Love It Or List It Shows Us How Easy It Is To Brighten Up Dull Built-In Cabinetry

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Built-in cabinets are usually a focal point in a room. Since they typically take up an entire wall, they're pretty hard to miss. However, just because they're large doesn't mean they're impressive. Like with all things in design, unless they're done thoughtfully, they can blend into the background and miss the mark. But one way that you can help make your built-in cabinetry seem more custom-made is to install picture lights on top to illuminate the furniture piece. 

This is exactly what Hilary Farr did in Season 19, Episode 4 of "Love It or List It." When renovating couple Dong and Mona's home, Farr transformed a formal living room into Mona's quiet office room-slash-library. To help cinch the purpose of the room, Farr designed floor-to-ceiling built-in bookshelves with a couch nestled in the middle. However, to help the bookcase pop, Farr also added large brass light fixtures to the top of the built-in.

Picture lights are traditionally put above framed art to better showcase it. They act like a design "highlighter," telling your eye to move to this particular spot in the room. These are fixtures with a long bar on top to light the entire canvas, and they're mounted right over the piece. But these directional lights don't just have to be used in conjunction with art. You can also add them to the top of your bookcases to transform the built-ins into an art gallery. Here is how Farr did so.

How Hilary Farr used picture lights to illuminate a built-in

In the episode, Farr built an expansive built-in that took up the entire wall and painted it a sophisticated blue-green color to help it pop. She then accented the rich color with brass hardware from Emtek Hardware, choosing the Hampton Knob in the satin brass finish. This detail is important, because she then chose brass picture lights to help complement the hardware. The lights were installed on top of each bookcase, illuminating the four rows of shelves underneath. Specifically, the light fixture she chose was the Generation Lighting Kenyon 30" Picture Light in a burnished brass finish. You can get the same one from Design Direct Lighting for $500.

If you love the look of Farr's picture lights but $1,000 is out of your budget, then there are plenty of more affordable options you can choose. For instance, the Mona 30" LED Picture Light from is the same size and comes in a brassy-gold color, but it's $245, costing 50 percent less. You can also save on costs if you choose a smaller size. For example, a 15-inch picture light from Amazon is an affordable $47.

How to choose the right picture lights for your space

There are thousands of different picture lights you can choose from, so here is how to narrow down the selection to find your perfect pick. The first thing you need to consider is the width of your bookcase. In order for the lamp not to be too small for the space, you want it to be at least one-third as long as the shelf it's illuminating. However, if you want to make a dramatic statement like Farr did, you can also make the lamp two-thirds as long as the shelf, creating more visual weight on top of the unit. 

The second thing is how you will power your lamp. If you have the budget to hardwire the lights, they will add an extra dose of luxury to the room by allowing you to turn them on and off with the flip of a light switch. But if you want to add extra light to your living room without having to hire an electrician to get it done, you can also get wireless picture lights. These are operated on a battery and are turned on and off via a remote control. An example of this is the LUXSWAY lights on Amazon, which retail for $29. Simply attach them to the bookshelf using the included backplates, put batteries into the remote, and you're done!