No overhead lighting? No problem!

Whether you just moved into a new space or you’ve been suffering in semi-darkness for months on end, there are plenty of ways that you can brighten up your space.

With the right tips and tricks, you can create a bright and inviting environment without having to call in an electrician.

To brighten up your living room, switch to lightweight curtains to maximize natural light. You can use an assortment of portable lamps including floor lamps, string lights, wall sconces and hanging lamps. Reflective surfaces like mirrors and shiny decorations will also make the space feel brighter.

How to light a living room with no overhead lighting

While a room without overhead lighting can be daunting, it opens up a whole world of possibilities. With the right assortment of portable lamps, you can add a warm and welcoming glow to your living room — no overhead lighting required.

The chance to customize your lighting gives you extra freedom to express your personal taste. Make the most of it by choosing lighting fixtures that double as decor.

Maximize the natural light in your living room by switching to lightweight curtains that let in as much light as possible. By using a combination of floor lamps, string lights, plug-in wall sconces or hanging cable lamps, you can brighten up your space and make it feel like your own.

To make the most out of the light you have, you can play around with reflection. Mirrors and other reflective decorations will disperse the light, instantly brightening up your living room.

Maximize natural light

If you have a natural light source, now’s the time to use it. Even if you have small windows, they can make a big difference.

Make the most of the natural light you have by switching to thin curtains that let the light in. You can also keep the windows open on nice days to let a breeze in and make the space feel brighter and more open.

Floor lamps

Lighting A Living Room Without Overhead Lighting

Floor lamps are a great way to amp up the wattage in your room without having to install overhead lighting. There are all sorts of styles to choose from, and interesting-looking floor lamps can serve as decor as well as lighting. You can tie in your floor lamps to your other decor so that it looks cohesive and intentional.

Some floor lamps are tall enough to almost reach the ceiling, meaning that they function similarly to overhead lighting. If your lamp is adjustable, you can angle the bulb downwards to mimic the feel of an overhead light.

String lights

String lights are a tried-and-true way to give your space a bohemian and ethereal feel. Whether you cluster tiny fairy lights or string up larger Edison bulbs, string lights will give your space a warm and cozy glow.

String lights function as both decoration and lighting. Instead of lighting the room from one central fixture, string lights disperse the light around the room. This gives the space a welcoming and festive feeling.

Plug-in wall sconces

If you want all the pizazz of a classic-looking light fixture without having to rewire your space, a plug-in wall sconce is for you.

The benefit of a plug-in wall sconce is that it doesn’t require you to install any electrical wiring. Instead, you can plug it into an existing outlet. It’ll still require a bit of installation to set it up on the wall, but you won’t have to rewire anything.

If you’re a fan of all things old-fashioned, a vintage-looking wall sconce will make your space feel like home. You can also go the modern route with a sleek, sophisticated wall sconce. You have all sorts of options to choose from, so you’re sure to find something that suits your taste.

Hanging cable lamps

If you’re really missing the feeling of overhead lighting, an overhead cable lamp will brighten your whole living room from above. A hanging cable lamp, otherwise known as a swag lamp, hangs from the ceiling and plugs into a nearby outlet.

You’ll need to install something in the ceiling that the cable can hang off of, but you won’t need to do any electrical rewiring. Turning the lamp on is as easy as plugging the cord into a wall socket.

Most cable lamps have attractive-looking cables so that the dangling cord looks intentional. You can also use a wire sleeve to camouflage the cord against the wall.

It’s sometimes hard to access the bulb, meaning that some hanging lamps can be annoying to turn on and off. If your lamp doesn’t have an easy-to-access switch, consider picking up a remote control.

Clever mirror tricks

You have your lamps set up — now it’s time to make the most of them. Using mirrors can give you the most bang for your buck from your floor lamp.

Hang some large mirrors against the wall, and point your lights in the direction of the mirror. The light will bounce off the mirror, and the reflection will scatter all over the room.

You can find all sorts of interesting-looking mirrors to jazz up your space. Play around with shape, size and decorative frames to add your own personal touch to your space.

Reflective accessories

If you don’t want to deck your living room out in mirrors, consider using reflective accents to amp up the light in your space.

Crystals, glass bowls and reflective vases will scatter light around your space, making it feel brighter and more inviting. Any colour will work, so long as it’s reflective.

Sync your lamps

One drawback to having a room lit entirely by small lamps is that each one has its own individual switch. It’s no fun to fumble around in the dark trying to turn each lamp on one by one.

One way to simplify things is by putting all the lamps on an automatic timer. If you have an easily-predictable schedule, you can up your timer so that you’re greeted by a warmly lit glow as soon as you step through the door.

As an added benefit, a timer is also a good way to make your home look inhabited when you go on vacation.

Another option is a remote switch. You can connect several lamps to the same remote, and then turn them all on with the flick of a button. Just don’t lose the remote!

Check for extra light switches

You may not have overhead lighting, but there’s a chance that you can still turn on a lamp with the flick of a light switch.

Scan the walls for any light switches that don’t seem to do anything. The seemingly useless switch may actually control a wall outlet.

You can plug a lamp into the outlet and then flick the switch to turn the lamp on and off. To have even more control over your lighting, you can plug an extender into the outlet and then use it to power several different lamps. That way, you can walk into the room and turn on all your lights at once — no need to fumble around in the dark.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why do some rooms not have overhead lighting?

One explanation for the lack of overhead lighting is cost. Installing overhead lighting is expensive, and not installing it in certain rooms would have cut down the cost of construction.

The lack of overhead lighting may also have been an intentional design choice. Many people aren’t fans of overhead lighting because of the shadows and glare that it can create. Instead, it’s common to use portable lamps to create ambient light that bounces off the walls and reflective surfaces.

Is it difficult to add overhead lighting to a room?

The difficulty of adding overhead lighting to a room depends on your skills and prior experience.

You can install the light fixture on your own, but an electrician will need to wire it into your electrical box. Installing the lighting fixture is far easier if you have drywall skills. If not, this is a job better left to the professionals.

Before attempting any rewiring, make sure that you have the necessary insurance permits.

How many lamps should you have in a living room?

The ideal number of lamps for your living room depends on the size of the room, the brightness of the bulbs and the placement of the lamps. A good number to aim for is four lighting sources, but of course this is just a general rule of thumb.

It’s generally a good idea to switch up the type of lamps that you have in the room. For example, you could have two wall sconces, a table lamp and a floor lamp.


It can be stressful to move into a space without overhead lighting. The good news is that it’s also an opportunity to jazz up your space and customize the lighting.

There are so many different types of portable lamps available, and you’re sure to find something that suits your taste. Whether you string up string lights or set up floor lamps (or do both!), there are plenty of options available.

I hope that this guide has given you ideas for how to brighten up your living room without having to install overhead lighting.

Thank you for reading, and have a great day!