Small living room lighting ideas – chic ways to brighten up a bijou space

These expert-approved small living room lighting ideas can transform the feel and aesthetics of a petite room

small living room lighting ideas with floor lamp and picture lights by Lindye Galloway Studio
(Image credit: Lindye Galloway Studio + Shop)

Stylish small living room lighting ideas prove that you don't need a big space to make a design-driven impact. You might imagine that smaller living rooms are easier to light than big ones  – after all, there are fewer square feet to have to illuminate. Yet, re-creating the wow factor and sense of grandeur that lighting can bring to larger spaces in a compact room can be a challenge. 

When it comes to small living room ideas, lighting is the jewel in the crown, so it's worth getting to know the design strategies that work for these bijou-proportioned homes to make lighting both pretty and practical. 

With that in mind, we asked the experts for their rundown on how to make a lighting scheme work in a small living room, along with curating some brilliant inspiration for your next design scheme. 

8 small living room lighting ideas that perfectly suit compact spaces 

To begin with, a small living room is bound by many of the same guiding principles as any space. 'Even a small living room should have multiple light sources,' says Janelle Burns, lead interior designer at Maestri Studio.

'At the very least you need a good ambient source to generally light the space (wall sconces, a fixture at the ceiling, or lamps), and one additional accent - be it a reading task lamp tucked in by a chair, a picture light highlighting art, or a petite decorative accent lamp to add interest.'

Once you've considered a well-rounded living room lighting ideas, you can start to employ some of these small space tricks to make it work even harder for your design. 

small living room lighting ideas with white wall sconces by Maestri Studio

(Image credit: Maestri Studio/Jennifer McNeil Baker)

1. Replace a pendant light with wall sconces

small living room lighting ideas black over reaching wall light by Interior Fox

(Image credit: Interior Fox)

'If space is at a premium in your living room, it makes sense to opt for wall sconces,' says Helen Pett, design ambassador for Arteriors London. 'Discreet and atmospheric, wall lighting designs take up none of your precious surface space and can provide a decorative flourish. 

You can replace a large central pendant with overreaching wall lights instead, as seen in the beautiful space by Interior Fox above.

This can work to open up the space, leaving an airy, spacious feel in the middle of the room to make a small living room look bigger, plus it prevents any design problems with hanging height for pendant lights. 

2. Let your lights double up as art 

small living room lighting ideas with sculptural wall lights as art by Arteriors

(Image credit: Arteriors)

If you're short on wall space, investing in interesting sculptural lighting that doubles up as an art installation is an effective small living room lighting idea. 

Look for modern sconces with orb-like glass bulbs, which have a sculptural quality to them, and consider a less-structured placement. Wall lighting is often used symmetrically in a space, but an asymmetrical style will create a more interesting, art-like design. 

Consider including wall sconces within a gallery wall too. This can be an effective way to add different shapes and textures into your wall decor. 

3. Don't be afraid to go big on lighting in a small living room

small living room lighting ideas with brass chandelier by Living with Lolo

(Image credit: Living with Lolo/Life Created)

Love a statement pendant? Fear not, you can absolutely make a supersized central pendant sing, and it actually makes an ultra-chic small living room decorating idea

'Lighting isn’t about sticking to rules,' states Jo Plant, head of design at Pooky. 'If you want statement lighting in a smaller room this is still an option. 

'Choose a colorful or ornate piece to provide a focal point in a small room, or for the more adventurous (if ceiling height allows) a chandelier is a great addition to create a sense of grandeur.'

Lauren Lerner, Founder of Living with Lolo, agrees, adding: 'We believe in layering lighting in your living room, even if it is a smaller space. 

'Overhead lighting, such as cans and a chandelier, are great options, or just adding a chandelier if the room is small without cans. This adds creative drama and coziness to any space.'

4. Layer lighting for a versatile scheme

small living room lighting ideas with image by Maestri Studios

(Image credit: Maestri Studio/Jennifer McNeil Baker)

'Creating a layered look with different lighting sources is a great way to introduce personality and texture into your living room,' suggests Charlie Bowles, drector at Original BTC

'Living room ceiling lights will throw down a large pool of light, while carefully-placed table, floor and wall lights will provide task and accent lighting for reading, watching TV or highlighting your favorite piece of art. 

'Having lots of options also means you can pare back your lighting later in the evening for a more intimate, cozy feeling.'

5. Zone your space with different lighting

small living room lighting ideas apartment zoned space by Jessica Lagrange Interiors

(Image credit: Jessica Lagrange Interiors)

Lighting is an effective way to zone your living space, defining areas for different activities and making every corner count.

'A perfectly positioned wall light or overreach floor light can create a lovely reading area, while clip lights provide an immediate solution to illuminate a temporary work space,' explains Charlie Bowles. 

If your small living room is part of an open plan space, you can use different styles of shades, including rattan and geometric or sculptural pendants, to define separate areas, like the dining and living room.

6. Put picture lights in place for atmosphere and ambiance

small living room lighting ideas with floor lamp and picture lights by Lindye Galloway Studio

(Image credit: Lindye Galloway Studio + Shop)

'Picture lights aren’t just for museums and galleries – you can bring a splendid sense of drama to any sized room by illuminating a favorite painting or photograph with its own special spotlight,' says Pooky's Jo Plant.

As well as highlighting your curated art pieces, picture lights also add character and ambiance for a cozy living room.

'One of the key elements in a well-designed room is lighting it properly. It's imperative that even small spaces are illuminated properly,' interior designer Kellie Burke of Kellie Burke Interiors adds. 

'Just because it's small doesn't mean it only needs one light source! I'm always a fan of small recessed lights that wash the wall or artwork. They dramatically illuminate objects, not the floor.

'If opening the ceiling is not an option, art and picture lights are a very inexpensive way to achieve a similar effect.'

7. Introduce sculptural lamps

a small living room with a gallery wall and lamps

(Image credit: Cerruti Draime. Design: Hauvette Madani)

Lamps, whether table or floor, are a great way to introduce sculptural elegance into a space. Modern lighting trends for lamps forego the standard drum lampshade for designs which add to the landscape of a living room. Domed or coned shades are a popular idea, while ornate glass-blown options can really elevate a space. 

This design, created by Hauvette Madani, creates a layered lighting scheme by introducing three separate lamps into this compact space, each bringing new shapes and texture to the room.

8. Add print and atmosphere with bold table lamps

small living room ideas fringed printed table lamp by Mind the Gap

(Image credit: Mind the Gap)

Turn up the drama in a small space with a luxury, bold printed lampshade. Botanical and heritage-inspired frames adorned with sumptuous velvets and finished with decadent trim and fringe will add maximalism design credentials in the smallest of spaces.

‘We’re slightly obsessed with lighting, it’s such a key part of any room’s atmosphere and so important to get right,' says Jamie Watkins, co-founder of Divine Savages. 'Luxury velvet lampshades certainly brings the swagger home.'

'Whether you want to add sass to your table lamps, flirty fringing to your floor lamp or a dash of drama to your ceiling, your room will stand out from the crowd with heirloom pieces,' he adds. 

How can I improve the light in a small living room?

There are a number of ways you can improve the light in your small living room. 

Jen & Mar, Co-Founders of Interior Fox, suggest: 'Strategically placing mirrors where the light naturally falls is one of the oldest but best tricks in the book, it enhances the natural light and makes the room appear much larger and brighter. 

'A carefully placed mirror that is opposite a window will echo the natural light and greenery in a smaller room, helping to bring the outdoors in.'

They add: 'Complement this with lighting solutions for when the sun starts to fade. Wall lights work well at creating a soft and ambient glow in the evenings. Consider replacing floor lamps with wall mounted task lighting, this will save on valuable floor space while still allowing you to create a cosy reading nook. '

And Maestri's Janelle Burns suggests: 'Put hardwired light fixtures on dimmers and also pay attention to the wattage (for incandescent) or lumen output (for LED) in lamps that may not have a dimming feature - which is most lamps. 

'You really do not need anything higher than 60 watt equivalent in lamps - in fact it's best to use 25 and 40 watt equivalent in lamps so a small space isn't uncomfortably bright (40 watt for a single lamp, 25 in the case of lamp pairs).'

Ruth Doherty is a lifestyle journalist based in London. An experienced freelance digital writer and editor, she is known for covering everything from travel and interiors to fashion and beauty. She regularly contributes to Livingetc, Ideal Home and Homes & Gardens, as well as titles like Prima and Red. Outside of work, her biggest loves are endless cups of tea, almond croissants, shopping for clothes she doesn’t need, and booking holidays she does.

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