Let There Be Light; How to Light Your Home

Lighting, Thyme & Place Design, Sharon L Sherman

Mistakes to avoid when installing lighting in your home.

Lighting is one of the most important elements in the home. Many people skimp on lighting thinking “a few lamps here and that should be enough”. In design speak, this is a lighting mistake. Think of dining at an amazing restaurant where you can’t really see what you are eating. We do feast with our eyes, remember? Poor lighting can make rooms uncomfortable to be in and some times can be dangerous. Lets take a look at some tips on how to light your home.

The Entry Way

Your front door says a lot about your home. Dark front doors are another lighting mistake that is easy to avoid. What better way to say welcome that with a well lit entry. If you are installing exterior lights, here are some guidelines.

Single lights should be installed on the same side as the door knob. You will be able to see the person when you open the door. All lighting should be installed at eye level which is between 60″ and 65″ A.F.F. (above the finished floor). If you are using 2 lights, the same height rules apply. A good rule of thumb for the size of the lights, the fixture should be 1/4 the height of the door.

Foyers and Hallways

Hanging fixtures should clear any threshold opening into the foyer or hallway. Most doors and 80″ high so allow 84″ from the floor to the bottom of the fixture. For example if your ceilings are 8′ (96″) high less 7′ (84″) you would use a fixture 12″ tall or less. If you have higher ceilings, you can use a taller fixture. If your ceilings are 10′ or taller, you might want to use a two tiered fixture. Remember to leave 4′ (48″) minimum between the widest part of the fixture and any neighboring wall.

Tips for Lighting Walls


Everyone loves sconces, especially me. They provide beautiful and effective lighting. In hallways or living areas, beware of the projection of the sconce (how far the fixture sticks out from the wall) if you don’t have a furniture piece below it. Avoid making the mistake of using a fixture you might walk into. You should have 8-10 feet between fixtures to provide a nice balanced spread of light. If placing the sconces on either side of a mirror or piece of art use the 60″-65″ A.F.F. rule. Space the lights evenly to the left and right of the mirror or art work. Don’t forget to consider the scale of the sconces to the size of the object they are illuminating.

Lighting Bedrooms

The same rule applies for ceiling mounted fixtures in bedrooms as in hallways. If you have children, consider the possibility of them jumping on the bed and hitting the fixture (might want to wait a few years). Recessed lights are a safer option here. For installing above bedside tables  allow approximately 5′ (60″) from the floor to the top of the fixture (or shade if there is one). If switch operated, make sure you can reach the switch from the bed.

Sharon L Sherman, Thyme & Place Design, Lighting, Kitchen Designer NJ, Bathroom Designer NJ

Photo by Peter Rymwid

Lighting Bathrooms

Good lighting is essential in a bathroom. A combination of recessed and decorative lighting is the best of both Check with your local building department about the codes for hanging fixtures. Many have specific rules about “wet location” fixtures. Hanging fixtures and sconces follow the same rules noted above. If you want to use a linear fixture over a mirror or medicine cabinet, it should not be wider than the mirror. I usually recommend an 18″ fixture above a 24″ mirror or a 24″-30″ fixture above a 36″ mirror. In our projects we almost always use sconces flanking mirrors.


Lighting Kitchens

Here again lighting should be a top priority. A combination of recessed lights and under cabinet lighting are pretty Lighting, Thyme & Place Designstandard in our work. Decorative lighting over islands or peninsulas should be hung between 30″ -36″ above the counter top surface. If you are using multiple pendants allow approximately 30″ between fixtures. If they are smaller in size, you can go a bit closer together but it depends on the fixture. Make sure they are not too close to the edge of the counter top or you will bang you head.

Linear fixtures should be carefully specified. Consider the size of the island or peninsula and use the 2/3 rule.  If you have a 72″ (6′) island the fixture should be no bigger than 48″ (4′). If you have a really long island you might want to use 2 smaller light fixtures.

Lighting over Tables

Just like island fixtures, lights should be set at 30″ -36″ above the table surface. If you are using a rectangular or square table, your fixture should be at least 6″ narrower than the width of the table. For example a 36″ wide table would have a 24″ wide fixture max. If you have a round table that is 48″ you would use a light fixture between 24″ and 36″ in diameter or roughly 1/2 to 3/4 the size of the table.

Lamps (the pro name for light bulbs)

Last but not least is the lamp i.e. the light bulb. Check the manufacturers suggestion for the wattage for your fixture. Most have it right on a label on the fixture. Next is the type of lamp. Different fixtures use different bases such as Edison, candelabra etc. When I have a fixture with a shade, clear lamps are fine. If the lamp is not covered I like to use a diffused glass lamp, it reduces the glare and I don’t have to see the filament or the diode.

Dimmers are another nice feature. It allows you to control the light and the ambiance of the fixture. There are also remote control dimmers or you can just ask Alexa to turn down the wattage.

Looking for some sources for lighting? Here are 3 of my favorites Hudson Valley Lighting, Troy Lighting and Crystorama





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Sharon sherman

My award-winning designs haven been featured in multiple magazines, industry publications and on television. That’s nice affirmation, to be sure.

But perhaps the greatest accolade I’ve received is the repeat engagements with so many clients, project after project, year after year.

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