Lighting Tips for Open Floor Plans

Many home designs incorporate an open floor plan, where cooking, dining, and entertaining are enjoyed in the same space. Even a small space can feel bigger and brighter when walls are opened up, and the light is let in.  Planning the right lighting is a crucial part of designing beautiful, light-filled, open-concept spaces. 

Consider the architectural features of the open floor plan, such as high ceilings, lack of interior walls, and numerous windows, as all of these factors add to the overall light of the space. To avoid over-lighting an open floor plan, think in layers: ambient, task, and accent lighting. The first layer, ambient lighting, provides the general lighting for the space. Recessed, linear, flush mounts or similar fixtures are good choices here, serving an ambient source of light and helping to guide the flow from room to room.

Next, select task lighting. In the kitchen, choose fixtures that direct light onto countertops, islands, cooking surfaces, and other work areas. Undercabinet tape and puck lighting, track lighting, pendant lighting, and even recessed lighting are excellent selections, as they will give the ideal amount of light to complete tasks safely and efficiently. 

In the dining area, use pendants and chandeliers to provide light for dining, homework, and other tasks that take place at the table. Try large pendants or chandeliers to highlight the kitchen island or dining table and give vertical definition to those spaces. In the living area, choose statement-making fixtures to define the area, create intimacy, and add drama. 

Finally, add a layer of accent lighting, such as wall sconces in the dining area, and table and floor lamps in the living room to give comfort and a soft ambiance.  Remember to take note of electrical outlets in the lighting plan for placing plug-in light fixtures.

Thoughtful lighting design is essential for every room, and especially in an open concept plan, where it’s all about visual flow. Achieve a cohesive look by selecting lighting finished in the same, or closely related, finishes as the kitchen faucets and appliances. Try mixed-metal light fixtures that add personality and interest to the space, or stick with a limited color palette to keep the area feeling connected.

Posted by American Lighting Association

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I think people underestimate the importance of lighting -­ layers of lighting, not just one light. I do a lighting seminar where I take a $300-­a-yard fabric and a $3-­a-­yard fabric. I show what lighting can do to either one.

Candice Olson

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