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The Most Common Lighting Mistakes

Light is so important to how we experience our world; not only is it required for us to see, but it’s proven to impact our emotions, sleep cycles, and even heart rate. So naturally, we want to make sure that we’re using light thoughtfully and intentionally, particularly at home. But even the best of us fall victim to lighting mistakes that negatively impact how our spaces feel. We’ve rounded up the most common missteps we see out there, and don’t worry if you’ve fallen victim to them at your own home- our lighting experts can help you fix them all.


  1. Dimming

    There’s a reason that restaurants dim their lighting in the evening.

    Walking into a space with all lights (particularly those overhead) at full intensity can be a shock at best, and horribly unflattering at worst- particularly after the sunset. And it’s not just about appearance; remember that our internal clocks respond to light levels, so exposing your family and guests to intense light in the night hours can make them agitated and interfere with their sleep.

    Adding dimmers that allow for more comfortable light levels will make a huge impact with minimal cost. Just make sure to look for models that are compatible with your bulbs and fixtures, keeping in mind that LEDs can flicker or malfunction with the wrong types. The newest dimmers also have smart capabilities and can allow you to operate them from your phone, via voice command, and as automated “scenes” that shift throughout the day.


  2. Color Temperature Mix-Ups

    Let’s be honest, a trip to a hardware store to pick up replacement LED bulbs can be confusing.

    Select the wrong types, and you end up with embarrassing combinations of light colors around the house. We’ve all seen it: one recessed lighting fixture with an off-putting bluish-white glare right next to other ones that are doing their best to put off a soft, golden glow. How do we make things consistent? Look on bulb packaging for a slider bar and number that ends with a “K.” That letter stands for “Kelvin” and refers to the color temperature of light it’ll emit. Most residential environments should be between 2700K (more golden) and 3000K (warm but whiter).

    Avoid “daylight” bulbs at all costs. Their institutional bluish light is known to interfere with your circadian rhythm if you’re exposed to them at night. Also, they’ll make your space look like a Taco Bell. Nobody wants that. Except for maybe Taco Bell.


  3. Over-Reliance on Recessed Lighting

    We lighting designers spend a lot of time talking about “layers of light.”

    It’s not just a catchphrase meant to sell more fixtures. Spaces where light only comes from one source, particularly above, can feel stark and unpleasant, resulting in unflattering shadows and unpleasant glare. Adding in additional light sources like lamps, floor lights, cove lighting, and even mini accent lights tucked into bookshelves or on buffets distributes light throughout the entire space, making it feel more expansive while also feeling softer and more inviting. We generally suggest at least three types of light sources for every space.


  4. Lighting the Wrong Things

    Light always draws our attention, so make sure you’re not directing folks to look at the ceiling.

    In lighting design, we use the term “glare” to refer to being able to see the source of light. It’s not a good thing. And that means that old-school recessed lighting or big rectangular fluorescent kitchen lights are glare-bombs. Instead, good lighting design creates pools of focused light where we want to look; pictures on walls, table surfaces, and in task areas like the kitchen, on those countertop surfaces where we need to work. Good recessed lighting has light sources recessed upwards and away from easy view, with optics that focus the light where we want it to go. In kitchens, we make sure that undercabinet lighting is installed to create abundant light on food preparation surfaces.

    Keeping this in mind, we suggest avoiding the inexpensive temptation of flat wafer/puck lights when possible. Contractors and electricians love them because they’re an easy-to-install, quick, and inexpensive solution. While that’s fine in a pantry or a garage where bright light is needed and glare isn’t an issue, it’s not appropriate in primary living areas. Your priority there should be a space that’s warm, inviting, and feels like a retreat for you and your family.



    Great lighting at home certainly doesn’t need to break the bank. It just takes keeping these principles in mind and having the right folks to guide you through the process. Schedule your complimentary lighting design session with our team today. We’d be happy to demonstrate these principles (and more) in our state-of-the-art showrooms in Arlington or Chantilly.

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