Dancing in the Dark
January 15, 2017 8:07 PM   Subscribe

I would love some advice on adding light to a challenging corner of our living room (photos after the jump).

We live in an old house with plaster walls. Our living room has no installed lighting and no ceiling light fixtures. We have two torch lights in the room - they're ugly but they provide light. We just got a sectional for one side of the room and there is no room for a lamp. The sectional fits right into the corner and the edges of the sectional come right to the end of walls.

Here's a photo of this side of our living room.

We tried a big arc lamp but it didn't really work because the base of the lamp wouldn't fit under the base of the sofa (there's only 1.5" clearance and most arc lamps have thick, heavy bases). We considered putting a floor lamp on each end but they would stick out in walkway areas, so now we are considering a ceiling lamp. Our handyman says it would be a big job ($$$) to run power to the ceiling, so it seems the best option may be a hanging swag lamp with a wire that would run down the corner and plug in behind the sofa. We can't figure out what kind of lamp would look right in this area. Here are a few of the options we are considering:

One Two Three Four Five Six

We're concerned that any of these would look odd or tacky in our living room. We're going for a modern look but these still seem old fashioned and maybe better for over a kitchen table than a cozy living room.

Any suggestions? What style lamp would you pick? Any options we haven't considered? Thank you!
posted by kdern to Home & Garden (31 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Have you already considered and rejected the idea of wall sconce(s)?
posted by amtho at 8:17 PM on January 15, 2017

Amtho... considered it but we would still have to run wires down the wall, and I couldn't find anything that I liked enough to be worth multiple visible wires.
posted by kdern at 8:18 PM on January 15, 2017

There are wireless wall sconces but they seem to be very low power - not enough to light a room.
posted by kdern at 8:20 PM on January 15, 2017

It's going to be difficult for you to have your primary light in that room be from that corner. Are there other places in the room where you can place a table lamp or floor lamp? (I find that a minimum of three non-ceiling light sources is optimal.)

Have you considered a ceiling fixture designed to have a visible wire? Or, along the same lines (and maybe in addition to) replacing the wire on a pendant so the wire is more attractive? (Rewiring a light fixture is seriously not that hard.)

Can you move the sofa maybe 6" toward the stairs? That should give you enough room to fit a lamp behind on the longer wall. A narrow console table could also go back there so you have a place to put a drink or whatever.
posted by mchorn at 8:26 PM on January 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

mchorn: A lamp with a clearly visible wire is our best option at this point but all the shades seem like they would look so odd in our living room. We thought about the idea of moving the sofa a few inches towards the stairs but I think we'd have to have a custom table built to fit back there. We have a 2 year old son, so a 6" opening without a table would just result in everything we own being dropped back there!
posted by kdern at 8:30 PM on January 15, 2017

There is paintable molding that does quite a good job of hiding cords. Also, if you go to the expense of having a ceiling light wired in, it limits your options for rearranging the room in the future.
posted by lakeroon at 8:36 PM on January 15, 2017 [2 favorites]

What is behind the wall that the sofa is against? I can see there is a room or something. Is there an electric plug on that wall in the other room. Perhaps snake a wire into the ceiling above the sofa in the place you choose. You can get a flush mounted fixture if that is to your liking. Could your remove the heating vent to access the channel for a wire?
posted by JayRwv at 8:39 PM on January 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

Corner wall sconce, way up high, that will light the ceiling, and bounce down to light your art. Look up corner wall sconce, a lot show up.
posted by Oyéah at 8:49 PM on January 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

Hacky option: perhaps a narrow shelf / picture ledge at the height of the sofa with plug-in LED light strips? An IKEA hacker used the RIBBA picture ledge for that, but there are more discreet options.
posted by holgate at 8:49 PM on January 15, 2017

IKEA has wall mount LED spots. You can also try cable lights (the ones I had were from IKEA but they don't seem to carry them anymore). You can also go back to your arc lamp idea and just put risers under the sofa legs.
posted by fedward at 8:51 PM on January 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

Less hacky option: I'd agree with a corner sconce if you can find a cord concealment method that suits you, or there's a way to finagle a wall junction box. Lots of modern-looking ones.
posted by holgate at 8:51 PM on January 15, 2017

YES! holgate beat me to it.

