Interior Decorating in Our Parlour: 4 Steps to Getting Your Lighting Just Right

As you might know, we’ve been participating as a guest in the One Room Challenge.  The challenge is getting one room done within a 6-week period (this time has been extended to 8 weeks due to the current climate and shipping delays).  We’re on week 4 and so far we’ve completed:

– Planning our decorating project
– Painting the walls, trim, and ceiling
– Hanging the wallpaper

Still on the list is:

– Lighting the room
– Window treatments (since we removed the California shutters)
– Furniture layout
– Accessorizing

Removing the California Shutters when we painted made a huge difference to the amount of sunlight we get in this room, but it’s still quite dark at night since there is no overhead lighting and only two lamps to light a huge 23′ long room.

So, this week we were focused on getting some more lighting installed in here so that we can enjoy the room more frequently.

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Typically when I’m lighting a room I focus on the three layers of lighting:

Ambiant lighting: this is the general overhead lighting in the room like a chandelier, pot lights, or flush mount fixture.

Accent lighting: this is layered throughout the room in order to highlight key architectural and decorative features in the space.  For example, you could light an archway or highlight a fireplace with sconces.

Task lighting: this is placed in a room in order to provide adequate lighting for tasks like a reading lamp or under cabinet lighting to aid with chopping in the kitchen.

The challenge in our double parlour is that there is no ambiant lighting.  And we can’t easily add it either because the home was converted from knob and tube, however the original plaster still remains.  So, in rooms like the dining room where the plaster couldn’t be removed in order to feed the electrical through the ceiling, they used channels like this in order to convert the ambiant lighting.

Because the double parlour never had ambiant lighting, it would be a complete mess to install it… 

Moving anything in these old plaster walls could pose a real risk of the plaster beginning to crumble.  

This means that we would have to achieve ambiant, task, and accent lighting with floor and table lamps only.

It’s not how I love to do it, but it’s the best way to honour the home’s heritage and also allow us to do the work ourselves in the current climate.

So, with this challenge in mind, I set out to map where our lighting would go in the space.

Step 1 in Lighting Your Decorating Project: List the areas that need to be lit.

I always like to jot down a list of the areas in a room that need to be lit.

For this room, we would need ambiant lighting for both the front and back conversation areas.

The architectural features in this room worthy of being highlighted with accent lighting are the stained glass windows.

And task lighting would be needed beside the sofa since I work a lot in this room so would need the additional light for my laptop and reading.

Step 2 in Lighting Your Decorating Project: Determine the placement of lighting fixtures.

Here is the floor plan of our room.  You’ll see that there are 3 large windows in the space (each with a stained glass feature).  There’s one set of french doors that swing into the space and a 5′ opening on the other side also that is a cased opening to the dining room.

A fireplace anchors one side of the double parlour and because the room is so long, we will be dividing the seating areas into the front and the back area of the room to maximize seating for parties.

Usually I do the furniture layout first, but I don’t want to show you that quite yet because we need to keep something for the final reveal!

But in this case the lighting fixtures are going to pull double (or even triple) duty so the furniture placement doesn’t really matter.

First, I wanted to really make the arched stained glass window a focal point when you come into the house or down the stairs.  As I’ve mentioned a few times in my previous One Room Challenge posts, it’s my favourite feature in the house!  The aqua and pink are repeated throughout the room.

Naturally a window has backlighting that comes through it from the sun.  So, we don’t have to do anything else, however I’d like to add my mercury glass lamp here.  It’s a big, chunky table lamp that has a real presence and would layer perfectly in front of this window to really make that part of the room a feature.

I have one other table lamp for this room that pairs really well with the mercury glass one.  It’s a beveled glass with gold accents that I picked up from Homesense years and years ago.  I’ll use this one to light the dark corner in the back part of the room with the fireplace.

Two lamps definitely isn’t going to be enough.

We’ll need two more flanking the fireplace to pull triple duty:  they’ll need to spread enough light to act as the ambiant source for the back sitting area plus they’ll act as accent lighting to the white brick fireplace feature and as task lighting for the seating beside the fireplace.

And we’ll need another two at the front of the room to act as ambiant light there as well.  Since we’ll be putting drapery panels to highlight the other window in that room, it would be nice if these lights doubled as accent lighting to the draperies also.

I’ve highlighted in yellow where the different lighting sources will be in the space.  On the other side of the french doors is a beautiful chandelier in the foyer and on the other side of the cased opening we have a chandelier in the dining room.  So we don’t need any more lighting on that side of the room.


In a perfect world I would also add a sconce between the french doors and cased opening.  However, with the plaster being so old and because there’s a chair rail that would interfere with a plug-in sconce, I decided to leave that out.  Maybe we’ll add one in the future when we can get an electrician in here, but for now I don’t think it will bother us any leaving that one accent light off the list.

Step 3 in Lighting Your Decorating Project: Choose your fixtures

Now that we know where the different lights will be placed and what function they’ll serve I needed to think about the specs for those particular light fixtures so that I could get to shopping!  Lamps generally take 3 weeks or so to arrive so I knew I needed to order them now to get them in time for photography.

