How to Light Your Home: 8 Tips to Create the Ultimate Cozy Glow

The ultimate guide to illuminating your property to its best advantage with lighting styles, fixtures, and tips that stand the test of time

July 25, 2018

Warm lights, cool lights, colored lights, bright lights, and even mellow, dim, romantic lights, they are all available for today’s homeowners at the flick of a switch—or a spoken word, thanks to the latest in “smart” wireless technology. Classic techniques and principles of interior design combine elegantly with the latest technology. Discover how to set your home aglow with professional tips from a Christie’s lighting specialist and experts from Christie’s International Real Estate. They reveal the ultimate dynamics in home lighting that adapts easily from day to night, from hour to hour, even moment to moment. Let there be light!

Related: How to Design Children’s Bedrooms

1. LIGHT THE WAY: TAKE ADVANTAGE OF NATURAL LIGHT AND REINVIGORATE WITH GLAMOROUS FIXTURES

Masterfully designed by Foster + Partners, this impeccably designed, fully furnished 2,425-square-foot home includes two bedrooms, two-and-a-half bathrooms, a library, and living room overlooking the West Chelsea waterfront.

“The importance of lighting in a residence cannot be overstated—whether we’re talking about natural light or the most sophisticated lighting systems,” says Zackary Wright, Executive Director of Christie’s International Real Estate’s Asia Pacific and Western North America Regions.  

“What often is overlooked is the importance of the time of day one visits or shows a property. If a home is prized for its natural lighting, morning or early afternoon hours may be best. Homes with sophisticated lighting designs should be visited both during the day and in the evening to illustrate the effectiveness and versatility of the lighting effects.”

The spectacular custom-designed light fixtures in this luxury residence at the Foster + Partners-designed 551 West 21st Street on New York City’s West Chelsea waterfront illustrate this point beautifully.

2. HOW TO LIGHT YOUR ART: FOLLOW THE ARTIST’S LIGHT AND ENJOY BEING CREATIVE
A Visual Supervisor for Christie’s Galleries, shares this advice: “Lighting art is a fun creative process. It is very similar to lighting a theatrical set. Follow the artist’s use of light in a painting, and experiment with angles of light to the painting. Rarely do I put light on a painting straight on. When you use light at a steep angle the painting takes on a dimension on its own.” For more guidance on lighting your prized works like an art world expert, read the Christie’s feature.

3. CHANDELIERS AND PENDANTS: ADJUST THE HEIGHT OF CHANDELIERS & PENDANTS FOR DRAMATIC EFFECT

Inspired by the great Palladian Villas of Northern Italy, “Three Hundred Thirty” is a magnificent estate in the tony Los Angeles enclave of Holmby Hills. The villa’s 31,000-square-foot interior was designed by Stephen Stone and features an entrance hall with a bespoke two-story chandelier.

From antique chandeliers in the foyer to modern pendants in the kitchen, there are so many fantastic lighting options available in this versatile category. Indeed, a dramatic chandelier can readily transition from room to room by simply by shortening its chain to suit the room’s height.

The bespoke two-story chandelier in this Beverly Hills villa was scaled to complement the grandeur of the formal entrance hall and its magnificent glass rotunda. Pendant lights with vintage-inspired bulbs look especially elegant above a dining room table or in the living room.

4. FLOOR AND TABLE LAMPS: MAXIMIZE ON FUNCTIONALITY AND STYLE WITH A VARIETY OF LIGHTING STYLES 

This contemporary orb-like pendant light is a perfect match for the circular dining table and the room's bold palette.

Experts advise layering several styles of lighting in a room for maximum style and functionality, and floor lamps look particularly elegant paired with a nearby table lamp and other decorative objects.

“You can never have enough lamps, particularly in spaces that do not offer much natural light. Aim for three types in each room: overhead or ambient lighting, task lighting (such as reading lamps), and an accent or table lamp,” says Kathleen Coumou, Executive Director of Christie’s International Real Estate’s Northeast and Eastern Canada Regions.

