Looking for Lighting Inspiration for Someone with No Sense of Design

Updated on December 16, 2009
K.B. asks from Woburn, MA
7 answers

My little 1955 ranch needs some updating and probably some new lighting. I was wondering if anyone could share some inspiration. First, in my two yo's room I have one lamp (this is sort of embarrassing) it's actually a desk lamp that I pulled out of the office two years ago and never replaced with a proper "kid lamp". The thing I liked about it was that the desk lamp has a fader. So I was thinking I would get a ceiling fixture with a dimmer. Where do I begin to pick out a fixture? It might be a year or so off but I'm moving in the direction of resale so I want to make a good decision. Also, we have very little lighting in the master bedroom or living room. Is a ceiling fixture the way to go? Are canned lights the way to go? Thanks for any advice.

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answers from Boston on

I agree with the ceiling fan for the bedrooms. All the bedrooms in our house have them - simple white with a dimmer switch in the kids' rooms, and something a little "fancier" for the master, to go with the decor. You can get a small one at Home Depot for around $30. Home Depot and Lowes have a great selection of fixtures for your living room, too. I've always found the associates to be very helpful, and the prices are quite reasonable.



answers from Boston on

We are in the middle of a building project so lighting is very present in my brain!

It depends on your budget. I usually buy our floor lamps from Home Depot, Lowes, Wal-Mart or Target. By the time the light dies, my tastes have changed, so it works well. But for lighting to be installed, I usually go with a lighting store for better quality.

Kichler is a brand I often use for installed lighting. It's sometimes more pricey than the Home Depot products of the world, but they're not outrageous. It's a decent mid-range product and you have lots of choices. (For all I know, maybe one of the chains carries this brand as well.)

For ceiling fans, we have several Quorum ceiling fans that we have loved--decent price, nice quality, attractive choices (slightly funky switches). These are from a local lighting store. The lighting store I normally use, now mostly sells Casablanca fans, rather than Quorum, which are much more expensive. We will have one installed shortly with a project, but I can't comment on it's quality yet. We'll see whether it was worth it or if we should have just gone with the Quorums.

Any light can basically be wired with a dimmer, I believe. Good for conserving energy and for setting a mood.

If you have the wiring for a ceiling fixture, I would encourage adding a light/fan fixture. We've got those in all of our bedrooms and we rarely need AC now. If you don't have ceiling fixtures, I might just stick with floor lamps. Personally, I like ceiling fixtures, but my husband HATES the "glare" of them...even if they are turned low. It's just a preference thing.

For canister lights, just be aware of insulation issues. Canister lights are great for focused lighting. I love them. But if you are thinking of lighting adjacent to your roof, you can compromise the effectiveness of your insulation, even with insulated units. So, talk with someone knowledgeable regarding the insulating factor.

Lastly, there is a lot of great innovation coming with respect to LED lighting. You might want to consider something like that if available. LEDs use MUCH less electricity than traditional or even compact fluorescents.

Stay clear of halogen lighting--uses lots of electricity and burns hot.

That ought to give you something to chew on. Enjoy whatever lights you choose!

P.S. Our living room is the only room that doesn't have ceiling lights. I don't know this for a fact, but that must be pretty standard. I guess people tend to like floor lamps for living rooms?



answers from Burlington on

As you say your house is a ranch style, I'm guessing you have batt insulation in your attic. If this is the case, I would avoid recessed lighting (cans) as they interrupt the attic insulation, causing heat loss and several other potential problems. (if you really like cans, a good contractor can deal with this if you specify that they should, but it's not ideal)
A simple surface-mounted fixture is fine, a ceiling fan can be great if your ceilings are high enough (at least 8'), or just add more lamps.
I'd suggest going to a lighting store to start, look at what they have, get some advice from the salespeople... if prices are too high then go look at Home Depot or Lowe's.



answers from Hartford on

In my non-expert opinion I would go to Home Depot or Lowes and get a ceiling fan with a light fixture. You can't go wrong there. Then either you can install it yourself or have someone else do it. AND by going here rather than a fancy lighting store you won't break the bank.



answers from Hartford on

Hi K.,
I am happy to give some advice, I'm an interior designer and mom of an 18mo. little girl. I would highly recommend recessed lights in the family/living room area and for resale, you would definately get your money's worth. New buyers will see poor lighting and mentally add up in their head that they will have to put it in themselves which means less money for you on your sale. For your little one's room a ceiling fan is a good option. 1) for air circulation which helps them sleep better. 2)lighting for reading dressing etc.... They can be put on dimmers. For the master bedroom you can do any of the listed... ceiling fan, semi mounted or recessed on dimmers. Lowe's or Home Depot have a decent selection of both and very inexpensive. Also Shades of light is another on line resource that is reasonable for fixtures. Get a good electrician though... I have one if you don't know of one. Good luck and let me know if you need anything else.



answers from Boston on

Hey K.,

For your son's room, I'd get a simple overhead flushmount (it won't hang down). They are less expensive than the fancy fixtures, and will provide appropriate light. In fact, ACE Hardware in Pembroke had a surplus of white/round flushmounts for like 5-10 bucks! The cost of the upgrade is going to be your electrician. He/She will need to snake a wire (through the wall/ceilings) and install the switch. Smart to put the light on a dimmer, and again, the cost in the electricians time (dimmers are bit more expensive than a regular switch but just a few bucks, maybe 15?--check at the hardware store).

For your other rooms, canned lights are pretty, but way more labor intensive than popping in a couple fixtures (centered in room, on ceiling). You can find some nice fixtures for 50-100 bucks. If you're thinking of selling, keep it neutral and definitely upgrade switches to dimmers. Buy bright bulbs so when you show your house its nice and bright. Light is more important than the actual fixture. Most people shopping for homes consider them "accessories", and often intend to replace them anyway.

My advice would be to price out the fixtures, get a couple of electricians to give you quotes (Angies list is a great place to start), and then you can plan. You might as well have the electrician in for 3 light fixtures all at once--ask if they will patch any holes they may make for you as well.

If you can't get overhead lights, its not a bad idea to have the outlet connected to a switch, so at least when you enter the room, no one is fumbling to turn on a light.

Good luck,



answers from Boston on

Hi K.,
My husband and I are in an new construction home so this is a very recent topic in our house. First, get a good electrician who you trust both in quality of work and judgment / advice. I would recommend ours but he might be too far away from you. In bedrooms definitely put in a ceiling fan and light combination. It helps in many ways - with lighting, moving hot/cold air around: a great energy saver, and buyers like to see them. We chose the models with the lights on a dimmer and 4 fan speeds which are on remote control. So easy to use! In your main room area it's nice to have lots of lighting, the cans are nice and lamps always add ambiance. If you go with can lighting keep in mind the can ring and bulb size. Too large of a can will have open space (gap) around the bulb. If you choose a can size the same as your bulb size it makes for a nice, more polished look. Hope this helps.

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