lighting in our home

Marian ParsonsDecorating22 Comments

As I’ve been sharing pictures of my house in the summer home tour and the “evolution of my home” series, I’ve been asked a few times about lamps.  Or the lack there of, to be more accurate.  It’s not that I dislike lamps.  I think it goes back to the previous homes and apartments we’ve lived in.  NONE of them had overhead lights!  It drove me nuts.  That meant that you had to have eight lamps turned on in a room to get decent light.  So, unless you had an outlet on a switch, that involved walking into a room and click-click-click-click-click…you get the idea.  It also meant finding all of those lamps and shades to coordinate, which is challenging when your home decor comes from thrift stores and yard sales.

In our townhouse, we addressed the issue by installing pot/recessed lights in the kitchen and family room.  I loved having that all-over wash of light to supplement the task lighting that came from lamps and under-the-cabinet puck lights.

This house has overhead lighting in every room and I don’t feel the need to have lamps all over the place.  We did have a few, but I removed almost all of them when my boys were in the creeping stage. I was concerned with one of them tugging on a cord and pulling a lamp down on their head and I just got used to not having them.

We have one lamp by the front door that is plugged into an outlet on a switch.


We also have a pair of lamps on our bedside tables for reading and for a light an arm’s reach away.


Miss Mustard Seed-28-2


We also have small reading lights over the boy’s beds.  These lights are on a dimmer, which is handy when one boy wants to read and the other is ready for bed.




And, after my father-in-law showed up one visit with his own reading lamp, I put sconces in the guest room.  These lights are a bit of a pain, though, because the switch is at the bottom of the brass cord cover, which means it’s almost on the floor.  Apparently you can get plug-in remotes for this sort of scenario, so I need to look into that.



My in-laws like to read in bed and, since they are our most frequent guests, the reading lights were important.


Otherwise, all of our lighting is overhead.

One thing I would like to do is add an outlet in the floor under the sofa, so we could put a lamp on the sofa side tables.  Jeff’s not 100% on board with that one and it’s not something I’m too hot to do, so I’m fine with that.  The overhead lighting in the kitchen and family room are on dimmers, so we’re able to have them at a good level for the time of day.


The truth is that I work on my computer and watch TV more than I curl up with a book.  I love to read, but I get a wee bit obsessed when I get into a book and am basically useless.  I have no self control and I’ll sneak reading in every second until the book is finished.  Jeff mostly listens to audio books or reads on his iPad, so he’s not asking for more lamps in the house.

If we ever do build a home from scratch, lighting is something that would be at the top of my list for designing carefully, thinking through the function of each room.  My ideal space would have a wash of light from recessed pot lights supplemented with task lights as well as ambient lighting.  That’s not going to happen in this house without some serious holes being put into the plaster as well as holes cut in the floorboards, so we’re just going to leave things as they are.

lighting in our home

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22 Comments on “lighting in our home”

  1. Lighting can be SO hard, but it makes such a big difference. When we moved into our home, the only light in the kitchen was one overhead light in the center of the room, and a task light (inexpensive and not very pretty track lighting) over the sink. It’s a north facing room, so there wasn’t a lot of light coming through the windows, especially in the winter months when the sun sets so early. My husband installed recessed pot lights (when we tore out all the drywall in the ceiling, not a necessary step for the lighting, but it sure made it easier). The lights are on a dimmer and it made such a HUGE difference. Washing a space in light makes it so much more inviting.

  2. Marian,
    Do look into the remote switches, you will love them. I have one in the sunroom to turn on 2 table lamps and the floorlamp. It saved an electrician and removing beadboard wainscoat to get at wires. The switch looks like a regular switch only an inch thicker, fastened with 2 screws. Easy.
    the other one controls the lighted china hutch in the diningroom. it sets ontop of the fridge and I can turn that light on from kitchen and don’t need to open /close doors every time.
    We also have remotes they sell for turning on Christmas lights without crawling under the tree. We even control the little trees on front porch from inside.
    Ps wife and I had fun with your visit to Sun Prairie WI.

  3. Thanks for answering that question! I was one that wondered because I do read, and need a lot of light, but it seemed lovely not to have to lamps everywhere.

  4. Oh I love lamps so much more than overhead lighting! We rarely use the overhead light in our great room, preferring the ambiance of lamps. Of course pretty lighting over a dining table is a must and in the kitchen and bath.

