10 bright ways with wall lighting

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  • Living room wall light ideas can bridge the gap – beautifully, cleverly and with maximum impact – between a central ceiling light and low table lamps.

    A lounge boasting strategically placed lamps is just the ticket for cosy, atmospheric evenings but how often do you request the ‘The Big Light’ to be switched on because you can’t see the buttons on the remote control or the words in your magazine? A central ceiling light scores highly on the practical front, but being invariably too bright and stark, is a big fat no when it comes to creating ambience.

    Wall lights can solve these woes – from traditional forms to contemporary re-imaginings. The right living room wall lights provide all sorts of other perks along the way.

    Living room wall light ideas

    Wall-mounted lights are a highly functional living room wall decor idea. More than just attractive during the day, wall lights are transformative for living rooms by night.

    Original BTC’s Director, Charlie Bowles, adds, ‘Creating a layered look with different lighting sources is a great way to introduce personality and texture into your living room, and having lots of options also means you can pare back your lighting later in the evening for a more intimate, cosy feeling.’

    1. Turn the light cable into a feature

    white living room with brown leather sofa

    Image credit: Future PLC/ James French

    An electrician’s advice would be to decide on where your living room wall lights are going to be before any plastering or decorating is undertaken, so that the faff of chiselling out the wall to hide the cable is avoided. But if your lounge is already ‘done’, consider displaying a wall light cable in all its glory.

    A thick, black fabric flex (avoid the regular rubber ones) will tick the contemporary box, whilst a coloured one, or one that’s braided or herringboned, will add style and interest.

    Hang a simple shelf bracket (an oversized hook or chunky peg would work, too) high up on the wall directly above a plug socket, in order for the cable to hang down in a neat, vertical line. Then loop the cable around the top with the bulb hanging down as high or low as you like.

    This is a really practical idea for a living room wall light – the on/off switch will be to hand, the bulb height can easily be adjusted to suit the occasion, it’s budget-friendly and a cinch to achieve! Using this styling tip for decorating the wall behind the sofa means you can adjust the lights without getting up!

    2. Opt for smart symmetry

    Living room sofa ideas with black sofa and chairs

    Image credit: Neptune

    A super-smart living room can be created by utilising a central feature, such as a fireplace, as the line of symmetry between the two halves of the room. This traditional but timeless (and so visually satisfying!) look calls for classic shaded wall lights, which have the added benefit of looking perfectly comfortable in a modern living room idea as much as in a cottage, chalet or Victorian one.

    Flanking a chimney breast with two pairs of wall lights, rather than one, is a stylish switch-up that packs a punch, and of course, provides more light! Plus, displaying white shaded ones against a dark backdrop will really make them pop.

    3. Ditch a central ceiling light

    ‘Whilst ceiling lights are ideal for practicality, they are intended to flood a room with light and could provide a stark contrast when switched from on to off in the evenings’, explains Mary Buchanan, Creative Director of Laura Ashley Lighting.

    Installing wall lights, instead of a central ceiling light, in a living room with a low ceiling will trick the eye into making the ceiling look higher.

    The idea is to ensure that the light is directed upwards, to cast a vertical glow, which will in turn make the ceiling look further away. Positioning the lights higher up on the wall than you traditionally would will really help, too.

    4. Introduce an industrial element

    white living room with green emerald velvet sofa

    Image credit: Future PLC/ Max Attenborough

    An industrial touch always feels like a welcome one, no matter what the season or property type. When it comes to wall lighting, an Anglepoise-esque lamp will always look stylish, and is fun and functional, too.

    ‘The industrial aesthetic showcases functional shapes, raw surfaces, and exposes the craft behind designs’ says Victoria Atkin of Atkin & Thyme. ‘Lighting lends itself well to this concept – pieces can incorporate shades hammered from burnished casts; bare metalwork and bulbs with distinct inner filaments – the idea is to celebrate the maker’.

    This kind of wall light is best positioned up high and in an alcove or corner of the living room. It can be shimmied out as a task lamp, creating a cosy reading or knitting nook at night, and then tucked back again come daytime. It gets the thumbs up for tight spots, too!

    5. Swap bulbs for flames

    black living room wall with black iron fireplace

    Image credit: Future PLC/ David Giles

    For an enveloping glow and cocooning ambience, you can’t beat the bewitching gleam that candlelight casts. Dotting candles about the lounge on tables, mantle pieces and sills is lovely, but displaying them on a whimsical wall sconce is a failsafe route to wow. For extra drama, position them against a dark, richly-hued wall and plump for coloured dinner candles rather than white.

    If you’re absent-minded, or concerned about wax dripping from the burning flame of a dinner candle, faux-flamed ones will still look effective, as long as you choose warm white ones over bright white.

