Save me from the horrors of overhead lighting!
July 24, 2011 8:39 PM   Subscribe

How can I make my new living room light cozy and not overhead-style sterile?

I just moved into an apartment with high ceilings and was excited to be able to accomodate a Castiglioni Arco-style lamp. I got this one from CB2.

I hate overhead lighting and have always used lamps in small spaces. The light from my new lamp looks like overhead light--it makes things feel microwaved, hazy and uncomfortable, whereas the other lamps in the room bring a warmth and crispness to things. The lamp has a dimmer, but all settings seem overhead-like. I have tried a 23W compact fluorescent and a 100W incandescent bulb--both give off the same icky light. The lamp has a shield under the shade so you are not blinded when you look up into the light.

I understand that the lamp is technically over my head, but I'm wondering if a brighter bulb is the answer? A different kind of bulb?
posted by annabellee to Home & Garden (7 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
use lights that do ambient, indirect lighting from the ground up and placed in the corners of your room. you can do cheap, floor-based inobtrusive lighting solutions from places like Ikea that will impart a hugely warm glow to your room and completely eliminate the "overhead lighting effect."
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 8:49 PM on July 24, 2011

A previous question got a suggestion to try soft pink lightbulbs to improve light quality.
posted by Nomyte at 8:50 PM on July 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

Try a much lower wattage bulb and, if using compact fluorescent, try a different 'colour' bulb. No matter what you do with it or where you put it, a 100w (or equivalent) bulb is always going to be super-bright and will still 'look' bright even when dimmed. Ideally, for a soft glow, you want multiple low-powered lights providing indirect lighting (bounce off the ceiling, for example). Perhaps only use the lamp you have for times when you need bright light everywhere and use smaller lamps in strategic areas to light specific spots.
posted by dg at 9:12 PM on July 24, 2011

wrap a fancy silk scarf around the shade - but make sure you don't cover the top of the shade - the silk should not block the warm air rising from the bulb. Also, try a 40 or 60 watt bulb
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 9:44 PM on July 24, 2011

If you have any friends in theatrical lighting, ask them to get you some gel scraps: mid to heavy diffusion and something in the bastard amber family (Rosco 05--rose gold is a personal favorite, but anything from 01-08 should give you a nice, happy warm glow). No hook ups? You can order it yourself.

Compact fluorescent may be great for our environment but they have HORRIBLE color temperature. Color-correction is your friend.
posted by smirkette at 9:55 PM on July 24, 2011

I think the idea that the light isn't bouncing off anything is correct. If you don't want to put it near a wall to create reflected light then make that happen elsewhere. Either flanking smaller lamps that reflect off the walls or something that illuminates the ceiling. What you've got is "glare" which is a high difference between light and dark. Don't wrap a scarf around a beautiful modern lamp but I agree that trying some different bulbs might help, too. Rule of thumb in a room is three different lighting sources.
posted by amanda at 8:17 AM on July 25, 2011

The "cozy" and "sterile" feelings that you're talking about are mostly related to color temperature. Generally speaking, bulbs with lower color temperatures (2000K - 3000K) will look more yellow / orange and seem "warmer". Standard household "soft white" incandescent bulbs are around 2700K.
Bulbs with temperatures between 3000K and 4000K lend themselves to a more "naturally bright" feeling. It's the range that "sunlight bulbs", retail lighting, and most photographers' studio lighting falls into. Bulbs with higher color temperatures (above 5000K) will look more blue and seem "cold" or "sterile". Color temperature is not always listed on the package, but you can buy from places like, and sort by a number of criteria including color temperature.

If you find a bulb with the right color temperature for you and a shade that physically covers enough of the bulb to cut out glare, you should be in good shape.
posted by D.Billy at 2:21 PM on July 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

« Older I need to find the best tire store in Northern...   |   What resources will help me understand how to, and... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.