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What every Lighting Obsessed Gal (or Guy) Should Know

By 12/12/2013February 24th, 201754 Comments


 Starry Lights

I know, I’m completely obsessed with lighting. It’s hard to escape from a consult with me, without getting suggestions for at least 4 lamps.

The other day, I had spent 1 hour and 45 minutes with a client in an on-line consultation. We had chosen colours, furniture, area rugs, lighting, coffee tables and accessories and she said “Okay, I don’t have any more questions, I love everything you chose for me, I think I’m done”. I said “But we have 15 more minutes”, and she said “You’ve spent all my money virtually already, I need to go shopping now”.

Recently I found the chandelier for my dining room and had it installed. It’s beautiful and I love it!  It’s a mixture of glass and crystals and when it’s lit at night, the shadows from the crystals give the effect of wallpaper in my dining room. Very pretty.

However, the reverse effect can be very bad. I once walked into a clients master bedroom. The room was painted a dark greeny gray colour and she had a flush mount crystal chandelier (similar to this one below). In her huge master bedroom, the effect of the shadows created by the crystals and the colour in the room, well it was just plain BAD.

crystal flush mount


Here’s another example (below). What if it’s installed somewhere, and the effect created by the shadows isn’t pretty? Something to think about when you are choosing this type of lighting.

Glass or paper. That question should be in your mind along with ‘Is the style correct for the space’ while selecting lighting.


One of my clients homes is mostly dark as it’s set in the trees beside a mountain and a previous homeowner had installed OUTDOOR lanterns on the walls in her kitchen and sconces with glass shades in the family room. After I gave her my suggestions for new wall sconces I told her my best tip was to buy lighting with a paper shade instead of glass or crystals.

blue water cafe

A perfect example of this was the restaurant I was in recently. Terreeia’s clients took us out for a champagne and caviar dinner (it was a celebration) at the Blue Water Cafe in Yaletown. It was completely packed the whole time we were there. And the wall sconce lighting with paper shades gave the restaurant this gorgeous, ambient light.

Lamp shades, my lovelies. . . that is the secret. Here are some wall sconces that don’t need to be hardwired in case you need to add some ASAP:

If you are on a budget, here’s two from IKEA:

IKEA Sconce Lighting


arstid wall lamp

For $19.99 there’s no excuse to live without more lighting.

What everyone should know about Atmosphere


Here’s one from the pottery barn it’s $199. I especially like that you can choose a shade with a blue or pink band. Perfect if you don’t have a large night stand or if you have a sectional in a corner with no room for a floor or table lamp.

swing arm light This one is $166. A simple, transitional design that goes pretty much anywhere.

Advice for the Lighting Obsessed


For anyone that’s into brass, here’s one for $170.

circa lighting


And here’s one in oil-rubbed bronze for $265. It also comes in other finishes.

Then if you need to add some lighting, it could look like this:

jeffrey bilhuberor this. Click on images to get to the source.

Jeffrey Bilhuber

or this:

jeffrey bilhuber yellow

What about you? Have you ever installed a light and were bitterly disappointed when you turned it on at night?

Related posts:

The Enchanting World of Atmosphere

How to Create Instant Atmosphere in your New House

Atmosphere: The One Thing you Cannot Buy

If you would like your home to fill you with happiness every time you walk up to the front door, become a client. On-line or In-person.

Download my eBookHow to Choose Paint Colours – It’s All in the Undertones to get my complete step-by-step system on how to get colour to do what you want and to make sure the undertones in your home are right, get some large samples!

If you would like to learn how to choose colour with confidence, become a True Colour Expert. 

26 pins


  • Elizabeth says:

    My problem with chandeliers and sconces that have paper or fabric lampshades is dust. You can never really clean the fabric ones. They get icky over time.

  • Kathy says:

    Yes. Two wall sconces with paper shades using a candelabra type bulb (on either side of a doorway in the formal living room). Above it on the wall and ceiling you saw the shadows of the wires from the inside of the shade reflected. But thanks to you mentioning the use of soft light bulbs versus clear ones, we switched the bulb to a soft one and this ugly shadow effect went away. Thank you Maria!

  • Loribeth says:

    The second to last picture answered my question. I have lamps on table on both ends of my sofa, but I don’t have enough light from either of them to read at night. Now I know it’s okay to add two wall sconces without it looking odd.

  • Cathy Z says:

    Maria, speaking of lighting, have you seen Ikea’s new RANARP floor lamp? I just bought it yesterday for my dining room paired with a traditional settee and it’s awesome! Perfect amount of industrial in a beautiful flat white, cute touches of brass and even the black and white cord is adorable! And no, I’m not getting paid for this comment – I wish! 🙂

  • Lynn says:

    Here’s another link to sconces for the “budget-minded” :
    I bought these ($19.95/ea) for either side of the bed and am very pleased with them. I only wish I had spray painted them oiled or hammered bronze first.

