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How to Light a Living Room With No Overhead Lighting Easily

Are you missing the wiring for ceiling lights in some rooms in your house?

Our friends just bought a new house and they don’t have any central lights in the living room or their bedroom. They’ve been using table lamps as a temporary solution and the small pools of light do make it feel cozy, but sometimes when you’re busy, you just want to flick a switch and have a brighter light.

I did some research and discovered that this is pretty common in homes that were built starting in the 1980s and 1990s when design thinking and cost saving ideas started to come together. Interior designers were suggesting layered lighting schemes, rather than a single overhead light for living rooms and bedrooms. Meanwhile, builders realized that a ‘half-hot’ wall socket was a cheaper way to provide a switched light in every room than a ceiling light. advises that an electrician would charge between $177 and $328 to put a new light in, but if you’re looking for more creative solutions for how to light a living room with no overhead lighting, read on to find out what alternative options I suggest, and a step-by-step guide to follow in your own home.

What you will need

In Step 1 below, you can choose from three different options to solve the problem of how to light a room with no overhead lighting. Once you’ve chosen which option is right for you, this handy list will help you to check that you have everything you need to follow the step-by-step tutorial.

Materials and Instruments

Option A

Swag Light

Option B

Arc Floor Lamp

Option C

Twinkle Lights

Measuring tape




Pencil and paper




Step ladder




Light fixture


Straight pin


Swag light kit including cable, chain, ceiling hook, wire nuts


Electrical tape


Screw-in ceiling hooksor stick-on removable hooks




Remote switch







Floor lamp 


String lights  


Before I start with my suggestions, here are three ideas I’ve researched which I think you might want to avoid.

How to light up a living room with no overhead lighting

What not to do

Use batteries

Battery-powered lights may initially seem like a good idea to solve the problem of how to light a room with no overhead lighting.

In certain situations, for a temporary light, or one that isn’t used very often, they might be a reasonable choice, but for a permanent solution, they are not a practical option. The drain on the batteries will mean that you’ll be up a ladder, reaching up over your head to change those fiddly batteries, much too frequently.

Choose the LEDs

Inexpensive LED strips, in the right setting, can look hip and fun.

They work well for awkward places such as under cabinets and inside drawers. In an ultra-modern kitchen or bathroom, or a child’s bedroom with a future-forward theme, LED strips could be an option.

However, if you’re aiming at comfortable, casual elegance in your grown-up living space, LED strips are unlikely to look high-end and they can also be tricky to attach.

Add clutter

If your solution to how to light a room with no overhead lighting is to continue to add a variety of different lamps, keeping your cables hidden and your switches straight will be a challenge.

Chances are, you’re going to end up with haphazard pools of light, and a look that is more cluttered than chic.

Step-by-step guide

So, let’s get onto the good stuff. Here’s three great solutions to the problem of how to light a living room with no overhead lighting and a helpful step-by-step guide to each.

Step 1 – Choose your look

Start by picking out the type of light fitting you prefer. Whether you fall in love with a modern-retro Edison chandelier or a sleek floor lamp, simply follow the steps below for that type of fitting.

Option A – reinvent a traditional look with a modern swag light fixture

How to easily light a living room with no overhead lighting: modern swag light fixture
image credit:
  1. Plan. ​Decide where to hang the light. Go for a traditional central placement, or consider highlighting a seating area. Ensure there is a socket handy.
  2. Measure up. ​Go right up the wall from the socket to the ceiling and from the top of the wall to where you want the light to hang. Add a few inches for the distance from the ceiling to the top of the new light fitting plus you’ll need a little extra length to allow for the swag to drape. Add all your measurements together to find out what size swag light kit you need to get.

    Pro Tip: There is no right or wrong amount of drape, it all depends on what looks good to you.
  3. Shop. Buy your swag kit and light fitting.
  1. Find a stud. Lighting fixtures must be attached to one of the wooden studs that run through walls and ceilings.
  • To find the nearest stud, try tapping around where you want to place your light.
  • When you think you’ve found a stud, insert a straight pin as Brittany from suggests in her post about how to swag a light fixture. If it goes all the way in, there is no stud there. If it goes in a little distance and then stops, you’ve found a stud.

Pro Tip: Ceiling joists are usually (but not always) 16 inches apart

5.  Attach. Screw your main hook into the ceiling where your pin was. Add another ceiling hook close to the wall, directly above the socket.