Fixtures made from natural materials like quartz, pyrite, shell, and malachite are especially popular today and highlight the organic beauty of lighting. Another expert trick to enhance your lighting décor? Add a throw in high-quality faux fur or Mongolian lamb’s wool for texture and warmth under the light of a midcentury modern floor lamp or spread in front of a glowing fireplace.

5. SCONCES AND FLUSH MOUNTS: SAVE SPACE AND SPICE UP YOUR WALLS WITH TRENDY, ELEGANT PIECES
Sconces are especially important in bathroom lighting, and also in other areas of a home as they add interest to walls and save valuable floor and surface space. Modern or traditional, there are endless lust-worthy options in this category.

Related: How to Create Meditation Space in Your Home

Our experts’ favorites are finished in brass or copper for a look that’s both timeless and trendy at the same time. Flush mounts may conjure visions of office lighting but this hardworking light fixture is a staple in many homes and today there are more attractive options of this once-institutional fixture than ever. And, it’s always a good idea to replace any flush mounts that come with your home with high-end fixtures suited to your personal style.

6. INTELLIGENT LIGHTING: THE NEWEST TECHNOLOGY MEETS TIMELESS STYLE
Among the biggest trends in today’s modern lighting? Switching to LED bulbs and maximizing comforts through next-generation technology such as biometric lighting sensors and motorized shades that can adjust the light and mood of a room in a moment.

However, there’s no need to trade out everything old for new. Instead, James Forbes, Head of Strutt & Parker Knightsbridge, advises: “Today’s buyer is looking for a mixture of old and new, period features combines with the newest, most cutting-edge features.”

7. MOOD LIGHTING: USE THE RIGHT LIGHT IN THE RIGHT ROOM TO CREATE A FLATTERING GLOW AND ENHANCE WELLBEING

Direct elevator access into a vestibule with custom cove lighting offers a stately entrance to 551 West 21st Street’s 15th floor, a full-floor residence with over 8,300 square feet of interior space and sweeping views of the Hudson River, downtown Manhattan and beyond.

kind of light. Modern lighting technology uses current knowledge about human physiology to get the right light for the right room. Not to get too technical, it’s all about triggering the body’s natural biorhythms at the proper time.

Serotonin and dopamine, the mood-enhancing, motivation-inducing neurotransmitters, are triggered by the cool white and blue frequencies of daylight. That’s why you’ll want those “high temperature” lights in your kitchen, breakfast room, playroom, home office, and study.

To adjust the mood in the living room and dining room, consider dimmable lights in the neutral, mid-range temperatures, and LED bulbs for the chandelier that can turn up the temperature from mild and mellow to “party-hearty.” And, most important of all, the bedroom: Your warmest, dimmest lights glimmer here, invoking the sleep hormone melatonin. And don’t you forget to shut off those blue light-producing smart phones, laptops, e-readers and TVs at least a half-hour before bedtime! Sweet dreams . . .

8. ARCHITECTURAL LIGHTING: DRAMATIZE THE EXTERIOR OF YOUR HOME AND ITS LANDSCAPE, WHILE ENHANCING SAFETY AND SECURITY

The same design principles used in lighting the interior of your home also apply to illuminating its exterior. It’s more just a welcoming lamp at the front door or a burglar-dissuading spotlight in the back. Think of It as stagecraft in its purest form, lighting the outside of your home like a theatrical set, illuminating architectural focal points, then underscoring them with dramatic shadows, bringing depth and texture to the house and its landscape.

Outdoor lighting can also extend your living and play spaces, bringing the indoors outside, whether it’s an intimate dinner party on the terrace, a festive occasion by the pool, or a head-to-head matchup at tennis or hoops. Professional lighting designers, working with specialist contractors, can develop custom illuminations for your house, then rig a demonstration setup to show you the finished product. And, when the house is asleep, security night lights will safely convey the house and its dreamers to the break of day.

In Telluride, Colorado, Sunset Ridge boasts beautiful natural light and light fixtures. 

Charlotte Clay
Christie's International Real Estate

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Charlotte Clay