  • Jill Baum says:

    I have every single light in my house on dimmer switches. Instant ambiance.

    • Fran says:

      I also have most of my lights on dimmer switches, even the ones in my bathrooms. As you said, instant ambiance!

  • Mary says:

    I’m on the lookout for a chandelier for over my dining table. Currently I have a dark drum shade over the table but it doesn’t light the room. It just casts light down onto the table.
    Over the last several years you have made me more aware of how important good lighting is. I never paid much attention to it before.

  • Debbie says:

    I always put my fabric lamp shades in the shower to wash off the dust and set them on a towel to dry. I have been doing this for many years and it works great. Give them a quick rinse, shake off and let them dry.

  • franki says:

    Guess that is why I enjoy crystal chandeliers, lamps, etc. as during the day there are “rainbows” and at night “stars.” 🙂 franki

  • Beth says:

    I have the table lamp version of the first Ikea lamp you posted, and have seen a pair in a client’s high-end contemporary home. The weaving is very pretty and the table lamp height can be adjusted. (They used to have a brown shade as well, maybe still do, though of course it doesn’t let much light through.)

  • Susan says:

    My family refers to me as a “lamp tramp”.
    My husband is an enabler with his devotion to dimmer switches. Recently, I changed out chandelier shades from fabric to pearl mica and am enamored with the glow. On occasion, I’ve changed white shades to off-white by making shade “slipcovers”. Changing light bulb type can make a world of difference.

  • Suzanne Stimik says:

    such a good post///lighting IS the key to any desired kind of ambiance! Thanks for the reminder.

  • Vered Rosen says:

    Maria, I totally agree on the fabric vs glass point. I think fabric diffuses light in a much softer way then frosted or clear glass. The point about how the same light fixture can look great in one room and not in another is really good, and making sure it’s going to look great both when the light is off and when they are on can be tricky sometimes.

  • Cat says:

    Hello Maria. Just a few questions about lighting. Can you mix lamp shade colours and styles within a room? I’m always frustrated when I get a nice lamp home and when you turn them on at night – the shades cast a very different glow – to the point, you notice they are different. Does anything (other than the shade colour) have to match – dark metal, glass, style?) Other than buying sets, how do you achieve a pulled together look rather than a “oh, she has 5 different lamps in this room and they all fight with each other look.”

    • Maria Killam says:

      I think it’s okay to have black shades for example in an entry where you’re only going to see those lights. Most lamp shades should be off-white, this way when you have 5 or 6 lamps in a room, you are noticing the atmosphere not the different coloured lampshades.

  • Maggie S says:

    When I moved into my new house I had 5 very large, very old fans (bedrooms and kitchen) since I have air-conditioning I don’t need those giant fans.
    I switched them out for a ALANG ceiling lights from Ikea. At 29.99 for small or 39.99 for the large that are the PERFECT place holder lights.
    I like them so much that I plan on keeping the small ones for my upper hall when I re-do the bedrooms.

  • Cat says:

    Quick question about dining room lamps. I have a modern country look in my house. Darker wood in most rooms. In my dining room, you can see the overhead light and the light in the kitchen. Both are brushed nickel – the one in the south facing kitchen is very nice (five frosted glass shades on the sleeker looking chandelier) but I can’t stand the one in the dining room – single ugly cover. I am changing my kitchen table to be black with black chairs. The appliances will be brushed stainless still. So that ties in (as best as can with honey oak cabinets). However, the furniture in the dining room is a mission style – darker brown. What colour or style of chandelier should I go for – is a dark one too matchy matchy with table (room is dark – faces north) and would that look odd with a lighter fixture that you can see in the next room? Is a pretty glass chandelier too fancy for a country style house?

    • Hi Maria,
      Adding to Cat’s questions, do light features have to be the same finished in a home where is kind of open plan? Or is it ok to mix a little as long as they relate in the style?
      Thank you

      • Maria Killam says:

        Veronica, I think it’s works to mix them up but it’s a custom situation for sure.

        Cat, it’s very hard to give advice that you could do anything with, without seeing images, etc. I think you could have a glass chandelier in a countrified house.

  • Lin says:

    That crystal mount light was all over my parents home in the ’60s I can’t believe it made it around again!