6.  Join the light to the swag kit. Thread the wire through the chain. If necessary, join the wires together using the wire nuts.

How to easily light a living room with no overhead lighting: twist-on wire connectors
Image credit:

Don’t be put off if you need to use the wire nuts, they’re really easy to use. Check out this video tutorial from Mommymilestones for a great demonstration of threading the chain and how to use the wire nuts. Cover the wire nuts with electrical tape when you’re done.

7.  Hang. ​Secure the middle of the chain/cable to your second hook by the wall. Take the chain/cable across the ceiling and attach it to your main hook so the light fitting hangs down. You can add additional hooks if you wish. Plug it in at the socket.

How to easily light a living room with no overhead lighting using a swag hook.

Option B – For An Up-To-Date Look, Use A Large Arc Floor Lamp

  1. Plan. Decide where to place your floor lamp, ensuring that there is a handy electrical outlet and that there is sufficient space for the arc.
  2. Shop. Buy your lamp.
  1. Plug in. Relax and enjoy!

Option C – drape your ceiling with twinkle lights

How to easily light a living room with no overhead lighting: Fairy Lights
image credit: Nick Bramhall

1.  Plan.Measure your ceiling and draw a scale plan of how you want to hang your lights. Use this to work out what length of lights and how many hooks you need to buy. Allow a few extra inches to drape each swag. You’ll need one hook for every five feet of lights.

2.  Shop. Buy your lights and hooks.

Pro Tip: Lights that plug into each other will give you the neatest finish.

3.  Mark up.Use your measuring tape and pencil on the ceiling to mark where you want hooks. Place your first mark at the top of the wall directly above the socket.

4.  Attach hooks.Screw or stick your hooks where you marked.

5.  Drape lights.Connect your lights together and lay them on the floor. Plug in and take the string up the wall to the first hook. Move around the room attaching and draping the lights.

Pro Tip: For a romantic look, intersperse the lights with fabric swags.

Step 2 – choose your bulbs

1.  Work out your wattage. suggests multiplying the square footage of your living room by 1.5 to work out how many watts you need. Do remember not to exceed the maximum wattage of your fixture, as this can be dangerous.

2.  Choose your bulbs.

You have a choice of LED or CFL bulbs. Check out this video from Illustra Lighting which explains the key differences.

Overall, LEDs cost more to buy than CFLs, but last longer. CFLs create a warmer glow that is closer to the effect of incandescent bulbs. suggests that CFLs might be the better choice for how to light a room with no overhead lighting.

Step 3 – Dial up the convenience with a remote switch

1. Buy a remote switch. For an optional finishing touch, you can buy a remote switch that will enable you to control your lights without getting up from your chair.

2. Plug and play. Just plug the receiver into any outlet, plug your light into the receiver, and use the remote control to turn your lights on and off.

How To Light A Room With No Overhead Lighting: Final words

It’s easy to feel frustrated when you want to change an aspect of your home and it seems it might need special skills you don’t have.

So, I hope you found this step-by-step guide to how to light a living room with no overhead lighting useful and inspirational. It would be great if you could let me know what you think in the comments below and please share this article if you found it helpful.

light living room with no overhead lighting pi
Photo of author

About The Author

Nadya Jones

Nadya is a writer, entrepreneur, and designer based in Raleigh. She writes in her blog, the one you are visiting right now, where she shares her love for landscaping, gardening, and outdoor design. Her husband Brett provides her with a lot of inspiration and behind-the-scenes content. Together, they work on creating beautiful outdoor spaces that serve as an extension of their home and inspire others to do the same. If you are interested in landscaping, gardening, or outdoor design, be sure to check out the blog! Also, follow Nadya on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Flickr!

4 thoughts on “How to Light a Living Room With No Overhead Lighting Easily”

  1. Excellent article, thanks for sharing 🙂

    I have similar experience in the fact I have to light up snooker rooms in the same way.

    It creates such a lovely warm atmosphere having dim ambient lighting.

    I think I’m probably going to implement this in my living room at home.

    Keep up the great work Nadya!

  2. Your site is not user friendly. Every time I try to click on the search box it ends up sending me to lighting because the drop down above drops over the block

    • Hi Ralph,
      thanks so much for your comment!
      I did not know such problem exists.
      What device do you use when doing the search? I just tried it on a desktop and I did not see the problem.
      I guess you are on a phone or maybe tablet?
      Let me know – it will help me the fix the problem.


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