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How Much Light (Watts) Does a Room Need?

Posted on April 14, 2023 by KylieMawdsley
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How to FIX a Dark Room – And it Ain’t With Paint!

Partner Post to The Best Light Paint Colours for a Dark Room

Let’s be honest: I’m cute, funny, and amazingly modest. However, I’m NOT a rocket scientist. This being said, I don’t need to be a rocket scientist to realize the following:

Dark rooms aren’t fixed with the right paint colour; they’re fixed with the right lighting. End of story.

That’s right, my friends. If you don’t have the right lighting in your dark room, NO magical paint colour will save you – unless it’s glow-in-the-dark.

Let there be light!

Living room with traditional modern sofa and furnishings, warm paint colour on walls. CLIENT PHOTO before Kylie M Interiors Edesign

Let’s get down to the nitty gritty – how much light YOUR room needs…

 

THE MAGIC FORMULA

Multiply the room’s width by the length, then multiply it by 1.5 – this will give you the watts you need.
w x l x 1.5 = wattage

For example:
8w x 10l = 80 sq ft. 80 x 1.5 = dammit, where’s my calculator.  Right, 120.  So an 8 x 10 room needs 120 watts of light.

Technically, most small rooms (8×10 or smaller) can get away with 120 watts of lighting. However, getting enough wattage in one light fixture can be challenging once you hit the bigger sizes. So what do you do?

Drink wine and cry.

Before we start, I know that many of us still use incandescent bulbs (personally, they’re my fave), whereas others have moved to LEDs (men seem to favor these). I’ve done up this simple chart so you can cross-match your info.

how to convert watts to lumens, conversion chart for decorating and bulbs

 

HOW MUCH LIGHT DOES A SMALL ROOM NEED?

Approx. 80 – 120 SQ FT 

Rooms in this size range need approx. 120-180 watts of light. For this reason, I’m inclined to go ‘the more, the merrier,’ and I would install a light that holds three – 60w bulbs. However, general light fixtures don’t necessarily add ambiance and you may still want to add some accent lighting.

Benjamin Moore October Mist in guest bedroom with upholstered neutral fabric headboard and linens. Best green for bedrooms

A SMALL ROOM WILL NEED…

• At least one light fixture that holds three – 60w bulbs or the equivalent wattage in pot lights.

• Two table lamps for ambiance.

Do you have a booby light that only holds one or two – 60w bulbs? Oh, you are so busted. If so, read thisBudget-Friendly Lighting Update Ideas

 

HOW MUCH LIGHT DOES A MEDIUM-SIZE ROOM NEED?

APPROX. 144 – 180 SQ FT

Rooms in this size range need approx. 215-275 watts of light. Unless it’s a dining room or a room that can hold a chandelier (usually five or more bulbs), you’ll need a central fixture and accent lighting to have it ‘well-lit.’

Benjamin MOore White Dove in coastal, beach, lake style home with white oak floor and quartz countertop. Dining room. Kylie M Interiors online paint color expert.

Don’t be afraid to lower your central/general light (as long as the bottom is at least seven feet from the floor). This can make a space feel brighter, yet more intimate.

A MEDIUM-SIZE ROOM WILL NEED…

  • ONE central light fixture that holds four to six – 60w bulbs.
  • You could also add two table or accent lights that hold 40-60w each.

 How the KELVINS of a Light Bulb Affect Paint Colours

 

HOW MUCH LIGHT DOES A LARGE ROOM NEED?

200 sq ft +

If you have a larger room with only one central light fixture (and don’t plan on hiring an electrician to add pot lights), you’ll need at least three table/floor/accent lights to make up the difference.

Sherwin Williams Kilim Beige, family r

I BET this room doesn’t have enough light! 

Again, w x l x 1.5 = wattage

For example, a room that is 12 x 18 (216 sq ft) x 1.5 technically needs 324 watts. Now, you can get 180 of those via a central light fixture/pot lights; however, you will likely need to supplement with table lamps (60w each), which will get you closer to the mark.

Plus, table lamps and accent lighting add mood and ambiance to a space, so even if you DON’T need the extra wattage, I consider these pieces an essential part of any decorative arsenal, no matter WHAT size the room is.

A LARGE ROOM WILL NEED…

  • ONE central light fixture that holds a minimum of three – 60w bulbs (or pot lighting).
  • THREE table/floor/accent lights that each hold 60-100w (the more, the better).
  • If you have an open layout, like the room shown above, separate each space into functional areas – measure those and then determine the wattage needed.

