8 Do’s and Don’ts for Mixing and Matching Lighting Fixtures


Your options are endless when it comes to illuminating a space. This can be both a blessing and a curse; a blessing because you are guaranteed to have options available that meet your preferences, but a curse because the sheer number of choices you have to make can quickly become overwhelming. But, don’t give up hope! I think these tips will help you navigate the lighting process painlessly – and if we’re lucky, you’ll even have a little fun.  mixing.png

So let’s start by talking about the different options you have to consider. Each space in a home or office has different lighting requirements, so if you know what space you are lighting, that will help narrow down your options. Here is a look at your options from the 10,000-foot level:

  • Material – aluminum, black, brass, bronze, chrome, glass, gold, nickel, silver, wood
  • Finish – polished, aged, brushed, distressed, satin
  • Type of Light – accent, ambient, task
  • Fixture Type – ceiling mounted, chandeliers, pendants, portable (i.e. lamps), rail, recessed, track, under cabinet, wall mounted
  • Style – commercial, contemporary, country/rustic, craftsman/mission, crystal, tiffany, traditional, transitional, tropical

Now, the next step is understanding how to mix and match all of these options to light the space you’ve designed. I always tell people to start by identifying the feeling they want to radiate from their room. Here is a great blog to help you answer that question. Armed with that answer – and my tips below, you can tackle the rest of your lighting project with ease.

Mixing and Matching Lighting Fixture Do’s:

Tip 1: Layer Your Types of Light

Layering light is the foundation of every well-lit space. Layers help create dimension, illuminate function, set a mood, and improve versatility of any space. You’ll want to make sure to include at least two types of light: ambient, task and/or accent. Check out Kichler’s description of each type of light and the reasons you should include each in your lighting design.

Bonus Tip: remember to control your layers separately. This will give you the most flexibility in varying the function and feel of your new space after the lighting is installed.

2: Create a Focal Point, then Don’t Distract from It

Your focal point can be one light fixture – a stunning chandelier or a unique lamp – but it doesn’t have to be. Lighting can be used as a tool to draw attention to any element in the room you want to be your focal point, such as a piece of artwork or a fireplace mantel. Track lighting and wall sconces are often used to complement, frame and direct the eye toward whatever you choose to be the center of attention.

3: Coordinate Across Rooms in an Open Floor Plan

As it’s name suggests, there are limited physical breaks or barriers in an open floor plan. In this design, traditionally separate living spaces all blend into one another forming one large gathering room; most often you’ll see the living space, dining area and kitchen connected. It’s important in this type of floor plan to be consistent across all rooms. This doesn’t mean all finishes or styles have to match, it just means the overall feel of all three rooms should flow well together. A tropical style in the living room, a country style for dining, and commercial throughout the kitchen will cause confusion across all three spaces. I recommend choosing one style for all “rooms” in an open floor plan, then using the type of light and fixture to create breaks and distinguish between the functions of each space.

4: Mix Finishes, Tastefully

I recommend mixing at least two, but no more than four finishes in each room. This is the hardest to do well, especially if you are new to lighting. Before you buy, take some time to get inspired. Grab a coffee and flick through a magazine or browse Pinterest; or, if you want a more hands on experience, go to a lighting showroom and move the actual fixtures around to see what looks good together.

Mixing and Matching Lighting Fixture Don’ts:

1: Don’t Try to Do Too Many Things in One Room

Like I said in the beginning – you have LOTS of options. Trying to incorporate to many of those into one space can cause confusion and discomfort. Start simply with your favorites and the essential fixtures for illumination, and then add as needed.

Tip: create a design of your new space so you can see the total effect of the lighting in the room before you buy.

2: Don’t Be Afraid to Try Something New…

You are, after all, re-doing your space for a reason, right? Whether you are changing the function of the room, breathing new life into a tired space, or trying to create a new vibe, changing the lighting can have a dramatic effect. A new style of lighting will give you the best visual transformation, while the type of light and fixtures will most effectively create an emotive evolution.


3: …Don’t Stray Too Far Out of Your Comfort Zone

While I am all for trying something new, I caution my clients not to stray too far out of their comfort zone. Light fixtures are a significant investment that can make or break a room. If you are unsure in any way, take a picture of it and hang it in your new space. If after a few days you don’t love it, choose a different fixture that you are sure to enjoy looking at every day. Because it is so important within your home or office, lighting fixtures aren’t a purchase you want to regret or have to re-do a few months down the road.

4: Don’t Pick Your Light Fixtures Based on Looks Alone

Considering function is essential in lighting – please don’t buy light fixtures without doing this first! Always start by defining how your space will be used. Second, choose light fixtures that serve that purpose and appeal to your tastes.

Good luck! Following these tips will put you on the path to creating a comfortable, functional and stylish space. If you run into roadblocks or have questions, we are here and happy to help to any way we can.

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