Stylish lighting ideas for small living rooms prove that you don’t need a large space to create a design-led impact. One could imagine that smaller living rooms are easier to light than large ones – after all, fewer square meters need to be illuminated. However, it can be a challenge to recreate the wow factor and sense of grandeur that lighting can bring to larger spaces in a compact space.
When it comes to small living room ideas, lighting is the jewel in the crown, so it pays to learn the design strategies that work for these bijou-proportioned homes to make lighting both pretty and practical.
With that in mind, we asked the experts for their roundup on how to make a lighting scheme work in a small living room, and to curate some brilliant inspiration for your next design scheme.
8 lighting ideas for small living rooms that are perfect for compact spaces
First of all, a small living room follows many of the same guiding principles as any other space. “Even a small living room should have multiple light sources,” says Janelle Burns, senior interior designer at Maestri Studio.
“At the very least, you need a good ambient source to generally light the room (wall sconces, a ceiling fixture, or lamps), and an additional accent — whether it’s a reading task lamp tucked next to a chair or a picture light for highlighting.” Art or a dainty decorative accent lamp to add interest.’
Once you’ve thought of a well-rounded living room lighting idea, you can start applying some of these little room tricks to make it work even better for your design.
1. Replace a pendant light with wall lights
“When space is at a premium in your living room, it makes sense to opt for wall lights,” says Helen Pett, design ambassador for Arteriors London. ‘Subtle and atmospheric, wall lighting designs do not take up any of your valuable surface area and can allow decorative flourishes.
Instead, you can replace a large central pendant with towering wall sconces, as seen in the beautiful Interior Fox space above.
This can help open up the space and leave an airy, spacious feel in the middle of the room to make a small living room appear larger, and it also prevents design issues with hanging height of pendant lights.
2. Have your lights double as art
If you’re short on wall space, investing in interesting sculptural lighting that doubles as an art installation is an effective idea for lighting a small living room.
Look for modern spherical bulb sconces that have a sculptural quality and consider a less structured placement. Wall lighting is often used symmetrically in a room, but an asymmetrical style creates a more interesting, art-like design.
Also, consider adding sconces to a gallery wall. This can be an effective way to add different shapes and textures to your wall decor.
3. Don’t be afraid to go big on lighting in a small living room
Do you love a statement pendant? Fear not, you can absolutely make an oversized central pendant sing, and it is actually an ultra-chic decorating idea for a small living room.
“Lighting isn’t about following the rules,” says Jo Plant, design director at Pooky. “If you want meaningful lighting in a smaller space, this is still an option.
“Choose a colorful or ornate piece to create a focal point in a small space, or for the more adventurous (ceiling height permitting), a chandelier is a great addition to create a sense of grandeur.”
Lauren Lerner, Founder of Living with Lolo, agrees, adding, “We believe in layered lighting in your living room, even if it’s a smaller space.
“Ceiling lighting, like cans and a chandelier, are great options, or just adding a chandelier if the space is small without cans. This adds creative drama and coziness to any space.”
4. Layer lighting for a versatile scheme
“Creating a layered look with different light sources is a great way to add personality and texture to your living room,” suggests Charlie Bowles, director at Original BTC.
‘Ceiling lights in the living room cast a large cone of light, while carefully placed table, floor and wall lights provide task and accent lighting for reading, watching TV or highlighting your favorite work of art.
“Having lots of options also means you can dial back your lighting later in the evening for a more intimate, cozier feel.”
5. Zone your space with different lighting
Lighting is an effective way to zone your living space, define areas for different activities and make every corner count.
“A perfectly positioned wall light or ceiling light can create a beautiful reading area, while clip lights provide an instant solution for illuminating a temporary workspace,” explains Charlie Bowles.
If your small living room is part of an open space, you can use different types of tones, including rattan and geometric or sculptural pendants, to define separate areas like the dining and living rooms.
6. Use picture lights for atmosphere and ambiance
“Picture lights aren’t just for museums and galleries – you can add a great sense of drama to rooms of any size by illuminating a favorite painting or photograph with your own special fixture,” says Pooky’s Jo Plant.
Picture lights not only highlight your curated artwork, but also add character and ambiance to a cozy living room.
“One of the key elements in a well designed space is the right lighting. It’s imperative that even small spaces are properly lit,” adds interior designer Kellie Burke of Kellie Burke Interiors.
“Just because it’s small doesn’t mean it only needs one light source! I’m always a fan of small recessed lights that wash the wall or artwork. They dramatically illuminate objects, not the ground.
“When opening the ceiling isn’t an option, art and picture lights are a very inexpensive way to achieve a similar effect.”
7. Introduce sculptural lamps
Lamps, whether table or floor, are a great way to bring sculptural elegance to a space. Modern lamp lighting trends are abandoning the standard drum lampshade for designs that complement the landscape look of a living room. Domed or cone-shaped hues are a popular idea, while ornate glass-blown options can really enhance a space.
Created by Hauvette Madani, this design creates a layered lighting scheme by introducing three separate lamps into this compact space, each bringing new shapes and textures to the space.
8. Add punch and atmosphere with bold table lamps
Increase the drama in a small space with a luxurious bold printed lampshade. Botanically and heritage-inspired frames adorned with rich velvets and accented with decadent embellishments and fringes bring maximum design credentials to the smallest space.
“We’re a bit obsessed with lighting, it’s such an important part of the atmosphere of any space and so important to get it right,” says Jamie Watkins, co-founder of Divine Savages. ‘Luxurious velvet lampshades are sure to bring home the swagger.’
“Whether you want to add some pizzazz to your table lamps, playful fringes to your floor lamp, or a touch of drama to your ceiling, heirlooms will make your room stand out from the crowd,” he adds.
How can I improve the light in a small living room?
There are a number of ways you can improve the light in your small living room.
Jen & Mar, Interior Fox co-founders, suggest: “Strategically placing mirrors where light falls naturally is one of the oldest but best tricks in the book, it enhances the natural light and makes the space appear much larger and brighter .
“A carefully placed mirror opposite a window will reflect the natural light and greenery in a smaller space and help bring the outdoors in.”
They add: “Complement this with lighting solutions as the sun begins to fade. Wall lights are good for creating a soft and moody glow in the evening. Consider replacing floor lamps with wall-mounted task lighting, this saves valuable floor space while still allowing you to create a cozy reading nook. ‘
And Maestri’s Janelle Burns suggests: “Put hardwired lights on dimmers and also look at the wattage (for incandescent) or lumen output (for LED) for lights that may not have a dimming capability – which most lights do.
“You really don’t need anything more than 60 watts equivalent in lamps – in fact, it’s best to use 25 and 40 watts equivalent in lamps so that a small room isn’t uncomfortably bright (40 watts for a single lamp, 25 in the case of pairs of lamps ).’