 

ROOMS THAT ARE LONGER THAN 20 FEET

If you have a room that is LONGER than 20 feet, you may want to cut it in half and then treat the two halves as ‘separate rooms.’ This way, you can light each half of the room, which, as a whole, will create a ‘well-lit room.’

In this next room, with pot lights, two central hanging light fixtures, and table lamps, you can see how the room is split into two sections, making it look well-rounded and well-lit.

Family room with stone fireplace, Sherwin Williams Cyberspace, leather, laminate wood flooring, chartreuse chair. Kylie M INteriors E-design and home

This photo shows how recessed lighting and track lights can define social areas. In between pot lights, track lighting, and accent lighting – this room has it covered!

 

REMEMBER…

Many rooms need a central light or recessed lights, as they’re the lights in charge of the room. These lights light the space whether all of the secondary/accent lights are on or off.

If you don’t have a central light fixture (or pot lights), you must supplement with table and floor lamps that supply your room’s wattage (read below for more).

  • Central or general lights are usually located in the center of the room.
  • Instead of a central or general light, many modern homes have recessed or pot lighting, which, when done correctly, can be as effective as a central light fixture.
  • Every dark room or area (including hallways) should have a general light that holds at least three – 60w bulbs.

 

EVERY ROOM SHOULD HAVE ACCENT LIGHTING 

WHAT IS ACCENT LIGHTING?

Accent or task lighting may include table lamps, floor lamps, wall sconces, recessed/pot lights/under cabinet lighting, etc… and in a pinch, accent lighting with the right wattage will do the job when there isn’t a central light fixture.

Dark wood floor, pink red brick fireplace, greige walls and White Dove in family room or living room. Edesign by Kylie M Interiors, online paint color consultant

Look at all of the accent lighting in this space – MAD LOVE! 

  • Accent lighting is what highlights the features of your home, lets you do specific tasks (task lighting), and creates ambiance. Even if your central light is doing the job, accent lighting just adds to the room’s overall appeal.
  • A white or off-white lampshade will shed a brighter light than a dark or colored lampshade.
  • In the average room, you should have three accents lights, that would create a triangle if you drew a line between them (as shown in the above photo)

And when all else fails, there are TONS of other ways to improve the ‘perceived light’ in your dark room…How to Brighten a Dark Space OR 4 Ideas to Brighten a Dark Room

Well, I hope you found this article en-LIGHT-ening (mwah-ha-ha).

READ MORE

The Best Light Paint Colours for a Dark Room

How to Choose the Right Light Bulb KELVINS for Your Paint Colour

How to Make a Dark Room Feel Brighter with Sheen

The 5 Best Off-White Paint Colours

NEED HELP? WANT TO LEARN MORE?

Check out my affordable Online Consulting Services!

edesign, virtual paint colour consulting. Kylie M Interiors Benjamin Moore, Sherwin Williams color expert. marketing (6)

Chat soon,

Kylie M Interiors Edecor and Edesign

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN FOR YOU IN 2018, AWESOMELY UPDATED IN 2023



Comments

  1. I really don’t like a lot of pot lights can I use reflective lighting. I was thinking of lighting on top of crown moulding surrounding the room. I will also use floor and table lamps yvonne

    1. Post
      Author

      Hi Yvonne, yes any lighting is better than none! That type of lighting is more like ‘mood’ lighting which adds a nice ambience to a room without necessarily adding ‘useable everyday light’.

      ~Kylie

  2. You are so right Kylie! I love the warmth of incandescent lighting as well and my husband likes LED. What do you recommend for a happy medium? Keeping in mind I have warm gray paint and it goes cool and taupe with LED.

    I love reading your blog and love love your humor. 🙂 I wish you could come to my home in Colorado and help me. We could drink a bunch of wine. Hahaha

    1. Post
      Author

      Oooo, I like me some wine! And I also like me some incandescent bulbs…as far as I’m concerned, I’d rather enjoy the ‘vibe and mood’ of my home than save money! Although my hubby would disagree with that as well. I figure if it’s an extra $50 a year for my crappy old incandescents…I’m okay with that! I suppose a ‘daylight’ bulb would be a happy medium in the LED range, but preferably the ‘warm ones’.

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