LED strips are the cat's pajamas. They're practically nothing, and you can hide them very easily. I'd be tempeted to get the ones in a plastic cord and string them across the back of the sectional and plug them in. The light would shine up on the walls. Very cool.
posted by BlueHorse at 8:52 PM on January 15, 2017

Searching for "swing arm lights" turned up these two pages. Some at least plug into a power point rather than being hard wired.
posted by firstdrop at 8:56 PM on January 15, 2017

My thought is to sell the sofa you've got, and get a new sofa (or sofa + chair or loveseat, or modular sofa) that would leave a bit more clearance around it, and to pull that away from the wall. That would give you room for lighting, end tables, movement, etc.
posted by cotton dress sock at 9:20 PM on January 15, 2017 [5 favorites]

Rejuvenation has nice wall sconces in various styles that are designed to be mounted to a wall with no existing wiring.
posted by contraption at 9:30 PM on January 15, 2017

I'd actually worry less about a lamp, and consider changing the wall color to something lighter that would reflect more light. Same for the couch.
posted by Toddles at 9:35 PM on January 15, 2017 [9 favorites]

Buy or make skinny sofa tables to put behind one or both sections of your sofa. You can put lamps on them, and also candles for low light. You can achieve the same result with a shelf as well.

Wall sconces with cords are a thing, and are great-looking. There's not a thing at all wrong with exposed cords and if you look at some on that Pinterest I linked to, the cords actually add to the overall effect. I made a wall sconce for my bedroom and incorporated an exposed cord on purpose even though I could have installed the sconce. The cord is awesome.

Also consider a lighter wall color paint...dark colors just absorb light.
posted by the webmistress at 9:36 PM on January 15, 2017 [5 favorites]

Oh and with regards to the six pendant lights you linked to, if you go that route - those are called drum shade lights or pendants and yes, I find those a bit old fashioned, but mainly because of the shades you've linked to, with that burlapy old-fashioned fabric. The shape of the shades is actually kind of modern, you just need to use a more neutral (white or off white) shade in a more refined fabric, or paper, or lucite/acrylic. If I were choosing for you I would go with a round globe pendant sort of light, it's timeless and modern, especially in white glass or copper.
posted by the webmistress at 9:49 PM on January 15, 2017

Thanks for all the feedback. Changing the sofa, painting the room, or installing light fixtures are not options at this point.

I like the idea of a corner wall sconce that would plug in but I can't find any. Does anyone have a link?

There are lots of swing arm wall lamps but they seem more suited for bedside than over a sofa.

Please keep the ideas coming...
posted by kdern at 9:52 PM on January 15, 2017

Tangent: paint your oak balustrades black, plus any other hand rail on the opposite wall.

Have you considered deconstructing that arc lamp and anchoring it in the wall, below the couch back so you can't see it? That gets rid of the thick base issue.
posted by wwartorff at 10:04 PM on January 15, 2017

Swag lamp. This one looks it would fit well in that room. 20" diameter, 3x100W bulbs.
posted by rhizome at 10:06 PM on January 15, 2017

A hanging lamp with a plug-in cord would be perfect for your situation. The key is to get a decorative cord, otherwise it looks juvenile. Going this route means that you're not going to have to do all sorts of gymnastics to hide the cord (which is going to be damn near impossible with those red walls.) Embrace it and turn it into another small detail that enhances your decor! Because you'll be sitting right underneath it, the right bulb would have a silver bowl to keep the light bouncing up and not down right into your eyes.

I urge you not order the hanging lampshade from an online source like the one you have picked out — it's so hard to get a sense of if they're tacky or appropriate scale unless you see them in person. That's a pretty big sectional, so don't be afraid to go big! (Some of your initial picks look a little small.) IKEA has exceptional options that will go well with your wish for a contemporary look. The value can be out of this world in their lighting department. Cost Plus World Market is hit or miss in terms of quality, but they have some well-built options worth seeing in person. World Market also sell some decorative cords but they tend to only have fabric wrapped, which is better than stark white but I'd look into something closer to a metal look.

