Types of Light Fixtures: The Essential Guide for DIY Interior Designers
It takes a variety of light fixture types to achieve the perfect balance of warmth and brightness in any room. A mix of fixture styles also contributes to layered lighting—a design strategy that creates cozy nooks, welcoming large spaces, and the illumination you need for tasks from your kitchen counters to bathroom vanities. Read on for a primer on light fixture types you need to know whether you're enhancing the brightness of a single room or designing the lighting for a new home. Let's get started!
Among the most versatile lighting in any home, lamps provide ambient light, task lighting, and are striking decor elements. Whether on a table or the floor, lamps can be relocated easily and redesigned with a quick swap out of lamp shades. Styles of lamps include:
As their name suggests, these lamps are perfectly sized to fit on tables. They can vary from simple miniature lamps to large, sculptural pieces. Within the broad table lamp category you'll find:
Side table lamps – These lamps are designed for side tables next to sofas and armchairs. You'll discover side table lamps in every home decor style, from Craftsman to modern to farmhouse.
Bedside table lamps – The primary difference between side table and bedside table lamps is their placement. In essence, they are interchangeable. These lamps sit on the tables next to your beds with your favorite bedtime reading nearby. When choosing bedside lamps, choose styles you love while paying particular attention to bulb color—blue-spectrum bulbs are wakeful, while warm, gold-spectrum lights are more conducive to a good night's rest.
Desk lamps – These lamps are versatile task lights with focused beams perfect for reading, writing, drawing, crafts, or any other activity requiring bright, concentrated light. Easy adjustability distinguishes desk lamps from other table lamps. Swing arms, hinges, springs, and rotating joints let you direct the light beam where you need it most.
Buffet lamps – Originally designed for buffet tables, these lamps are typically tall and often feature a long body. Use buffet lamps anywhere you prefer, but they are excellent options for accent tables, such as consoles, cabinets, and sofa tables.
The bases of these tall lamps rest on the floor. Often, floor lamps provide ambient light as well as lighting for specific tasks, such as reading or writing. Floor lamp varieties include:
Club or stick floor lamps – These floor lamps stand tall and straight, typically with a shaded bulb (or bulbs). They provide ambient light.
Torchiere – The name derives from the French for 'torch.' The light from a torchiere floor lamp points upward towards the ceiling. Ambient light emanates from the lamp, as well as light reflected off the ceiling.
Adjustable floor lamps – Hinged arms, adjusters, swivels, and pole breaks allow you to change the height and angle of the floor lamps bulb and shade for more focused lighting.
Two-light (or more) floor lamps – These feature additional bulbs at the top for more light or a candelabra-style design. Or, they include a second, adjustable task light on the lamp pole.
These light fixtures are installed in the ceiling to provide ambient and task lighting from above. Ceiling lights may have an understated silhouette or deliver gorgeous style in addition to abundant light. Styles of ceiling lights include:
These are lights that hang from the ceiling—think of a pendant hanging from a necklace. The fixture can hang from a fixed down rod that encloses the wire, a chain, or a reinforced wire. Pendants can feature one bulb and shade, one exposed bulb, or a cluster of bulbs. They come in a nearly endless variety of styles, colors, and finishes, and are eye-catching accents in any room. You can also change up the look with pendant shades, which you can find in clear glass, frosted glass, and drum-style.
Cousins to pendants, chandeliers deliver an extra measure of drama. They are typically big (though you'll find mini chandeliers) and showcase multiple lights (usually somewhere between two and twelve).
A tiered chandelier with curved light holders and hanging cut-crystal prisms are the classic style. But today's chandeliers range from traditional to farmhouse to rustic to ultra-modern. With so many choices, you can choose a chandelier that matches your home design, or that stands out from the surroundings with a distinctive, artful design.
These chandeliers are big and bold with long, linear silhouettes and side-by-side bulbs. Island chandeliers are an excellent option over kitchen islands and dining room tables, and they make a distinctive statement over office desks. They can be understated and elegant or extravagant and attention-grabbing.
Flush and semi-flush mount lights
As their name suggests, the housing of flush mount fixtures attaches directly to the ceiling. Semi-flush fixtures feature a base (mounted to the ceiling) and a small arm or rod or arms that separate the light from the ceiling. Both styles are defined by their low-profiles—perfect for rooms with low ceilings or bold decor.
While often thought of as 'standard' ceiling lights, flush and semi-flush fixtures add abundant style to a room when chosen wisely. You'll find these fixtures in Craftsman-inspired, contemporary, and Art Deco styles, and with etched or Tiffany-style glass shades that add artisan beauty to any space.
The housing of these lights installs inside the ceiling, so all you see is the trim and the bulb. Recessed lighting is understated, takes up minimal real estate, and offers abundant light to rooms of any size. Because they favor simplicity, they don't clash with other decorative lighting elements and are an excellent option for light layering. You can aim recessed eyeball lights to provide task lighting or to brighten a painting or particular piece of decor.
With the option to move the position of light bulbs and the angle, track lighting is one of the most versatile fixtures. Track light styles favor modern finishes and silhouettes and deliver an industrial chic or contemporary vibe to a room. The tracks are mounted flush to the ceiling.
These fixtures pull double duty delivering light and breezes. Ceiling fans with lights make beautiful additions to great rooms, bedrooms, and kitchens, while also helping to improve the cooling and heating efficiency in your home. Ceiling fan lights match a range of home decor styles—from rustic, windmill fans to streamlined modern fans.
Enjoy light where you need it for meal prep and cleaning in the kitchen. Under-cabinet lights are long and simple—these fixtures are designed to cast a glow without being visible themselves. Beyond task lighting, they also highlight beautiful home accents and built-in architectural features, such as marble countertops, cabinets, and bookcases.
The name speaks for itself: These fixtures install on the wall of a room to provide ambient, task, and accent lighting.
The design of wall sconces may be minimalist—a backplate, an arm, and one or two lights—but this small light fixture delivers big style. Sconces take up only a small amount of wall space, which increases options for placement. You can also use them to connect the style of adjacent rooms and large, open floor plans.
You'll find sconces to match your distinctive style, whether your home decor is country chic, Craftsman, ornate, or traditional.
These lights illuminate your bathroom vanity from above and to the side of the mirror. Vanity lighting fixtures often showcase multiple bulbs in a row—either exposed or covered with shades. The bulb covers can face up towards the ceiling or down towards the sink. Some vanity lights are one long fixture, with frosted glass and a long LED bulb. You'll find vanity lights to match your design style, whether you prefer Art Deco, contemporary, traditional, or industrial accents.
In addition to providing warm illumination to your home, light fixtures add style and decorative accents to every room. Choose these essential pieces of home decor with care and they'll brighten and beautify your overall home design.