Lighting may provide tangible illumination, but let’s be frank — start chatting about dimmers, ambient and task lighting — and most of us feel decidedly left in the dark. Chalk it up to the fact that good lighting is easy to come by. But truly great lighting? Well, that’s usually a task for the pros. Designers insist that achieving rich, layered lighting isn’t as hard as you’d think; however. To shed some light on how you too can cue up beautiful, professionally-lit rooms using vintage lighting, we asked a panel of experts to share their best-kept lighting secrets. Use the tips below to get lit done.

RELATED READ: A Pro’s Guide to Living Room Lighting

Design by Eleven Interiors / Photo by Photography by Sabrina Cole Quinn


Most well-laid rooms begin with a well-laid blueprint, and lighting is no different. Designer Regan Billingsley recommends taking the time to observe a room throughout the day.  “Determine where you want the eye to fall when you enter a space,” she says. “Since the eye is naturally drawn to light sources in a room, study your room at different hours. Taking account of the natural light patterns will allow you to develop a plan for achieving the right ambience with layered lighting fixtures.”

Design by Eleven Interiors / Photo by Michael J. Lee Photography

Dim (it) Some

In truth, all is bright is rarely all right. Designers hardly ever exclude dimmers from their lighting game, and there’s serious merit as to why. Dimmers allow you to coax different lights out of a single source, greatly enhancing any fixture’s versatility. Consider dimmers in scenarios like an office. A desk lamp can be dialed up for head-down tasks and dimmed once the workday has wrapped. Similarly, chandeliers can be paired with a dimmer to accommodate different dining scenarios like everyday dinners, cocktail parties, or buffet set-ups. While on the subject of bulbs and wattage, designer Tish Mills recommends using 60-watt bulbs virtually everywhere. The light, she explains “isn’t too bright and doesn’t distort coloration.”

Design by Eleven Interiors / Photo by Michael J. Lee

Create Shadows

You might think that shadows are exactly what you’re trying to avoid when rigging up a lighting scheme, but designer Tish Mills doesn’t just embrace them — she advocates for them. “Shadows create moods and control how the eye moves through a space,” she explains. “Think about how your eyes move across a billboard — they’re very controlled by the layout. The way you light a room has a similar effect.” Creating lakes of light will put emphasis on anything situated within those puddles. Keep an area in the dark and you’ve created a sense of mystery around it.

A grand scalloped pendant paired with a sky blue ceiling make a dramatic statement in a pastel-hued formal living room
Design by. Regan Billingsley Interiors / Photo by Angela Newton Roy

Sculpt It

Light-throwing properties are only a fraction of the equation, of course. Vintage lighting fixtures are also design elements in their own right. “Lighting doesn’t have to be simply functional,” says designer Regan Billingsley. “It’s also an opportunity to introduce personality and style.” In your quest for illumination, don’t forget that light fixtures are a way to introduce color, shape, and style. Think of a fixture as being similar to jewelry and take choosing one as an opportunity to enhance elements that are already present in your space. 

Design by Eleven Interiors / Photo by Photography by Sabrina Cole Quinn

3 Rooms — 3 Ways to Approach Vintage Lighting 

Ready, set, glow. We asked designer Jasmin Reese to illuminate us with how she approaches lighting in three different rooms.

Powder Room

Remember that in a powder room, you don’t need light for grooming. Instead, create ambiance by using fixtures to highlight the surfaces of your vanity, mirror, walls, and floor.

Breakfast Nook

Don’t pigeonhole yourself with a single pendant placed over a breakfast table. Rather, try creating interest with multiple lights.

Family Room

You might be inclined to pursue casual lighting options in a family room, but a large statement piece can actually accentuate a less formal mood.

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August 11, 2022

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