How to illuminate your furniture with good lighting design

The best lighting doesn't just show you the way – it’s also great for showcasing your favourite furniture! Find out how to make your sofa shine and your shelving sparkle, with these clever lighting tricks...


Illuminating your furniture: some basic principles

The best lighting schemes use a combination of different types of lighting – this is known as layering light. There are three main types of lighting: ambient lighting, task lighting and accent lighting:

Ambient lighting is the starting point for any lighting scheme. It refers to the general overall illumination in a room, including the main light (often a ceiling light) and any available natural light.

Meanwhile, task lighting is targeted lighting for carrying out specific tasks, such as reading, cooking or working. Task lighting can include floor lamps, table lamps, swing arm lights and reading lamps.

Finally, accent lighting is used to create mood and atmosphere and to highlight features or objects within a room, including furniture. Accent lighting might include floor and table lamps, picture lights and cabinet lighting.

By using a range of different light sources, you can provide a baseline of general ambient and practical task lighting, before going on to create highlights and focal points within your space. Find out more about layering light in our expert guide.

Slider floor lamp - Photo: Diana Civil


How to illuminate sofas and armchairs

A sofa is an integral part of the sitting room – a place to sit and chat, read, watch TV or enjoy a family movie (or a glass of wine when the kids have gone to bed!) – and a beautiful sofa can be quite an investment. So it’s only right that your sofa should take pride of place when it comes to your lighting scheme.

Overhead lighting such as pendant lights or recessed lights will provide plenty of general ambient light, and if you have adjustable overhead lights they can be positioned so that they direct light at the sofa and also the wall behind, creating a soft ambient glow. Additional task and accent lighting can then be provided in the form of table lamps, floor lamps and wall lights.

A set of table lamps will offer plenty of practical light for reading, doing a spot of work, or other tasks. Try positioning a pair of matching designer table lamps on a console or side table either side of, or slightly behind, your sofa. This will frame the sofa beautifully, while adding a lovely warm, decorative element.

Meanwhile, lighting a sofa from behind is a very effective way of creating highlights and accents, and standing floor lamps offer a very versatile way of doing this. A designer floor lamp or two will cast a lovely light on your sofa while also providing plenty of useful task lighting. They’re also a good option where there may not be enough space for a side table. Floor lamps are also striking objects in their own right, and are great for making a statement – try placing an arch style floor lamp above the middle of the sofa in place of an overhead light, or sit an eye-catching reading floor lamp next to a favourite armchair to create a dedicated chill-out zone.

Finally, wall lights and sconces are a great choice for creating mood, atmosphere and balance. A set of matching wall lights will provide a lovely warm ambient glow, which will set off the sofa and surrounding area. For some more targeted lighting, a swing arm wall light will direct the light exactly where you want it. Wall lights come in a huge range of different shapes, styles and materials, from traditional candle style sconces to sleek modern numbers, so there’s something to suit every space.

Swing articulated floor lamp.  Photo: @manwithahammer


How to light a dining table

A dining table is another key item of furniture in a home, and knowing how to illuminate your table effectively can really help to make it shine. Whether you have a separate dining room, an open plan living-kitchen-dining space or something in between, your table is a focal point of the dining area and your lighting design should be based around it.

A dining table is often a multipurpose space, including a space for working, a place to share family meals, or a more formal space for dinner parties and entertaining. Layering your lighting will allow you to vary the type and amount of light according to your needs, so that you have plenty of light during the day for working or feeding the kids, and can then dial things down in the evening to create a softer, more intimate atmosphere.

Pendant lights and chandeliers are perfect for setting off a dining table, and will provide a good even spread of ambient light – not to mention a touch of drama! A striking pendant or elaborate chandelier hung over the dining table is a great opportunity for a style statement, and is also a good way of helping to define and highlight the dining area within a more open plan space.

For smaller tables, a single central pendant will provide plenty of light, while for a more extended table you could opt for an oversized pendant or a row of lights (odd numbers of three or five work best). Or for some added drama, try a cluster of multiple lights of different sizes and heights. Your light fitting should hang fairly low over the table to provide a warm, comfortable glow – aim for the bottom of the light to sit around 36 inches above the table. View our range of designer pendant lights and chandeliers.

In addition to overhead lighting, or where this isn’t an option, you can use a range of other options to illuminate your dining table and provide a cosy and intimate vibe. Floor lamps and table lamps offer a gentle, more flattering alternative to ceiling lights. For a striking statement, position a single arch floor lamp to cast light directly over the table. Meanwhile, a set of decorative table lamps on a nearby stand or sideboard will create additional accents and ambience.

Finally, don’t underestimate the power of the dimmer – installing a series of dimmer switches will allow you to adjust your lighting to just the right levels.

Aquila pendant lights. Photo: Barbara Ramani


Illuminating cupboards and shelving

You can also use some well-placed lighting to illuminate decorative cupboards and shelving. This will not only serve to highlight your favourite pieces, but will also create a focal point and add depth and interest within the wider space.

Glass cabinets in the dining area or sitting room can really be brought to life with some recessed lighting or uplighters to make them sparkle, while a set of table lamps will draw the eye and add a sense of warmth and depth to cupboards and bookcases.

Pooky's portable cordless designer table lamps look perfectly at home on a shelf and will cast a lovely warm light, while eliminating the need to worry about cables or plug sockets. (They also look great on a coffee table or dining table – well anywhere, really – and they’re dimmable too!)

When creating accents and highlights within your space, you should also consider the ‘colour temperature’ of your lighting. Different types of light can have warm or cool qualities, and you should aim for a warmer yellow-white light for areas where you want to create warm accents and a relaxing, cosy feel, so be sure to consider your lightbulbs! (Find out more about warm lighting in our guide).

Pooky's rechargeable table lamps - perfect for illuminating shelves and out-of-the-way spots


Browse Pooky's affordable, beautiful designer lighting and shades here.