Two fixtures are already checked off — the lamp in front of the arched stained glass window (across from the french doors) and the lamp lighting the corner where it juts and separates the two spaces in the room.  Both of these are table lamps with 60W bulbs and light coloured transluscent shades.  They give off a soft light, but not a strong light with only 60W.

The other four lighting fixtures would be floor lamps.  The ones flanking the front window will be layered in front of drapery and act as the ambiant light for that half of the room.

Because of that, the fixture will need to have 100W bulbs for more light spread and the shades will need to be translucent or transparent and light in colour to maximize the amount of light from the fixture.

I didn’t want anything too heavy looking back here because the draperies aren’t very thick and I want it to layer nicely in front without blocking too much of that feature.

I also knew that I wanted the lamp to be a soft gold like the mercury glass lamp.  Not too shiny and brassy, but also not too champagne.

I found these great lamps through one of our sources for the comfortable dwelling boutique.


We love how the height is adjustable and, although it’s a thin base, the little adjustment detail in the middle makes it interesting and warm feeling.  I also love that the shade is white, so the light will spread well throughout the room and that the gold colour isn’t too brassy or shiny.  A definite purchase!

Now to tackle the lights around the fireplace.  Again, I wanted floor lamps and they’d need light shades and 100W capacity.  But these ones I wanted to feel a bit more heavy because they need to hold their own with the fireplace.

At first glance we really loved these tripod floor lamps from Orren Ellis on Wayfair:

I just love mixing in more contemporary pieces when it comes to furniture and lighting against the traditional backdrop that we’ve achieved with the chinoiserie wallpaper, chair rail, heavy mouldings, and stained glass features.  And these lamps are stunning (and super affordable for floor lamps at just over $300 a piece!)

However, even though I love these lamps, I know for sure that we want to put some sort of seating in front of them.  So, not only would the prettiest feature get covered up (the tripod), I think it’s too big at the base to be able to still tuck a chair into that corner.

So, instead I wanted to find something contemporary with a slim base and with the detail up a bit higher so that you can still see it above a chair.

These ones from a source we use at the comfortable dwelling boutique totally fit the bill!

Kyle and I loved the rectangular shade because it would sit back a bit further so whoever sits in the chair doesn’t hit their head.  Plus, we adored the curved metal just under the shade.  It’s sculptural and will add some softness beside the hard lines of the brick.

Step 4 in Lighting Your Decorating Project: Pick The Right Bulbs

When it comes to lighting, the fixture is just one consideration.   The bulb is equally as important!

Now I already mentioned that we would be using 100W bulbs in the floor lamps and 60W in the table lamps to allow for enough light spread to appropriately light the room.

Most people these days think that they should use 5000K daylight bulbs everwhere.

Bulbs with a higher Kelvin rating are typically cooler and will give off more light spread in a space.  So, because of the Instagram Aesthetic craze we’ve been experiencing, the thought process seems to be give me alllllll the kelvins!

However, going for the brightest bulbs isn’t always the brightest move.

Think about it this way:  do you tend to feel better on a cloudy day or on a sunny day?

A sunny day, right?  At least I do!

Well, the lighting on a sunny day is very warm.  And on a cloudy day, it’s quite cool.

Interior photography looks best on a cloudy or snowy day where the light mimics the coolest bulbs – 5000k.

However, our bodies and minds crave warmth in our lighting.

Old incandescent bulbs are around 2,800k (warm).
Fluorescent bulbs range from 3,100k to 4,500k (cooler).
And daylight LED’s are 5,000k (coolest).

In order to make the room feel cozy, welcoming, and relaxing we want to use a bulb that is warmer on the spectrum (ie – fewer kelvins).

I typically go for a bulb between 2,800k to 3,500k depending on the overall look I’m trying to achieve.

If we wanted a more modern look with white walls, I’d go with 3,500k.

A traditional room I usually use 2,800 warmer bulbs.

However, in this room we are doing a mix of contemporary and traditional so we settled in between for 3,100k bulbs.

Warm enough to not feel stark.  But also cool enough that it’s not too yellow.

This might sound silly to think so much about what type of light bulbs to use, but the impact lighting has on our mental health has been heavily studied and you guys know I’m all about creating spaces that help us live better.

As the lamps started to arrive we couldn’t wait to get them up.  Here’s a little sneak peek of the corner — there won’t be two pillows here I think Kyle had moved one for the dog.  But just look at how nicely that lamp, paper, and fireplace insert is working together! Eek!


That insert probably isn’t original because it’s gas.  It was probably installed around 1940 when this type of open-faced gas insert was made popular and found in more wealthy homes.  We’ve never turned it on so I’m not sure if it works (I’m a little nervous I’ll somehow blow up the house!) but I just love the gold and copper.

You can also see a sneak of our chair here.  The furniture that we have in this room is an eclectic mix of modern and traditional frames, but all of it is done in a light grey colour.  There’s light grey in the bird’s tails on the wallpaper also so it ties in nicely.

Now that lighting is checked off the list, there are just a few things left to do:

– We need to install the draperies which is the plan for next week
– We need to load up the room and accessorize
– And we need to do it all before the photographer’s come so that we can reveal the entire room to you in a couple of weeks!

Be sure to check back next week and, if you haven’t already, check out my previous posts on this One Room Challenge: