20 Creative Lighting Ideas For Indoors

The depth, intensity, and absence of light can dramatically alter any space. And how you choose to use it tells a story about your relationship with each room, as specific as the art on your walls or the furniture you've selected. Science Museum historians say that before the incandescent bulb came along, lighting was primarily an outdoor concern borne from need more than aesthetics so that people wouldn't bump into things in the dark. 

With the baby boom following World War II, millions of tract homes sprang up. Each one had lights, of course, and they could be turned on or off. Since then, lighting plots and techniques have diversified a thousandfold. And now, most lighting designers acknowledge that lighting is classed into three basic categories. Ambient lights illuminate an entire room, task lighting is for specific purposes like food preparation and reading, and accent lighting is for dramatic effects. Some professionals add "decorative" to the list as well. But nearly everyone recommends that you create a plan before you start making purchases. After you have a budget, you can let your creative impulses run free — within reason, of course. 

1. Ambient light

Anything you envision plays a role with light, from sizes and shapes to textures and materials. Even a modestly furnished room becomes an inviting oasis by adding color. Above you'll see a dreamy warmth and how window accents add the illusion of space. Now imagine this room under plain lights that simply click on and off.

2. Sconces

Sconces as a light source are both ancient and forever au courant, and they've been used since before the Pharaohs reigned, bringing an air of sophistication to any surroundings. You'll find them put to their most novel use in Jean Cocteau's 1946 version of "Beauty and the Beast," where human hands appear out a hallway wall holding candelabras. 

3. Ceiling lamps

There's nothing new about overhead fixtures since light from above illuminates every part of a room. Chandeliers have done that for centuries. But central overhead lighting, close to the ceiling or dramatically dropped into the room, has never ceased evolving. Above? That's an LED ceiling lamp, which gives the time-worn chandelier a 21st-century spin.

4. LED art

LED has a reinvigorated light design, as evidenced by this optical illusion wall light, which appears to be a portal into another dimension and changes shape as you walk by. Such pieces are not for everyone or every room. But they're just suitable for the idiosyncratic person looking to make a unique statement.

5. Natural light

Statements aren't always big and bold — some can be subtle and traditional. Take a stained glass, for example, which has been used in combination with natural light for centuries to create effects that can simultaneously soothe and dazzle the eye.

6. Lampshade cloud

What do you get when you combine an LED replica of a cumulus cloud, a music visualizer, and a Bluetooth speaker? You get a guaranteed conversation starter, and yes, you can now ask Alexa to play music through the cloud — literally. 

7. Hanging lights

No matter the purpose, hanging lights are a godsend for anyone doing close-up work at home or looking to draw attention to an object or a particular spot in the room. And their variety is near infinite.

8. Track lighting

You know what these are if you were around in the '70s. But now they're all grown up, and appear in a variety of metals, and can serve to make a minimalist, industrial apartment like the one above appear the apotheosis of cool.

9. Paper lanterns

Americans considered paper lanterns nothing more than kitschy accordion-shaped decorations strung outside for a backyard party for generations. But those stereotypes have been left by the wayside as new ornamental designs have proliferated across the globe and been invited indoors, too. You'll find they”re every bit as varied as your tastes.

10. Floor lamps

Floor lamps began as a quick and easy addition to rooms when overhead lighting was too harsh. But designers decided they too can be taken in a multitude of artistic directions, like this dramatically arched, oversized hanging lamp.

11. Fireplace

You and somebody special — or all alone — can make the most of humanity's oldest light show: a roaring fire. Some people even adjust the AC so they can enjoy summer night by the fire.

12. Neon is still cool

Neon will forever be associated with the early part of the last century. But it isn't back — because it never left. Now there are DIY designs, and many hobbyists have a blast coming up with wall ornaments in neon. Think of it as a tattoo for your wall.

13. Shapes and patterns

Geometric shapes on a division cast by LED lights can turn any wall, floor, or ceiling into a work of art. 

14. Candle power

Never mind old school — candles are Old World and have been a source of light, safety, and serenity since humanity discovered fire. Still, there's nothing quite like them to set a mood. Oh, and these days, they often smell amazing, too.

15. Vintage

Sometimes it's not about reinventing the wheel but finding wheels already made so well you can't resist collecting them and putting them on display. These art deco lamps recall an era of historic elegance when form and function seemed perfectly balanced.

16. Recessed lighting

Sometimes you want a lot of light, but you don't want it bearing down on you. That's an excellent time to consider recessed lighting, as shown here with LED strips applied to a ceiling panel, and you get all the light without any harsh glare.

17. Corner lights

Not so long ago, corners were places that fit only for dust bunnies and loose change, but thanks to advancements in LED lights, they can now become accent points in any room, as illustrated by the corner strip above.

18. Display lights

Got a treasure? Whether it's an heirloom or objet d'art, you can do no wrong by finding a place of distinction and bringing focus to your prize with inventive lighting. This idea works just as well with grandma's china cabinet as it does granddad's civil war sword or a valued sports trophy.

19. Projectors

There are high-quality projectors that will not only turn your bedroom into a campout but also something from another world. You can now have a complete planetarium on your ceiling as you meditate or drift off to a restful night under the stars.

20. Get creative

A dad bought a miniature bat signal for his son to use as a nightlight, so his boy could find his way to the bathroom after bedtime. You'll know what to do when your imagination meets the right object.