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No Overhead Lights

How to Light a Room With No Overhead Lights

Many homes rely on overhead lighting or windows to provide ambient light, but what if neither is an option? Here are some clever lighting solutions so you can learn how to add more light to any room.

Each indoor space will present its own unique set of lighting challenges. Perhaps there will be dark corners to contend with, excessive glare, or even complicated room layouts. One of the more common hurdles encountered by homeowners and apartment renters alike is overly dark interior spaces.

It is very easy for us to take for granted the fact that we can illuminate our homes with the flip of a switch. Yet, we begin to appreciate how much work goes into interior lighting only when we try to figure it out for ourselves. Being presented with a room that either does not or cannot accommodate windows and overhead lighting represents a particularly frustrating puzzle, but you may be surprised to discover just how frequently this exact problem comes up.

Often, this situation is encountered by renters who are not permitted to install any permanent fixtures, and that’s to say nothing of tinkering with the electrical wiring. Other times, older homes tend to have a particularly shadowy room here or there which isn’t wired to easily accept a ceiling fixture. Although, even new construction is not immune to less-than-ideal lighting layouts.

So, what is a DIY enthusiast to do in a situation like this? It’s no secret that even the bravest of handymen think twice before punching holes in their ceiling or rearranging electrical components. But is that your only choice?

Luckily, you have a number of options available to you when it comes to illuminating dim rooms in your home. Here are some universal suggestions which can help you plan a better lighting strategy, and bring your underutilized spaces out of the dark.

For the Restless: Best Lights for Rooms Without Overhead Lights

Floor Lamps

Floor lamps are a great option because they offer versatility and a wide range of styles. Somewhere out there lies the perfect floor lamp to match your decorative theme, while also adding some much-needed light to your room.

Perhaps the best aspect of floor lamps is their tendency to be tall and thin, meaning you do not have to devote much floorspace to them. This can be especially helpful in tight, cramped spaces where square footage is at an absolute premium.

A few important questions to consider when selecting your floor lamps:

Once you have found floor lamps which meet all of your requirements, they’re very easy to place strategically in a room. Floor lamps make an excellent source of ambient light, and in some cases can provide additional task lighting.

Lighting Ideas Without Wiring

To take advantage of all the possibilities of your lighting set-up, consider these options for easy installation.

Strip Lights

If you are feeling particularly creative, you can take advantage of LED strip lights. This is a series of lights connected together in a “tape” in which can easily be installed in many different places.

Particularly bright LED strip lighting works great under cabinets as kitchen task lighting. Or, for a bit of atmosphere, install strip lights along the kick panel between your lower cabinets and the floor.

Strip lights also work very well along crown molding, above a doorway frame, around the top of a hutch or china cabinet, on a fireplace mantle, or anywhere else where it might be awkward to fit a lamp or traditional lighting fixture.

Besides being versatile and easy to install, LED strip lights also have the advantage of consuming very little electricity. The combination of high-efficiency and smart technology (some strip lighting can change colors or run programmable sequences) means that we will probably be seeing more of this option in the very near future.

Read: LED Strip Lights

LED Skylights

LED skylights are an interesting option for those trying to work around old fluorescent ceiling fixtures. These are bright LED lights which can very easily be wired into the existing structure of an overhead fluorescent light. The old housing can be replaced by a large flat panel which mimics the look and feel of a skylight. Pair that with the daylight-bright LEDs, and you can create the illusion of a true skylight in your room.

This type of lighting can be especially welcome in dim kitchens, providing adequate task lighting and bringing the feeling of windows into a windowless room. Not to mention the fact that LED technology has advanced to the point where a well-placed overhead LED fixture could illuminate a room much better and more efficiently than an older fluorescent fixture could have.

Luminous Sky Ceilings and Virtual Windows

Those of you who are both truly ambitious and truly in love with what LED technology can accomplish might want to consider what is known as a luminous sky ceiling, or a virtual window.

You may have seen some mention of these in news stories, but they are exactly what they sound like: virtual ceilings or window panels which reflect clear blue sky, daylight, and everything else you would expect to see through a real skylight or window on a brilliantly sunny day. Some medical offices and restaurants were early adopters of this technology, but it is now beginning to make its way onto the residential consumer market, and people are taking notice.

If you live in a home or apartment which does not have much access to natural daylight, that can begin to take a toll on you mentally and emotionally. A sky ceiling or virtual window is really an LED screen which mimics the daylight, and can be used therapeutically. Many hospitals have installed similar features and have seen great results.

This option will definitely be on the more expensive end of things, as only a few companies produce and install such specialized technology. Still, you could wow everyone in your neighborhood by installing a virtual sky in your living room.

Strategic Mirror Placement

Mirrors can be put to very clever use for adding light to a room. It may not be practical (or aesthetically pleasing) to place lamps in each corner of your room, but a mirror placed in just the right way can help reflect and bounce available light around the room, making the space brighter.

No windows in the room? A pair of framed mirrors can create the illusion of windows, while also shining some extra light into dark areas.

Mirrors have the added benefit of helping a room seem larger than it is, making them especially popular design choices for small or cramped spaces. And don’t make the mistake of thinking that bathrooms or bedrooms are the only places for mirrors. A well-placed mirror in a kitchen can make a dramatic statement while also brightening up the room, and dimly lit hallways can seem wider and more airy thanks to mirrors.

Uplighting Versus Downlighting

These terms may seem self-explanatory, but there’s a little bit more to it than simply “light shining up, or light shining down.”

Generally speaking, uplighting is provided by sconces, some chandeliers torchette floor lamps, etc. these fixtures will project light up toward the ceiling, making uplighting a popular choice for ambient light sources.

Downlighting is usually provided by pendants, reading lights, track lighting, etc. these fixtures shine light down toward the floor, or onto a task area such as a countertop or table.

Now, here’s the big secret: you need both all throughout your house.

Sometimes, a room is poorly lit simply because it relies solely on uplighting or downlighting. A room could technically have every square inch of the carpet perfectly illuminated through strategic placement of pendant lights, and still seem kind of dark without an uplighting source in the room.

So, when planning out your lighting make sure that some of your sources focus their light upward, while others focus downward. Remember that question earlier about lampshades? Something as simple as swapping out one lampshade for another could change a table lamp or floor lamp from a source of uplighting to downlighting, or vice versa. Including both types will help provide more even and uniform illumination throughout the room.

A Few Don’ts…

There are some lighting solutions which might seem like they are a great idea at first, but can present problems later on. Here are a few things we recommend avoiding when trying to lighten up a shadowy room.

Overly dim and dark rooms can be more than just an annoyance. Inadequate lighting can be hazardous, as people are more likely to trip and stumble over things they can’t see. Furthermore, a room that is poorly lit is not ideal for completing any type of task. In other words, a poorly lit kitchen might mean you’re ordering takeout a lot more frequently. A poorly lit living room might mean that you never get around to those books you’ve been meaning to read.

Addressing a lighting issue in your home is also addressing your quality of life. There are many options available to you which do not rely on windows, natural light, or overhead fixtures in order to accomplish your goals. Hopefully this guide gave you some good ideas to begin planning out your own lighting strategy, because a room without adequate light isn’t doing you any favors.

Good luck, and have fun designing your new, more illuminated space.

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