    6. Highlight wall art

    A low ceiling cottage living room with blue velvet sofa and wood burner

    Image credit: Colin Poole

    Picture wall lights are really all about celebrating the art, rather than the lights, but will grace your lounge with a charming glow. Seek out horizontal ones and take some time to get the angle right. The aim is to minimise the reflective glare associated with art encased in glass and to limit the shadows that paintings with texture and dimensions produce.

    Shining lights on artwork, be it paint or ink, for long periods can damage it, so fit your picture wall lights with LED bulbs that won’t emit heat or UV light.

    7. Layer lighting to unify and add cosiness

    dark painted living room with blue armchair and green lamps

    Image credit: Pooky

    In the same way that combining soft furnishings, such as rugs, throws and cushions, in similar colours , textures and designs can unify a lounge, mixing wall lights with floor, table and ceiling ones will have the same effect.

    Plus, as Ally Dowsing-Reynold, co-CEO at Dowsing & Reynolds says, ‘This might sound surprising, but having multiple lights in your lounge actually makes it cosier. So if you’re looking to create a cocooning living space that you can unwind in, combine dimmable wall and ceiling lights with stylish table and floor lamps’.

    8. Wow with a wild animal wall light

    giraffe wall light in living room

    Image credit: Ella James

    The trend for attention-grabbing animal head (and torso!) wall lights continues to grow momentum with the options ranging from regal flamingos and brass monkeys to smiley giraffes and stern tigers.

    They’re brilliant for introducing drama and playfulness to your lounge and work best in a contrived arrangement – incorporated into a styled-up side table, for example. They’re not exactly inconspicuous, so one would almost definitely be enough!

    Buy now: Gio Giraffe Wall Lamp, £115, Ella James

    9. Choose translucent shades for an ethereal glow

    dark green living room with pink chair and ribbed glass wall light

    Image credit: Davey Lighting

    Semi-transparent wall lights are a clever choice for a cosy, atmospheric lounge as they diffuse the light and in turn, reduce the projection of dark shadows.

    ‘Use wall lights to provide additional ambient light in your lounge and look for designs with a translucent shade to provide a more diffused light’, suggests Ashlee Sanderson, Sales Manager at Nest.

    They’re best used in pairs to flank a picture, mirror or chimney breast and will emit a soft, ethereal glow. Avoid using in areas where you need clear vision (you’ll need task lighting for that) as the light won’t be strong enough.

    Buy now: Narrow Pillar Light, £565, Dave Lighting at Original BTC

    10. Put writing on the wall – and light it up!

    navy blure living room with neon sign

    Image credit: Future Publishing Plc/ Alun Callender

    For the bold and the brave, an oversized, neon sign will gladden your heart, as well as your walls. You’ll flood your lounge with as much personality as you will light, and will provide a conversation starter, too. Something this ta-da! commands space, so hang loud and proud above your sofa or upon an unadorned wall.

    Displaying against a dark wall will emphasise its glory and enhance its brightness, and will allow the cables to blend in a bit.

    For something eye-catching but not as shouty (in design as much as tone), try words in a scripted style or letters in a pale yellow or white.

    Where should wall lights be placed in a living room?

    ‘Consider installing them in alcoves or above the main seating area to add light to darker areas. You could also position artwork around the lights to make a feature of the wall’, suggests Sarah Bartlett.

    ‘Wall lights are often used as a kind of ‘task light’, that offer additional or precise light where you need it most. If you’re creating a reading corner in your lounge or would like to ‘shine a light’ on your favourite plant or artwork, wall lighting can provide the perfect directed ambience’, says, Ashlee Sanderson, Sales Manager at Nest.

    Are wall lights a good idea?

    Sarah Bartlett says, ‘Wall lights add atmosphere when you don’t want to use the main ceiling light, and can also act like little pieces of art on your walls, helping bring your personality into the space’.

    Nest’s Sales Manager, Ashlee Sanderson, agrees, ‘Wall lighting can be decorative too – don’t be scared to express your personal style and choose a wall light with a sculptural shape or with a pop of colour. This will act as a piece of artwork on the wall of your lounge, making a true visual statement.’

    How do I choose do right wall lights for my living room?

    ‘There are two main things to think about’, begins Ally Dowsing-Reynold, co-CEO at Dowsing & Reynolds. ‘Firstly, how you want to feel in the room and secondly, what you want to use the room for. This allows you to combine functional ‘task’ lighting with decorative ‘ambient’ or ‘accent’ lighting to create your desired atmosphere.’

    She suggests using dimmers, ‘the turned-down light created by dimmers gives a soft glow that you can easily control and casts beautiful shadows around the room, while lamps create pockets of task lighting’.

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