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Lighting on a Budget: 4 Tips to Get the Look You Want for Less

night photograph of outdoor kitchen and patio

Lighting is responsible for setting the mood and atmosphere, but it can easily make or break a room if done poorly. Many interior designers and homeowners sometimes err on the expensive side—opting for large, extravagant lighting without really considering if the same effect is possible with a more cost-efficient design.

The truth is lighting has never been simpler to do on a budget than it is today. Through a combination of thriftiness, cleverness, and an eye for detail, you can light any room in your home without hurting your wallet. In fact, you may be able to use things you’ve got laying around.

Here are four amazing DIY tips to help you achieve just the right lighting for less.

1. Recycle, reuse, and upcycle

Pretty much anything to do with DIY involves reusing or upcycling “junk” and turning it into something hip and functional. This is especially true with lighting as you can turn any number of objects into pendant lights, sconces, or lamp bases.
• Mason jars (pendant lights)
• Cardboard shapes and designs (sconces)
• Books, concrete, or recovered architectural elements (lamp bases)
DIY light kits make creating your own super simple and fairly inexpensive. Almost anything could be turned into part of a light or lampshade/pendant, which makes the project especially fun for those into reusing found objects or who are thrifty.

Once you conquer your interior lights, consider improving the look and quality of your outdoor lighting, where flames become an appropriate substitute for bulbs.

2. Utilize decorative mirrors

Decorative mirrors can be used in rooms to amplify natural light. Having even just one ordecorative mirrors two can add so much more light to a space that they can effectively replace the need for adding additional lights (if you’re tight on space or just can’t accommodate any new fixtures). Placing a tall mirror between two windows, for example, can trick the eye into thinking there is a third window; and you will also have the benefit of improving the room’s natural light.

Mirrors can also be placed on walls or behind lamps to both increase the glow of the lamplight and make the room seem more spacious than it may actually be.

3. Switch to dimmers

Installing a dimmer in place of a standard light switch can help you capitalize on a range of lighting without touching the fixture itself. Dimmers are great for setting the mood and adjusting lights throughout your house and are a great way to avoid lighting fatigue—that overwhelming sense of shadow-less brightness so common in conference rooms.

Dimmers also have the advantage of being energy efficient. This can also increase the life of incandescent bulbs as powering them down by even 35% can save you 1/5 of the required electricity.

The great thing about dimmer light switches is that they don’t require any special consideration or writing to install in residential settings. That and the sheer variety and style of dimmer switches means there is a look to fit any style or décor.

You can even dim fluorescent lighting to create a cooler look. While dimmer switches won’t extend the longevity of fluorescent bulbs as they do for incandescent lights, it is cheaper and more convenient to dim fluorescents.

4. Illuminate with purpose

Lighting should always be intentional.

If you walk into the bathroom, the lights should be soft and white. If you walk into a kitchen, there should be ample overhead lighting to illuminate workspaces, like your counters, the stove, and the sink. A dining room’s table should be the brightest spot in the room, etc.illuminating lights

When you’re considering lighting for a space, understand the room’s function to define how it should be lit. Even outdoor lighting should follow this maxim. Places where there is the most foot traffic, or areas of concentrated activity, should be well lit, and comfortably so. In fact, when you’re setting up the lighting outdoors, you can go with electric lights or torches, which have the added benefit of providing a degree of warmth.

Lighting is an element of design that really lets you determine the feel of a room, and that makes tying together the rest of your indoor—or outdoor—living space such a seamless experience.