  5. First of all, loved this post (especially the story about your father-in-law bringing his own reading lamp)! I have discovered that I am a mostly overhead lighting/ talk lighting person. Growing up in a time/ family where lamps were EVERYWHERE, I have felt a little guilty about my lack of them around the house. You have now allowed me to embrace the minimalism in this area!

    Second, what paint color did you use in your sons’ bedroom? We are moving to a new house in a month and my son requested a blue room. I love the sophistication of that color, but it is still boyish.

    I am new to your blog (been reading about a month) and am a HUGE fan already! Keep up the amazing work!



  6. I am always interested in what other people choose for lighting in their homes. I have overhead lighting in most of my rooms as well but sometimes feel like these lights throw weird shadows in the taller rooms, so then I putting lamps all over the place. Just like anything, I guess its a balance. I do love a well-placed floor or table lamp, though. Have you ever re-wired any old lamps?

  7. I think outlets in the floor would be nice too. I saw them with a cover so they blended with the hardwood floor when not in use. If I built a custom home I would choose this option.

  8. Thanks for sharing about this aspect of your home. We have lamps in our living room, which I love. As a teacher, I am bombarded with harsh fluorescent light all day, so by the evening, I much prefer the “quiet” light of lamps. We also have lots of natural light during the day, which I am so thankful for! Lighting can make a big difference, for sure.

  9. Have a look at touch lamp adapters. I found an antique brass lamp that had a
    broken pull cord and just added a touch adapter that screws into the socket for a
    super quick fix for about $8. The adapter is hidden by the shade. There are also
    versions that plug in to the wall outlet and work with non-metal lamps. Many LED
    bulbs come with colour-changing features and remotes. So many options.

  10. The best investment I ever made was the under counter LED lighting in my kitchen. Often it is the only light I use in the kitchen and it doubled my usable work space. My SIL even put it on a switch so I can turn it on and off with a switch…but honestly, it rarely gets turned off…it is now our “night light.” LOVE! I wanted to put pot/recess lighting in there for years. I am glad I went with the under counter lighting!

  11. I agree with reading. If I start a book I’m done. My kids will say, “Mom needs an intervention for reading’!”

  12. I’m just the opposite- I need a lamp near every chair in case someone wants to sit and read- and- I like there to be pools of light so the corners aren’t in shadows .Overhead lights cast serious shadows that I don’t like at all..And next time I go to my daughtere’s to babysit- I am bringing my own light tooo, just like your father-in-law did..It’s impossible to read there- one dinky light behind the sofa, a celing light and that’s it in a room that has to be 30 ‘long!

  13. I enjoyed the post. I’m in the lamp camp–I despise our canned or pot or whatever-they’re-called lights. Overhead lighting is unflattering, compared to the gentle light that lamps cast, in my humble opinion and, at my age, I need all the help that I can get. My husband has no idea why I hate it when he turns them on and I think he does it to drive me nuts half the time.

  14. Did you ever share where the boys little lights came from? It might be just the ticket for my son’s loft bed. Thank you.

  15. Well, each to his own! It’s interesting how we all differ in the ways we experience certain types of lighting in our homes. I have never liked overhead lighting. It has always seemed harsh and glaring. I much prefer the softer, more confined light of a lamp. But maybe that’s just because I’ve never lived in a house with GOOD over-head lighting, like on a dimmer, perhaps. I certainly do recognize the effort to keep little folks from hurting themselves with plugs, cords or lamps. And if you can’t watch them every last minute, which most of us haven’t been able to do, then you must make their surroundings safe.

    Anyway, I think either way you go, just for the sake of the beauty of a quality, well-chosen lamp, it’s nice to have a couple or more around the house. I actually love looking at the design and materials of lamps, but as you say, Marian, when furnishing from thrift stores and yard sales, it’s not always easy to find something you like or that complements your other furnishings. I am always astounded at how many really UGLY, horribly-designed lamps exist in the world! And they’re not all in thrift shops! Sometimes it takes a long time to find one that you love and want to live with. In the end, I think it’s okay to prefer lamps or to prefer overhead lighting, as long as you can see adequately for what you are doing, who really should care?

  16. I have just made rhe arrangements to have an outlet installed in the floor under my family room sofa. I found a brass colored, pop up outlet that has a phone cord type jack along with two sockets. I can’t wait to have it done. It will be so much nicer than the 6 plug extension currently peeking out from the back of the sofa

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