The Biggest Lighting Mistake Homeowners Make — and How to Fix It

updated Nov 4, 2021
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If you’ve ever sat in a waiting room under the harsh glow of a fluorescent fixture, then you likely know the power of a bad light bulb. Even the loveliest room will look sickly under the light of a green-tinged, compact fluorescent, which is why it was such a relief when energy-efficient LEDs appeared on the market to replace the CFLs that were touted a decade ago. There’s more to consider, though, when it comes to Guggenheim Architecture and Design Studio, for a story about lighting a couple years back, she suggested you change out all your mismatched types of bulb with one type of LED bulb, ideally one with a warmth of about 2700 Kelvin. I try to choose bulbs that cast a nice, natural-ish glow, but I had never considered my bulb choices holistically. When I put her tip in action, my own home’s lighting improved dramatically.

Credit: Courtesy of Guggenheim Architecture + Design Studio

Many people have mismatched lighting temperatures because they just buy a bulb when they need it and don’t pay too much attention to the type of light they cast. As the lighting market moves towards all LEDs though, it’s almost guaranteed you will end up with mismatched bulbs, especially since it takes a while to figure out labeling. That said, it’s worth trying to synch up your bulbs’ temperatures (once you figure out what you like in your space). “Once you have a consistent color temperature throughout your home, your spaces inevitably feel more sophisticated and thoughtful,” says Guggenheim. “You’re less likely to notice a jump between light qualities as you move from room to room.”

Replacing all your bulbs at one time would be costly (and wasteful if your current bulbs are still usable). So focus on pairs of lights first. Any place where you have two matching lamps, you should have two matching bulbs. If this means shuffling around bulbs in other lamps, do it. You can even put slightly-used bulbs back into the box of new bulbs you purchase to use elsewhere later. Your room’s symmetry, a quality human minds delight in, will be enhanced greatly with this one switch.

Credit: Courtesy of Guggenheim Architecture + Design Studio

Then, focus in on one room at a time, starting with the kitchen, living, and dining rooms. “These are places where you want to be sure you are rendering the space in the best light possible,” says Guggenheim, who notes, if you have recessed kitchen lighting with 2700k bulbs and pendants with 4000k, you will see a harsh contrast that feels unnatural. Later, as you’re able, move on to bathrooms, bedrooms, hallways, and other spaces.

When you’re at the hardware store in the future, pay attention to the color temperature (the number in the 1000s with the “k” next to it). “Ensure that you are buying the same temperature each time so that your home starts to have uniform color temp throughout,” says Guggenheim. She also notes she always opts for dimmable LED bulbs to minimize the chance for flickers. For any fixtures with exposed bulbs, Guggenheim recommends those from Tala.  “I never thought I would say an LED bulb was elegant, but Tala has managed to make a few that are,” she says.

Credit: Courtesy of Guggenheim Architecture + Design Studio

Zero in on unifying your light bulbs, and you’ll see an improvement in your lighting and overall feeling in your home — I promise!

This post originally ran on Apartment Therapy. See it there: