Lighting Essentials: Details to Know When Choosing Decorative Lighting

A well lit room enhances the mood of its occupants and showcases its design. Because of this, lighting is an essential part of any building or renovation project. Decorative lighting specifically contributes to the room by the light it gives off and also through its actual form. Read on for tips on choosing the right lighting for your home.

Photos: The Studio of Thomas Michna

Photos: The Studio of Thomas Michna

Time Frame

Deadlines have a way of creeping up on all of us! A bit of preparation, however, goes a long way in making your project run as smoothly as possible. A major factor to consider in regards to lighting is lead time. Will you be ordering custom or hand crafted fixtures?  Each manufacturer is different, but at Laura Lee Designs we typically ship within 8 weeks of order placement for standard fixtures and 10 weeks for custom fixtures.


If your chandelier will be hung over a dining table, a great general guideline is to set the diameter at 1/2 to 2/3 the width of the table. We suggest leaving 30” – 36” between the bottom of the fixture and the table. 

If your chandelier will be the focal point of the room, try using this quick equation to calculate the ideal fixture size: Add your room dimensions together use the sum in inches to dictate the diameter of the light. For example, an 18’ x 20’ room will equal 38. The sum (in this case 38) should be the approximate diameter of your fixture. Keep in mind that people will be walking under your lighting, so you will want the bottom of the fixture to be at least 7' from the floor.

Extra large outdoor entry lantern hung flush with the doorway.

Extra large outdoor entry lantern hung flush with the doorway.

In regards to sconces, there are 2 measurements to consider. The first is the projection of the fixture, meaning how far it extends from the wall. Narrow passages and smaller spaces might require a sconce with a slimmer profile, whereas spaces with light foot traffic could accommodate a larger projection. Our second suggestion is to consider the sconces distance from the floor. 60” is a good general guideline, but again, this can vary from room to room. Try using a cardboard placeholder before installing the sconce to ensure it is placed at your ideal height.

One service we offer to ensure your fixture is exactly what you envision is CAD drawing. These technical computer renderings are a great way to get a sense of the size and profile of the fixture, especially if you are electing to go the custom route. They also provide electricians, designers, and builders with information that will make the installation process a little more worry free.

Bulbs & Wattage

Will your fixtures provide task lighting or ambiance lighting? Appropriate bulbs can make a vast difference depending on your fixture’s intended use.

Will your kitchen include downlights? Will your entry chandelier be accompanied by sconces to add an extra wash of light to the space? If so, soft, low wattage candelabra bulbs or warm Edison-style bulbs could work perfectly.

Will your fixture be installed in an expansive space or do double duty as task lighting? Perhaps a higher wattage bulb would suit best.

Is environmental sustainability and the cost of your electric bill a concern? LED would be an excellent choice. Today’s LED bulbs come in a range of options and so closely resemble incandescent that it can sometimes be hard to tell the difference!


Bringing In a Professional

Some projects can be too complex to untangle on our own. If you are feeling overwhelmed by your lighting design dilemma or worried about how your decorative lighting will interact with other lighting elements in your home, we suggest bringing a professional on board to help. Interior designers know how to make the best use of light, helping you maximize your enjoyment of your home. Houzz is a great starting place when searching for a home design professional. Here at Laura Lee Designs, we also offer lighting design services, including in-home consultations in the Southern California area. We would love to help you with your next project!