Find Your Light in Every Room With These Key Lighting Tips – Design Milk

Choosing the right lighting is one of the single most important design decisions you can make when furnishing a space. From impacting the look of your wall color (light can make the difference between a warm, neutral beige vs. a sallow cream for example) to setting the tone for how you’ll use the room going forward, light fixtures have the potential to transform the experience of being in a space, which only makes finding the right ones all the more intimidating if we’re honest. The good news is there are key pieces of light knowledge that’ll take the guesswork out of finding the right fixtures and illuminate the way you see lighting going forward. Let’s get started!
Before you even look at potential lighting options, ask yourself this, “how do I plan to use this space?” Knowing the primary function of a space will help guide you toward the specific lighting needs for that room, and save you time (and money) in the process. For example: if you’re looking for fixtures for your living room, where you plan to mostly cozy up, watch movies and relax – you’ll want soft, indirect light (also known as ambient light which we’ll get into). A kitchen, on the other hand, would require brighter, more direct light to illuminate your countertops while you prepare dishes.
One more thing to ask yourself – “what design aesthetic am I going for?” While you probably don’t need to be reminded to shop with your design style in mind, keeping the answer top of mind will help make sure you end up with a light fixture that works with your space, not against it.
Once you’ve thoroughly assessed your space and have a clear (clear-ish works too!) picture of your lighting needs, knowing the following light fixture categories will take you the rest of the way home. Note: there are plenty of schools of thought around lighting categories, but these fundamental lighting classes do the trick in most spaces. Remember that one light source is seldom enough for most rooms, and that the most beautifully designed spaces feature dynamic layers of all three types.
puik groove light
The general or ambient light is often the main light source in a space – it’s evenly distributed and projects softly throughout the whole room. Most ambient lights have some sort of shade or diffuser that’s responsible for projecting the light evenly in your space.

Cortina Floor Lamp by Pablo Designs

Cortina Floor Lamp by Pablo Designs

The Cortina Floor Lamp by Pablo Designs may double as ultra-modern decor due to its architectural paneled design, but it’s unmistakably ambient on account of its clear acrylic shade and the mesh fabric diffuser that projects a warm encompassing light without calling attention to itself. The floor lamp has a minimal cast iron base for an industrial edge and features a full range of dim options that give you the flexibility to fully control your light – this light fixture would work beautifully in a living room or bedroom.

$495+

GROOVE Large Pendant Light by Puik Design

GROOVE Large Pendant Light by Puik Design

This large ceiling light by Puik Design perfectly projects light around the room. Created in collaboration with Dutch designer Ilias Ernst, the GROOVE Light embodies a classic silhouette and a shade made of powder coated steel for a modern yet casual look suitable for any space in the house. We’d recommend the large white GROOVE light for a timeless and modern ambient lighting solution, but Puik also recommends mixing and matching their sizes to create a high impact display (which we think would look lovely in a dining room!).

$220

The Cortina Floor Lamp by Pablo Designs may double as ultra-modern decor due to its architectural paneled design, but it’s unmistakably ambient on account of its clear acrylic shade and the mesh fabric diffuser that projects a warm encompassing light without calling attention to itself. The floor lamp has a minimal cast iron base for an industrial edge and features a full range of dim options that give you the flexibility to fully control your light – this light fixture would work beautifully in a living room or bedroom.
This large ceiling light by Puik Design perfectly projects light around the room. Created in collaboration with Dutch designer Ilias Ernst, the GROOVE Light embodies a classic silhouette and a shade made of powder coated steel for a modern yet casual look suitable for any space in the house. We’d recommend the large white GROOVE light for a timeless and modern ambient lighting solution, but Puik also recommends mixing and matching their sizes to create a high impact display (which we think would look lovely in a dining room!).
equo desk lamp
As opposed to the diffused or indirect light projected by ambient lighting, task lighting solutions shine light directly onto surfaces and are functionally designed to help illuminate everyday tasks like eating, cooking, reading, and the like. Task lights are usually pendants or table and desk lamps with exposed bulbs that illuminate downwards onto a targeted area.

Equo Desk Lamp by Koncept

Equo Desk Lamp by Koncept

Desk lamps like this one by Koncept are typically the first to spring to mind when we think about task lighting because they shine a clear, bright light that supports focus and attention. Made of minimalist modern aluminum, the Equo Desk Lamp has an award-winning counterweight design that lets you adjust the sleek floating arm with the slight touch of the finger. The lamp stem has a touch strip to control the lamp’s brightness and power, and you can even choose your preferred light temperature for the task lighting that suits you best – making it a contemporary addition to your home office space.

$319.50

The Catkin Pendant by Hollis + Morris

The Catkin Pendant by Hollis + Morris

The Catkin Pendant by Hollis + Morris is another solid example of task light fixtures. The hand-blown glass orbs have a milky white finish that keeps the light from being too severe, giving you a soft white light to illuminate focus areas. The pendant’s oversized profile and solid wood stem give the light a playful yet modern look too. We can see these Scandinavian-looking pendants working beautifully above bedside tables for reading light or lined up above a kitchen island to help with daily food prep. Just take your pick between natural, white, black, and walnut finishes for a look that complements your space.

$360+

Z-Bar Floor Lamp by Koncept

Z-Bar Floor Lamp by Koncept

Koncept’s Z-Bar Floor Lamp features the same slim modern look as the rest of their beloved Z-Bar collection, but in a floor lamp model. The direct, overhead task light it provides is perfect for reading, which is why we love it in living rooms next to a couch or makeshift reading nook. The aluminum finish gives any space a more updated look while not overpowering the rest of your decor. Find it in metallic black, white, or silver, and be sure to select your preferred light temperature – we’d go with warm for optimal coziness.

