Chances are that your living room is the biggest room in your home. It is the place where you want to impress your guests with your taste and style. You also want them to relax in a warm and cosy environment. The easiest way to create the right mood is by using the right lighting in the room.
It's best if you plan the decor of your living room with the lighting in mind. The most important fixture for creating the right mood is the table lamp. So place table lamps in strategic places like the side tables on either side of your sofa or next to the armchair where you like to sit and read. You can also place table lamps on a sideboard, a wet bar or a chest. Table lamps act like accent lights, lighting up only their surrounding areas. They create interest in the room because there are pockets of light and shadow and the different areas in the room are lit selectively. If your room only had a ceiling light, the entire room would be uniformly and, perhaps, quite brightly lit, creating an uninviting, cold feel.
If you have a nice plant in the room, try placing a small lamp near it and watch how the leaves cast interesting shadows on the walls. Lampshades too can add to the mood as they cast soft and diffused light. Sometimes the unique shape and patterns on the lamps and their shades elevate the lamps themselves from a functional purpose to an aesthetic statement.
A floor lamp with an up light can also be placed in the corner of the room to highlight a ceiling detail. If you have painting or pictures on the walls, use spotlights to focus on them.
If your living room is also where your children occasionally do their homework, then supplement the lamps with a ceiling fixture. If the kids do their assignments on the coffee table then a fixture directly above the table is a good idea as the light will also be in the center of your seating area and won't look out of place. But don't forget to use dimmers, particularly on the ceiling lights, as you can control the brightness of the light and thus control the ambiance in the room.
If you have a TV in the room, make sure there's no glare on the screen from any of the lights. This can be controlled by placing a table or desk lamp next to or behind the TV.
The next thing to do is to carefully select the bulbs. Unlike the kitchen or bathroom, the color of the light in the living room should be warm and yellow not stark white so choose the light bulbs accordingly. CFL (Compact Fluorescent Lights) and LEDs are more energy-efficient than conventional incandescent bulbs and can result in significant savings in the long run.
Finally, on the day that you are entertaining guests, use only your lamps and spotlights and perhaps light a few candles in the room to create added intimacy. The ceiling light should remain switched off.