilings to have 15 or 20 separate fixtures of different types of lights on separate circuits.

Organic Modern Kitchen with Sustainable Lighting

Natural Light in the Kitchen

And, of course, large windows and/or glass patio doors in a kitchen provide a connection to the outdoors while adding beautiful ambient daylight. Bottom line, a dim kitchen can lead to missing thumbs. More beams are better!

(Wondering how your kitchen lighting stacks up? There's a number of free light meter apps available to download on your smartphone.)

a well lit bathroom includes eco friendly natural light – here’s why

Not only does lots of natural light cut back on energy consumption, but daylight also helps set the body’s circadian rhythm, which gets you up and going in the morning. The more natural light in bathrooms, the better for your psyche!

  • Sconces to either side of the bathroom mirror (for each user) or LED backlit mirrors provide the best lighting for makeup and morning care routines.

  • Sconces allow for cross-lighting, which ensures there are no shadows, much like actors’ makeup mirrors.

  • Overhead lights alone cast shadows that aren’t helpful for grooming, but overheads are fine if used in addition to sconces. Plus, we love the dramatic look and feel of bathroom sconces.

Sustainable Lighting in an Eco Friendly Bathroom by JS2 Partners Healthy Home Builders

the key to subtle bedroom lighting

Standard bedroom lighting includes can lights in the ceiling for ambient light. Adding decorative lamps on the bedside table or small hanging pendants are great for task lighting (ie. reading) and really set the room off! Wall sconces are a fun idea and can be used in place of bedside table lamps, too.

Organic Lighting Ideas for the Bedroom

  • If you opt for lamps, we recommend going with larger and taller matching lamps for each side of the bed to frame the space. Done right, ambient and decorative lighting mixed together in a bedroom can really make a bedroom pop!

  • Struggling with a dark corner? A tripod floor lamp is an excellent remedy to lighten up dark spots in a bedroom. Plus tripod lights are a favorite among Feng Shui enthusiasts.

  • Of course, every bedroom should have at least one window per fire code. Ensure that any windows are positioned to allow in ample natural light. Natural light is critical to keeping our circadian rhythms (sleep/wake cycle) in sync.

organic modern lighting for the living room

Let’s start with the most versatile of all – the lamp. Floor lamps and table lamps are a great way to take stylish task lighting anywhere you choose in your home. And we’re not talking about your grandma’s old lamp. There are many stylish modern lighting options for a range of décor and taste.

Organic Modern Lighting Ideas with Tripod Floor Lamp

A reading nook or sofa end table are places to consider using lamps, as well as on bedside tables. While floor plugs are a major plus in living areas and home offices for easy power access for lamps, a large area rug is also a great way to hide long cords if outlets aren’t close by.

Overhead lighting is optional in a living space that has lots of natural light during the day. Since we congregate to relax and unwind in the great room during the evening, ambient lighting should be minimal, chill and subtle.

light fixtures for smaller spaces

Close-to-the-ceiling light fixtures such as flush mount drum lights made of glass or natural linen can add chic ambiance and are a great way to dress up a small space, such as a primary closet, hallway or entry, in lieu of a standard ceiling can light.

We also love the look of a pendant light hung in a surprising space, such as in the laundry room or in a pantry. After all, these are rooms we spend a lot of time in, which deserve some lighting love, too!

Small pantry with cowbell pendant light in healthy home by JS2 Partners

>> decorative lighting for the grander spaces at home

Chandeliers are beautiful and timeless additions to any room and offer an abundance of light with many sparkly bulbs. When it comes to a chic modern look, sustainable and eco friendly repurposed materials come in a variety of sheens and textures, including recycled glass, sea shells, naturally finished hardwoods, woven organic reeds, and metallic elements -- all materials which are on top of the healthier homes list.

If you have a large space that calls for a larger and more expensive chandelier, another cool and unique look is to use two or three smaller pendant lights to achieve an equally grand effect that will accommodate the space nicely.

Clusters of pendant lights for modern organic home look style

If you're looking to add some wow factor, consider installing accent lighting, also known as indirect lighting. Some ideas include lights on top of exposed beams in a vaulted ceiling, rope lights at the top of drapery valances, or lights on top of built-in shelving. Indirect lighting that bounces off the ceiling and walls is a fantastic way to light up a room without creating glare.

Large window groupings, sliding doors, and transom windows can add character and abundant daylight in a similar fashion -- happily powered by eco-friendly mother nature, of course.

What's your biggest lighting challenge? Have lighting tips you’d like to share?

Drop a line in the comments section below!