In terms of look, the light wood staircase with more traditional wallpaper, red walls, and colorful artwork would benefit from a lighter piece, both in color and feel; you have a lot going on and it's not going to be easy to tie it all together and it doesn't need to be a statement piece. So looking at your options not this; something like this from World Market is classic and doesn't compete with your artwork. (Though, reading the reviews, it proves what I said about making sure to view it in person to make sure it's well-made.)

Also, avoid trying to match the microfiber of your sofa. I'd urge against something like this shade unless you have a swatch to bring with you shopping. Lighter neutrals will be great, darker ones might clash.
posted by the thorn bushes have roses at 10:07 PM on January 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

I don't think you'll have much luck finding a "corner wall sconce" in the sense of a sconce that's designed to mount in the junction between two walls, but you might consider a pair of sconces mounted equidistant from the corner if symmetry is important to you.
posted by contraption at 10:56 PM on January 15, 2017

Wayfair is a good place for lighting. Under their product descriptions it says if lights are plug-in or hardwired. Plus they've got shades too.

Here's a geometric pendant light. Fluffy petal designed one. This mountain vibe one. A lantern style one.

I also agree that a plug-in sconce and a painted cord cover would be a solution.

I think a skinny sofa table (or a fake sofa table as a skinny shelf) behind the sofa could solve this. You can put the lamp where you want in a break in the sofa table/shelf area. Then no toys get tossed behind there. You can also put lamps onto it if you want.
posted by Crystalinne at 1:39 AM on January 16, 2017

I was also going to suggest a decorative electric cord. That's a beautiful corner with a modern feel. The right cord might actually add to it.
posted by trig at 1:42 AM on January 16, 2017

If you buy a swag lamp, you can almost certainly use a different lampshade. These stay on by friction on the cable, and are cheap, if you like the look.
posted by kjs4 at 5:06 AM on January 16, 2017

As a possible alternative to pendant ceiling lighting, you could pull the sofa 6" away from the longer wall and use can-style up lights.
posted by Short Attention Sp at 5:15 AM on January 16, 2017

Here's how I put together wall lighting at super-low cost with IKEA components: Bought bare wood shelf brackets and finished them with stain I'd used elsewhere in the room. Screwed four cup hooks (painted to blend in) along the angles of the underside. Fit a shade onto a cord set and threaded it through the hooks so the shade hangs in front of the bracket. When I get around to it, I'll put up molding to hide the cord that dangles down the wall. With a small drum shade I think this could be a cute modern look, and you can change out the shade when you want a new look.
posted by lakeroon at 6:05 AM on January 16, 2017

crown moulding considered
posted by hortense at 6:55 AM on January 16, 2017

So, depending on your home's construction, it may actually be significantly easier to run wiring to a wall sconce than it would a ceiling light. What's below your living room? If the answer is an unfinished basement or crawl space, it should actually be relatively easy for an electrician to drill up from below, into the base of the wall, and feed wiring for some sconces and a switch or two up through the wall. Since they're both interior walls, there's probably not insulation in there, so it's just a matter of cutting holes through the plaster for old-work boxes, feeding the wire up through the wall, and connecting it someplace appropriate. (If the basement is finished, it's a little more work because of having to cut holes in the ceiling and patch them.)

Might be worth getting a second opinion from an electrician on the sconce idea.
posted by jferg at 7:33 AM on January 16, 2017

I would do a pendant lamp with a white cord; run the cord up the corner, use a cord cover, and paint the cover to match the walls, comme ça. (Leave the part of the cord that runs against the ceiling white, obviously.)

You can use a lot of lamp shades as pendants even if they aren't marketed as such.

Or, pull the couch away from the main wall slightly and add a shelf or a thin console table to which you can add table lamps, comme ça.
posted by leeloo minai at 9:00 AM on January 16, 2017

« Older How can I make YouTube constantly display in-video...   |   Prevent a Burn From Scarring Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.