The most pervasive trend in lighting continues to be layered lighting. Layering involves using ambient light, otherwise known as "ceiling," "overhead" or "overall lighting"; task lights such as floor or table lamps; and accent or decorative wall lighting.
Layered lighting can dramatically change your space, enhance colors and add ambiance to any room. Dimmable lights, first used sparingly in homes, are now utilized in every room of the house. They're a stark contrast to the bright lights most of us work in all day, can change the mood of a room with the flick of a switch, and save on electricity, too.
Living room lighting
If you have a large living room with high ceilings, you can go two ways with your lighting. This space will always need overhead light, so you could either focus on it by adding a bold chandelier, or you could shift the focus to task and accent lighting, bolstering the focus on the living room seating and instead of the ceiling. Coffered or tray ceilings can be lit from within using white or colored lights, creating the illusion of volume while adding dimension and drama.
If you have lower ceilings or opt to use a variety of floor and eye-level lights, try using powerful (and dimmable) recessed lighting to provide ambient light without overpowering the room. You should be able to turn off this overhead light and still light up the room.
This technique works particularly well if you already have a focal point established in the room, such as a fireplace, mantle or piece of artwork. If you have a striking canvas hanging from your wall, use accent light to shine on the art, bringing the eye toward the piece. Or if you want to focus on an object, such as a piano against the wall, use accent lighting to highlight the musical instrument, or use small task lamps on the piano.
Use a mix of table and floor lamps to bring a welcoming sense of warmth to the seating area will invite guests to come take a seat in this well-lit area.
Dining room lighting
Stick to the classics in the dining room - you want a bold, overhead light, such as a chandelier or visually striking track or pendant lighting that shines down on the dining room table. Don't limit yourself to just one light. If you find a small chandelier, but have a big table, try using three chandeliers in a row to make a bolder statement. Look for chandeliers that are made with a variety of materials, unique textures or daring colors.
Today's most modern looks include a long horizontal chandelier with hanging crystal pendants that is lit with a tiny row of halogen lights. The length of the chandelier is often nearly the same as the dining room table, and is set on a dimmer, to allow the host to adjust the light based on mood and preferences.
The kitchen is probably the most complex room to light because it's so multi-functional. You certainly want overhead ambient light to bring the space to life and set a relaxing tone when the kitchen work is done. For overhead, try recessed light or track lighting. Recessed lighting will simply hide your lights, while track lighting is more noticeable but can add a modern touch and can weave around your ceiling. Pendant lighting, preferably with a tinted or multi-colored glass shade, should hover about 35 to 45 inches over a kitchen island.
Accent and task lighting in the kitchen is largely functional. Installing accent lights along the walls near the counters or task lights under the cabinets is very popular and functional, providing extra visibility when working with food, or to show off collectibles lining the walls.
Think of the functional spaces in your kitchen and light them well. If your kids do homework at the kitchen table, make sure there is bright overhead light for them. If you're constantly cooking on your stove top, but no light shines near the hood, put an accent light behind the stove that shines out and gives you extra light.
Almost everyone uses task lighting on bedside tables, but don't limit yourself to that. Consider floor lamps near corners or closets or a table lamp on the dresser. Try something timeless like a brushed metal or an art deco style lamp.
The bedroom is where you might see round, domed flush ceiling lights. They are inexpensive and simple, which is probably why they have been so broadly overused and why designers tend to opt for recessed lighting or even a chandelier in the bedroom.
Ilyce Glink is an award-winning, nationally syndicated real estate columnist, blogger and radio talk show host, and managing editor of the Equifax Finance Blog. Follow her on Twitter @Glink.