  • SandyCGC says:

    Timely post, Maria, as I sit here at my desk with only 3 lamps and the dining room windows to see by because the ancient overhead with its 6 round bulbs and one “flood” in the center was never meant to be lit all day, the bulbs burn out constantly and I haven’t gotten the electrician to hang the new fixture yet. Definitely need more lamps in my living room – only have three placed and one which I drag around – not sure wall lamps would work – not much wall – but great ideas to spark creativity. Can understand Cat’s concerns about lamp shades and you’re right, Maria; they are so KEY. Remember a post you did sometime ago about a client who brought home the perfect standing lamp only to turn it on at night and find that the light cast upward by the shade was totally awful. I’ve used the lesson in that post several times, and sometimes a favorite has to go back or be used somewhere else.

  • I clean all my lampshades regularly with a Swiffer on a wand. I have lots of lamps with great shades, but my big issue now is with the phase out of incandescent bulbs. Maria, I’d love to hear your take on all the new lighting options as they relate to color and atmosphere. Things are getting better, but I’m still not happy. I continue to buy and hoard 50-100-150 3-way incandescent bulbs for all my lamps!

    • Maria Killam says:

      I hate the new CFL lights, I was recently at a clients home where that was mostly what she had so I installed it in a standing lamp in the entry, it cast a terrible, white, sickly light. I immediately removed it and we installed an incandescent one which was perfect.
      I’m stocking up on them for sure. Maria

      • Diane G. says:

        The incandescent bulbs are absolutely hideous. What a slap in the face to those of us who love soft flattering light…(yes, I’m ‘of a certain age!’)
        A few years ago, there were 2 great decorators in Houston, who always insisted on dimmers everywhere and also preferred pink light bulbs..just beautiful!

      • Sylvia says:

        Was just reading up about this online, but has anyone actually used these LED lights? How did they look?

        60 watt incandescent bulb = 2800 k and 840 lumens

        100 watt incandescent bulb = 2870 k and 1750 lumens

        GE’s energy smart LED bulbs are 3000 k (close?) whereas Switch Lighting is 4100 k (much cooler).

  • Vered Rosen says:

    Btw, I would love it if you posted more on lighting. Such an important and interesting topic!

  • Jill McDougall says:

    I’m loving your line: “It’s hard to escape from a consult with me, without getting suggestions for at least 4 lamps.”

    Thank you for all these lighting ideas!!


  • Connie says:

    This is so timely. Our dining room chandelier is often too bright. Adding 2 sconces on another wall would solve this perfectly!

  • mrs. c says:

    The color of the shade and the color and wattage of bulbs greatly affect how color is perceived. Could you she some light (!) on this subject please?

    • Maria Killam says:

      Yes buy 25, 40 and 60 and experiment until it’s right for the lamp in question. off-white is usually the best as I mentioned already. Different colours of shades are okay if you can’t see 5 of them at the same time.

  • Sarah says:

    Thank you for this timely post, Maria. We’ll soon be planning the hardwired lighting for our remodel. Since we’re dealing with such a small space there will likely be several wall sconces. Does anyone have any tips or guidelines for where to place them? It looks like approximately shoulder height while seated or while standing, but I’ve not found any specific rules through google searches.

  • Cat says:

    Just checking to see if Marias responded and I see I don’t type very well without reading glasses….steel not still. This decorating business sure involves a lot of coordinating …I have lots of nice stuff but not sure if they go anymore. I heard that you should only fill your house with things you love but … I love an awful lot of things and after a while, its hard to know if they go together or not. I don’t have clutter but I am not sure if they blend or not. Colour isn’t the only determining factor. I was once told that its ok to leave things in the store and admire them there…lol.

  • Lisa says:

    The restaurant sconces look great! Very inviting.

    Do you have a favorite wattage?

    (I’ve been stocking up on regular light bulbs. The new ugly CFL light bulbs contain mercury!)



  • Janice says:

    LED has been my solution to lighting issues in my home and you can even put dimmers on LED. I found I had plenty of lamps/lights etc but using 40 or 60 watt incandescent or CFL could just not match the light provided by LED. Great post!

  • Beth B. says:

    I notice that clear light bulbs can make some very unflattering and strange shadows on a wall or ceiling, so I stay away from those unless the bulb is going to be very visible, like in some industrial styles, then I love the Edison bulbs.

  • Beth B. says:

    And yes, I agree, I also stocked up on 100 watt incandescent bulbs before they (sadly) went away!

  • Randy Reid says:

    Thanks for this great post. We featured you on our News of the day at LEDs are definitely the way to go. They’re energy-efficient and mimic the incandescent. They also don’t flicker like CFLs.

  • Paula Van Hoogen says:

    Yep, whatever she spent “virtually” needs to be reconsidered….nothing looks right without the right lighting.

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