$396

Desk lamps like this one by Koncept are typically the first to spring to mind when we think about task lighting because they shine a clear, bright light that supports focus and attention. Made of minimalist modern aluminum, the Equo Desk Lamp has an award-winning counterweight design that lets you adjust the sleek floating arm with the slight touch of the finger. The lamp stem has a touch strip to control the lamp’s brightness and power, and you can even choose your preferred light temperature for the task lighting that suits you best – making it a contemporary addition to your home office space.
The Catkin Pendant by Hollis + Morris is another solid example of task light fixtures. The hand-blown glass orbs have a milky white finish that keeps the light from being too severe, giving you a soft white light to illuminate focus areas. The pendant’s oversized profile and solid wood stem give the light a playful yet modern look too. We can see these Scandinavian-looking pendants working beautifully above bedside tables for reading light or lined up above a kitchen island to help with daily food prep. Just take your pick between natural, white, black, and walnut finishes for a look that complements your space.
Koncept’s Z-Bar Floor Lamp features the same slim modern look as the rest of their beloved Z-Bar collection, but in a floor lamp model. The direct, overhead task light it provides is perfect for reading, which is why we love it in living rooms next to a couch or makeshift reading nook. The aluminum finish gives any space a more updated look while not overpowering the rest of your decor. Find it in metallic black, white, or silver, and be sure to select your preferred light temperature – we’d go with warm for optimal coziness.
hexagon light
Last but certainly not least, accent and decorative lights offer more room to play because while ambient and task lighting are more functional, accent lighting solutions’ only job is to amp up the visual impact in a room or spotlight decorative items. Sconces, spotlights, and outdoor lights are common accent examples.

Uma Mini Light + Speaker by Pablo Designs

Uma Mini Light + Speaker by Pablo Designs

Straddling the line between task and accent lighting, the Uma Mini Light’s petite profile and subtle glow make it an ethereal accent to your coffee table or outdoor space, while still delivering enough light to softly illuminate the pages of your favorite book. Ultimately though, the Uma’s compact portable design and warm glow offer more in the aesthetic realm than its task counterparts landing it a spot in our accent category. The light and speaker hybrid adds depth and drama to any room in the house, a must-have for setting the mood. Plus, its 8-hour battery life means you can enjoy its comforting glow and surround sound just about anywhere!

$299

YOY Wall Light by Innermost

YOY Wall Light by Innermost

We love the way the YOY Wall Light turns the traditional wall sconce design on its head. Instead of an exposed bulb or shade, the LED bulb is cleverly hidden in the light’s aluminum candle holder-like shape and projects light in a lamp shade shape onto the wall, creating an optical illusion sure to catch the attention of guests. The light’s white aluminum and steel body play well with any decor style bringing a modern playfulness to your walls. We can see these lining your entryway for a fun first impression!

$255

The Hexagon Sconce by Hollis + Morris

The Hexagon Sconce by Hollis + Morris

A bold example of accent lighting done right, Hollis + Morris’ Hexagon Sconce is designed to make a modern geometric statement on your walls. An elegant take on the classic honeycomb shape, LED lights are fixed within the sconce’s hexagonal frame, casting light contained within its shape. The sconce comes in small, medium, and large sizes – and mixing and matching is encouraged for maximum aesthetic impact. Use them to spruce up a statement wall in your living space, dining room, or entryway.

$1,150+

Straddling the line between task and accent lighting, the Uma Mini Light’s petite profile and subtle glow make it an ethereal accent to your coffee table or outdoor space, while still delivering enough light to softly illuminate the pages of your favorite book. Ultimately though, the Uma’s compact portable design and warm glow offer more in the aesthetic realm than its task counterparts landing it a spot in our accent category. The light and speaker hybrid adds depth and drama to any room in the house, a must-have for setting the mood. Plus, its 8-hour battery life means you can enjoy its comforting glow and surround sound just about anywhere!
We love the way the YOY Wall Light turns the traditional wall sconce design on its head. Instead of an exposed bulb or shade, the LED bulb is cleverly hidden in the light’s aluminum candle holder-like shape and projects light in a lamp shade shape onto the wall, creating an optical illusion sure to catch the attention of guests. The light’s white aluminum and steel body play well with any decor style bringing a modern playfulness to your walls. We can see these lining your entryway for a fun first impression!
A bold example of accent lighting done right, Hollis + Morris’ Hexagon Sconce is designed to make a modern geometric statement on your walls. An elegant take on the classic honeycomb shape, LED lights are fixed within the sconce’s hexagonal frame, casting light contained within its shape. The sconce comes in small, medium, and large sizes – and mixing and matching is encouraged for maximum aesthetic impact. Use them to spruce up a statement wall in your living space, dining room, or entryway.
With this crash course on lighting under your belt, you’ve got everything you need to brighten your space in style. Spot anything you like on this list? Share how you style your Design Milk light fixture and tag us for a chance to be featured on the @designmilk Instagram! You can always find more modern lighting on the Design Milk Shop.
Alexa is commerce editor at Design Milk. She lives in Miami, Florida with her fiancé Alex and retired greyhound, Phoebe. A longtime art and design enthusiast, Alexa’s first stops in any new city are the art museums. When she’s not writing about her favorite DM shop picks, she might be buried in a book, binging reality tv or adventuring around her city with her partner and pup.
You can follow Alexa Morales on Instagram. Read all of Alexa Morales’s posts.
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