An expert's guide to bedside lighting

How to use bedside lighting to create a serene space, according to the pros

Bedside Lighting
(Image credit: Joshua McHugh, Dumais Made)

Bedside lighting is the oft-overlooked hero of bedroom design. After all, the average American spends about 11 hours a day lying around in bed — nearly half our lifetime, according to a OnePoll survey. 

That's all the more reason why your bedroom lighting plan should be carefully thought out, so that you can transition from reading to sleeping (and everything in between) in a relaxing manner. We consulted industry experts to weigh in on the subject and offer their tips for creating serene, beautiful, and yes, practical bedside lighting. 

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Consider your lifestyle

Bedside Lighting

(Image credit: Julia Dags, Prudence Home + Design)

As with any room, the first thing to consider when choosing your bedside lighting is your lifestyle and how you will use the space. "Wall-mounted sconces are best if you're an avid reader in bed, but, in my opinion, do not provide enough light to illuminate the room properly," offers interior designer Prudence Bailey. "I am a fan of adding a lamp to the nightstand if you have wall-mounted sconces. If you are not a reader, then I would go with a lamp over sconces every time."

Of course, for apartment dwellers, real estate is an important thing to keep in mind, as well. "We like plug-in sconces or even pendants that can be added over a crowded bedside table but not take up any valuable space," adds designer Kevin Dumais, who together with his husband Charlie designs ceramic lighting for Dumais Made. "You can get the scale of light and quality you need without sacrificing valuable surface real estate."

And beyond these practical considerations, personal style is an important factor. Sconces, Dumais adds, are a fun way for couples to express their personality on each side of the bed. 

For added style, consider stepping away from a traditional sconce, Bailey adds. "I love hanging pendants above nightstands instead of lamps; it's a gorgeous way to add more dimension and drama to a bedroom." Or if you have the space, Dumais suggests a sculptural table lamp that can both add a layer of personality as well as serving as a main source of light for the whole room. 

Create Calm

Bedside Lighting

(Image credit: Joshua McHugh, Dumais Made)

The trick to nailing bedroom lighting is to toe the line between delivering sufficient illumination while also creating a serene, calming space. While LED bulbs are all the rage when it comes to efficiency, Dumais says it is important to select options that are warm dim or warm glow.

"These are especially nice for two reasons," he explains. "They mimic the color temperature curve of an incandescent bulb when dimmed, and help to transition the mood of your space from bright and ambient to soft and romantic, which is ideal for bedside lighting." 

Dimmers or lamps with three-way switches (low, medium, and high) are an integral part of properly illuminating a room, Bailey agrees. Additionally, it's important to have your bedroom lighting on multiple switches. "I love my chandelier and sconce lighting on separate switches from recessed so you can have one without the other," she says. "It's not fun to try and set a mood in your bedroom, and when you hit the switch, all the lighting comes on."

Keep Color In Mind

Bedside Lighting

(Image credit: Prudence Home + Design)

When it comes to bedside lighting, your room's paint color will be a huge factor. "Light plays a huge role in selecting color and creating an overall mood," confirms designer Christina Carpio, who recently spoke about color theory at The Business of Home's annual Future of Home conference. For the bedroom, neutral white walls can be a great way to amplify natural light. "The walls act as a beautiful, clean canvas for the design and architecture with tons of natural light, leaving the interiors to look expansive and serene," she says. 

Of course, that doesn't mean white is the only way to go — nor that you are limited to color on the walls! "We are all about the ceiling so we will select a chandelier that will pop with that color," Bailey offers. "For instance, we recently did a gorgeous teal high-gloss ceiling and we really wanted a light that would stand out and handle the swimming pool effect. The light had to have an airiness to it but not disappear."

Ann Loynd Burton

After serving as an editor for luxury publications for nearly a decade, Ann Loynd Burton struck out on her own as a freelance writer covering design and lifestyle. Along with her work highlighting decor trends for Real Homes, Loynd Burton has covered interiors for such publications as Apartment TherapyAspireCottages & Gardens, and Galerie