Decorative and Functional Lighting

Interior lighting serves both practical and aesthetic purposes. Beyond simply illuminating a space, creative lighting choices can entirely transform the look, feel, and functionality of a room. Unique lighting fixtures like sconces, pendant lights, and string lights inject style, set a desired mood, and showcase the textures, colors, and details of a well-designed interior.

Lighting as décor using sconces and pendant lights.

This article will explore lighting as décor – specifically, how thoughtfully placed sconces, pendants, and string lights can provide dramatic focal points, cast captivating shadows and silhouettes, and establish an ambiance that reflects your personal style. We’ll cover lighting layering basics, style matching considerations, and placement tips to help you artfully illuminate each space.

The Layered Lighting Plan

Ambient, Task, and Accent – The 3 Layers

A white living room with stylish decor and lighting sconces, offering a breathtaking view of the city.
3D rendering of a living room with stylish lighting and décor.
3D rendering of a modern living room with white furniture, showcasing elegant lighting fixtures and stylish décor.
A living room with white furniture and a lamp, enhanced by stylish lighting and décor.

Effective lighting plans incorporate three essential layers: ambient, task, and accent lighting. Understanding the purpose behind each layer is key to developing a cohesive plan with depth and dimension.

Ambient lighting provides overall illumination, enabling clear visibility and navigation throughout a room. Recessed cans, surface-mounted fixtures, and chandeliers typically deliver ambient light. Sconces, pendants, and string lights can also generate ambient glow when positioned to cast light across walls and ceilings.

Task lighting brightens specific areas to aid practical activities like cooking, working, reading, or grooming. Under-cabinet lighting in kitchens and vanities lights in bathrooms are common task lighting examples.

Accent lighting spotlights architectural or decorative details you wish to highlight, like artwork, shelves, architectural niches, or seating areas. 

Track lighting and recessed directional lighting are ideal accent sources.

Use ambient fixtures like semi-flush ceiling mounts or chandeliers as your base layer, supplementing with task and accent lighting as needed. Carefully blending all three creates dimension, visual interest, and balanced brightness suitable for each space and activity.


  • Effective lighting incorporates ambient, task & accent lighting in layers
  • Ambient lighting delivers overall illumination
  • Task lighting aids practical activities
  • Accent lighting highlights details
  • Blend all three layers to create dimension & balanced brightness

Match Fixtures to Your Style

Tasteful Coordination is Key

A white couch with accent lighting in a living room.
A living room with a couch, coffee table, and pendant lighting.

Fixture styles, shapes, sizes, finishes, and shade styles should be thoughtfully coordinated in order to look cohesive and purposeful rather than haphazard.

As a general guideline, limit your selection to 2 or 3 finish types, like brushed nickel, oil-rubbed bronze, and aged brass. Feel free to combine metallic and non-metallic materials like wood or fabric for textural interest. Mix glossy and matte versions of the same finish type for a subtle contrast.

Vary shade styles, shapes, and transparencies rather than selecting the exact same lampshade repeatedly. For example, pair a conical opaque shade in one room with a cylindrical transparent shade in another and a drum-shaped linen shade in the third tied-together space.

Repeat forms or motifs in each fixture selection to strengthen cohesion. For example, optic crystal elements, fabric drum shades, or matte black metal frames. Just don’t overdo the machines– some intentional variation keeps things compelling.


  • Limit finish selection to 2-3 coordinated metals/materials
  • Vary shade shapes/transparency for Variety
  • Repeat design forms/motifs for cohesion
  • Allow for intentional variation in styles

Sconces Provide Striking Focal Points

Artfully Spotlight Walls with Sconces

Two beds in a room with sconces lighting up the décor.
Two beds in a room with decorative sconces on a stone wall.
An elegantly decorated bed in a room with a stone wall, enhanced by ambient lighting from beautiful sconces.
A hotel room with stylish décor and ambient lighting, featuring a comfortable bed.

Sconces make excellent accent lighting sources and striking decorative focal points. Positioned adjacent to furnishings or clustered in groupings down a lengthy wall, the pools of light and dramatic shadows cast by sconces can entirely transform the atmosphere in a space.

Use a swing arm, plug-in, or battery-operated sconces when hardwiring isn’t practical. Adhesive puck lights affordably transform traditional sconces into plug-free illumination.

For optimum visual impact, mount sconces 60-75″ above the floor, centered over furnishings or architectural details you wish to accentuate. Align symmetrical sconce pairs with artwork/mirrors or position them above bedside tables or repetitive built-in cabinetry.

Introduce metallic finishes like antique brass, dark rubbed bronze, or aged iron that reference other décor detail finishes to strengthen cohesion. Play with modern angular forms, classic candle, and gas lamp shapes, or natural materials like woven wicker and stained wood for a variety of styles.


  • Use plug-in swing arm or puck light sconces when hardwiring isn’t practical
  • Mount 60-75″ above the floor, centered over details to accent
  • Align symmetrically over beds, built-ins, and artwork
  • Complement or match other metallic finishes in the space
  • Select classic, modern, or natural styles fitting your décor

Pendants Proclaim Stylish Statements

Showstopper Focal Lighting with Pendants

A kitchen with a center island and stylish stools.
A white kitchen with a marble island and stools, beautifully lit by sconces for elegant decor.
A kitchen with a large island, stools, and stylish lighting sconces.
A kitchen with a glass pendant light over the island providing stylish lighting.

Pendants make showstopping focal points when thoughtfully situated over islands, dining tables, seating areas, or developer solos floating in open-concept floor plans.

Solid sculptural pendants crafted from metal, glass, and natural materials project bold shadows that are certain to draw attention. Ensure ample overhead clearance so these statement pieces avoid feeling cramped.

For the best sight lines, allow 30-36 inches from the pendant’s outer edges to the edges of surrounding countertops or furnishings below. Position single pendants centered over dining tables, islands, or lounge seating. Align row pendants systematically over kitchen peninsulas, bars and extensive islands at consistent intervals.

Choose clear bulb types like filament, Candle Imposters, or tubular LEDs to put the glare-free spotlight entirely on gorgeous pendant fixtures themselves.


  • Pendants centered over islands, tables, and floats draw attention
  • Allow proper overhead and outer edge clearance
  • Align rows at consistent intervals
  • Showcase pretty pendants with clear, glare-free bulbs

String Lights Dazzle and Delight

Set the Scene with Festoon Lighting

A well-appointed bookcase with beautiful lighting sconces, adorned with an impressive collection of books, serving as both functional storage and stylish décor.
A bookshelf adorned with decorative lighting, sconces, and a touch of floral décor.
A book shelf with vibrant lighting décor.
A living room with bookshelves lit up with colorful lights, enhancing the décor.

Nothing transcends time or trends quite like the romantic, playful quality string lights bring to both indoor and outdoor spaces. Draped in trees and overhangs outdoors and poetically arranged indoors, string lights immediately dial up the charm factor, setting an irresistibly playful mood.

Outdoors, neatly secure weather-resistant string light strands to tree branches, fences, pergolas, and exterior walls using insulated staples or hook clips to prevent sagging. Choose solar-powered or timer-controlled options for a carefree ambiance at night.

Inside, creatively crisscross string lights through built-in bookshelves, over kitchen islands, above bed headboards, surrounding canopy beds or in entertainment nooks. Use command hooks, small nails, or wire staples to tack them neatly in place.

LED bulb string lights are affordable to operate, long-lasting, shatterproof and cool burning. Choose warm white colors like soft pink or yellow for intimate bedroom lighting or multicolored strands to dial up playfulness around entertainment nooks and teen hangouts.


  • String lights magically dial up the charm factor
  • Use timer/solar power for a carefree outdoor ambiance
  • Crisscross inside over islands, beds, and built-ins creatively
  • LEDs are affordable, long lasting, shatterproof
  • Select color tones to fit each space’s purpose and mood

Understand Your Light Source

Smart, Energy-Efficient Bulb-Picking

A brown leather chair in front of a black wall, enhancing the decor with sconces for lighting.
A brown leather chair with pendant lights in front of a wooden wall decorated with décor.
A brown leather chair with a lamp in front of it, providing cozy lighting and enhancing the décor.
A leather chair next to a lamp, creating a cozy ambiance in the dark room.

The bulb shapes, bases, intensities (wattages), color temperatures, and dimmability you select significantly impact a lighting fixture’s functionality and ambient effect. Match bulbs thoughtfully to shades, sockets, and activities.

Opt for LED bulbs whenever possible for exceptional energy efficiency, longevity and eco-friendliness. Choose warm 2700-3000K or bright daylight 5000-6500K color temperatures to fit activities from relaxation to task lighting needs.

Match bulb wattages to fixture sizes, avoiding over/underpowering. For example, use 25-watt candelabra-base bulbs with small sconces and 60-100-watt medium-base bulbs for larger chandeliers. 40-60 watt bulbs suit most table and floor lamps.

Check lamp and fixture labels for compatibility with dimmers, timers, and smart home systems if advanced controls may be desirable. Where safety allows, choose shatterproof LEDs or CFLs over fragile incandescent and halogen bulbs.

Takeaway Tips:

  • Choose energy-efficient, long-lasting LED bulbs
  • Match color temps and wattages to space uses
  • Confirm remote control/dimming capabilities if needed
  • Select shatterproof bulbs for durability and safety

Mindful Positioning Principles

Location, Location, Location Matters

More than almost any other detail, lighting fixture positioning impacts functionality and ambiance. The most thoughtfully-selected sconces, pendants, and string lights will underwhelm if poorly situated.

Mind lamp clearance when positioning fixtures to avoid unpleasant glare. Allow ample overhead space for pendants depending on suspension lengths. Consider visual sight lines from seated perspectives for best pendant viewing.

Map out electrical supply points in advance when planning plug-in sconces, string lights, etc. Compare to architectural details, furnishings plans, and activity zones you’ll illuminate for ideal positioning.

Account for light spread distances and angles unique to each fixture shape when spacing sconces down a wall or positioning pendants over peninsulas to cast light where it’s needed most.

Takeaway Tips:

  • Mind overhead/lamp clearance to prevent glare
  • Map electrical points before finalizing plans
  • Account for unique light spread/range for even illumination
  • Symmetrically position pairs over focal points

Play with Lighting Looks

Experiment with Adjustable Fixtures

An aerial view of a living room with stylish décor and captivating lighting from sconces.
A living room with a couch and a coffee table, illuminated by stylish sconces for ambient lighting.
A living room with stylish décor, cozy couches, and an elegant chandelier as the focal point of its lighting.
A large living room with comfortable couches, exquisite décor, and a warm fireplace for cozy lighting.

Modern lighting technology makes experimenting with various looks easier than ever before. Consider fixtures offering adjustable arms, stems, shades, and directional lighting that enables you to tweak positions as needed.

Flexible “gooseneck” stems, pendants and sconce arms allow aiming light precisely where desired, such as activities, furnishings, and needs change. Rotate shades to redirect downlighting or up-lighting onto the ceiling and walls.

Dimmers afford dialing brightness up and down to set desired mood levels. Smart bulbs and app-controlled fixtures empower programming colorful, dimmable lighting groups from your smartphone.

So, rather than permanently installing every light on day one, have some fun playing around with adjustable pieces first. Note what positioning provides the most useful task lighting, then artfully accentuate with directional fixtures.

Takeaway Tips:

  • Gooseneck stems, and arms adjust light direction
  • Rotate shades to redirect lighting
  • Use dimmers to set mood brightness
  • App control color changing & dimming
  • Experiment with adjustable pieces before permanently installing

Layer in Light

Achieve Depth with Multiple Fixtures

A white couch illuminated by sconces in a tastefully decorated living room.
A modern living room with stylish decor and ambient lighting.

While an ambient chandelier alone technically provides adequate overall illumination, spaces lit with just a single central fixture tend to look flat and feel dark around the edges.

By thoughtfully layering in multiple sources around the room– both mounted and portable freestanding lamps– you can transform that “flatness” into a welcoming sense of depth that feels warmer, richer, and more evenly lit wall-to-wall.

Try flanking a hanging dining fixture with a pair of matching sconces mounted neatly behind each end of a hutch or sideboard buffet piece.

Complement recessed can lighting in a living room with table lamps beside sofa seating and floor lamps in corners to provide cozy illumination scalloping down walls.

Have fun mixing materials, colors, and lamp styles eclectically to infuse rooms with dimensional brightness and your unique lighting personality.

Takeaway Tips:

  • Layer fixtures to create depth & dimension
  • Flank hangings with matching sconces
  • Supplement recessed/overheads with lamps
  • Mix styles and materials eclectically

Reflect Light Bounce

Effect With Mirrors

A dining room with an elegant chandelier, providing stunning lighting and a touch of glamour to the décor.
A modern dining room with stunning lighting, including a large chandelier.
A dining room table with red chairs and a chandelier providing elegant lighting.
A dining room with a chandelier and decorative lighting fixtures.

Strategically positioned mirrors essentially double the brightening impact of lighting fixtures through reflection and light amplification.

Hang mirror pendants to reflect chandelier or recessed can lighting from above down onto surfaces below. Position mirrors behind lamp sources to bounce additional illumination forward into the room.

Frame small mirrors with wall sconces or string lights to emphasize sparkling reflections. Lean floor mirrors against walls washed in wall sconce lighting or behind sofa groupings illuminated by table lamps.

Up-lit wall mirrors over fireplace mantels or Art Deco-style mirror strips installed near ceilings redirect stolen borrowed light from sconces below up walls, brightening rooms with an illuminated glow.

Takeaway Tips:

  • Mirror pendants reflect overhead lighting downwards
  • Place mirrors behind lamps to bounce light forwards
  • Frame mirrors with sconces & strings to emphasize
  • Up-light mirrors to bounce illumination upwards

Recommended Unique

Decorative Lighting Fixtures

  1. Orb Pendant Light by Visual Comfort – A handmade metallic orb with an opening revealing an Edison-style lightbulb inside makes a strikingly modern statement suspended as a dining fixture or above lounge seating.
  2. Set of 2 Bronze Swing Arm Wall Lamps by Lightsinhome – Adjustable plug-in swing arm sconces with rectangular shades work perfectly, flanking a bed or sofa. Warm bronze finish and linen shades complement both traditional and modern décor.
  3. Outdoor String Lights by Brightown – Durable waterproof string lights with shatterproof LED bulbs brighten and beautify patios, trees, and entryways for all seasons. Timer-controlled for carefree ambiance at night.
  4. Matilda Crystal Chandelier by Kathy Kuo Home – A glamorous mix of modern and traditional, this sparkling LED chandelier centers any space with shine and style. Acrylic crystal strands dazzle brightly.
  5. Oliver Galaxy Pendant by Lamps Plus – Hundreds of small mirrored discs reflect light elegantly. Chrome finish offers a contemporary style. Suspend singularly or in multiples over dining tables, kitchen islands, and more.
  6. Ribbed Glass Vintage Edison Pendants by Floran – Add industrial edge with these caged glass pendants housing visible filament-style bulbs. Suspend over breakfast nooks or use rows over a kitchen peninsula.
  7. Color Changing LED Strip Lights by OLLNYA – Affordable LED sticky strip lighting brightens shelving, cabinets, headboards and display nooks seamlessly. Sync color changes to music or ambient sounds easily.
  8. 3-Light Geometric Chandelier by Home Depot – Faceted black frames speckled with clear acrylic beads catch and reflect light from three included LED bulbs. Makes a chic statement in modern dining rooms.
  9. Plug-In Industrial Swing Arm by Design House – The matte black cage pendant adapts vintage Edison-bulb style into any space without wiring. Clips onto surfaces and plug outlet powered.
  10. Battery Operated Flameless Candelabra Set by Elegant Designs – Realistic taper candles designed for candleholders with convenient tap-on/tap-off battery power operation for atmospheres with children/pets.


Lighting presents endless opportunities to infuse spaces with style, dimension, and your unique personality. Thoughtfully placed pendants, sconces, and string fixtures provide dramatic focal points, illuminate key areas, and set magical mood ambiance. 

By following fundamental lighting layout basics, selecting cohesive fixture variations, and positioning pieces advantageously, you can artfully showcase the textures, colors, and details of your distinctive décor using creative lighting choices that dazzle and delight.

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