The Number One Lighting Mistake Folks Make

Hi Everyone,

I know you’re busy right now. Well, me too!

My party is Thursday night, and I still have a lot to do.

But, guess what I’m doing tomorrow morning in the midst of all of this?

Yes, I’m meeting with the contractor I’d like to hire to discuss the next steps.

Why am I meeting him the day before my party?


Well, clearly, I’m a masochist. lol


No, really; here’s why it’s tomorrow. I contacted him 12 days ago, and then after seven days, not hearing anything, reached out again, and this time he got back to me right away and said that he had time the morning of the 15th.

Groovy. I wasn’t about to say no, so at least we can talk about next steps.

However, today, I need to deal with a prescient issue.

It’s about my kitchen lighting; what’s going on in there. And, that will lead to what I believe is the biggest lighting mistake people make.

Some of you may recall that the day after I moved in, the FIRST thing I did was locate all of my lamps. They weren’t difficult to find because the boxes were tagged. Plus, they were in the larger boxes.


Moving is terrifying as it is.


Moving alone adds another level of horror. However, moving into a place with a lighting mistake that feels like a prison interrogation room made me nauseous. The only saving grace was the fantastic guys from Schleppers, who couldn’t have been nicer, more professional, and efficient. They had me moved in, in 90 minutes!

So, the next day, when I had my five living room lamps installed and could dim the track lighting waaay down, the room immediately felt like home, instead of a colossal mistake.


holiday greetings 2020 - living room - beautiful lighting - Back Bay, Boston
The night after I moved into my apartment, December 22, 2020.


Okay, okay!!! I know you want to see WHAT it looked like before I brought out the lamps. This is very painful, but since I love you all so much, I’ll suffer for a few minutes.


You might want to grab a pair of sunglasses first.


Bad living room lighting mistake-do not pin to pinterest

What’s difficult to photograph with this lighting mistake is the glare. It’s not a comfortable, cozy feeling. It’s not even Edward Hopper cool.

Please do NOT pin the image above and directly below to Pinterest. Thanks so much!


vignette - Bad living room lighting mistake-do not pin to pinterest
Now, this may seem normal to you. And, if so, then you’re in good company because this is how the majority light their rooms. It’s with overhead and way too bright lights. You can read more about this lighting misconception in this post.

Let’s look at the room with my lamps and the track lighting turned down by about three/fourths.


my living room holiday 2021-warm lighting

Many of you are designers and already know what I’m talking about. But, for those of you who are not, which version of the same room do you prefer? The glary image with scary, DARK shadows or the version with the warm, sophisticated, light?


I can’t stress enough the importance of great lighting.


In fact, I feel that it’s the most crucial element in decorating. The reason is a gorgeous design; poorly lit will look terrible.


But, spelling it out, this is most common mistake folks make when it comes to lighting.


They OVERLIGHT. And, often, the overlighting is from one source.

This is the case with the overhead lighting mistake in my kitchen.


number one lighting mistake - overlighting

My kitchen, which will get demolished this year (God willing), came equipped with one seriously wrong-for-this-place-Home-Depot chandelier. Plus, there’s the under cabinet light over the range, and then, there’s this thing over the sink:


hideous lighting mistake

I never turn it on.


number one lighting mistake-hideous light over sink

Never. I would rather wash dishes in the dark than be blinded by this disgusting piece of shit.

Please forgive me if you find that word offensive. That is not a gratuitous use of the word “shit.” For, not only does the hideous fluorescent light blind and turn everything ashen, including skin tones, there is a wire weirdly coming out of the back and creating an irregular hole in the wall.


Would you like to see it?


Pretty, ain’t it?

Now that I have stuck my camera up there, I can see that it’s even worse than I thought. Oh, dear. That looks unsafe. I better have the contractor take a look when he comes over tomorrow.


This sort of thing makes a mockery out of the stringent Boston building codes.


It can be dangerous as all get out for decades. That’s okay, but if you go to fix it, you can’t just make it a lot better; it has to be “up to code.” And, it’s often next to impossible to do so. And, just so you know, when I say a lot better, I mean yes, taking care of ALL safety hazards.

But, let’s stay focused on this lighting mistake because my party is coming up, and even though I have a lamp sitting on top of the fridge and another on the counter, in the back, the kitchen needs more light.


Ummmm… Laurel. YES, you need A LOT MORE LIGHT. You NEED a brightly lit kitchen. You need to see what you’re doing, particularly as you age, as the eyesight isn’t what it once was.


By the way, that’s an example of the kind of snarky, insulting comment that drives me up a wall. Please don’t. I know you probably mean well, but the presentation comes across as condescending. It’s okay to disagree, but please try to say “I” instead of “you.” Fortunately, they’re rare, but whenever I show my home and plans for decorating, I get at least one or two snarkers.


Incidentally, I agree with you. However, there’s well-lit and ridiculously, blindingly brightly lit. Did they have a kitchen bright enough to perform open-heart surgery in the Downton Abbey kitchen? No, they did not. And I don’t think too many fingers ended up in the hollandaise.

Or, what about that gorgeous chef with 18 perfectly behaved children. ;] What’s her name?

Oh yeah… Mimi Thorisson! 

Her kitchen doesn’t look like a runway at a busy airport.

Sure, the lighting should be sufficient to thread a very tiny needle.


However, I prefer if everything is on dimmer switches. There are times when I need to turn on the overhead lighting for a minute. But, that maybe happens once or twice a month.

So, my first thought a few days ago was to see if maybe I could at least change that hideous fluorescent bulb? I tried to remove the covering of the ugly fixture.


Haha. No can do.


I even went on Youtube and found a video with a couple of burly guys who showed how easy it is NOT to remove the cover. However, I learned that the technical term for the cover is a lens.

That’s a misnomer if ever there was one. A lens should help one see better, not render blindness!


The other day, out of desperation, I did this with the tissue paper from the Anthropologie candles.


number one lighting mistake-this works!


haha! Well, form DOES follow function. And, at least I now had some softer light over the sink. However, the light is a little too pink. Plus, there is no way I will have the ability to put paper over that thing and get it not to look like a 4-year-old did it.


But, what if I could fix this lighting mistake by painting it with translucent paint in a warm color to match closer to the existing incandescent lights?


Therefore, I got on Amazon. This was Sunday, and I needed to have the paint by today. Plus, it needed to have stellar reviews. After an hour of looking, I found these fantastic acrylic paints from Arteza.


Box of Arteza craft paint

Arteza craft acrylic paintThousands of 5-star reviews! AND, they can get it to me in one day! Hooray!

paint brushes

And, I also got some inexpensive artist brushes in different sizes.

I love Amazon. I ordered the paint and brushes Sunday afternoon and, as promised, they did arrive the next day.


So, please join me in my laboratory.  I’m going to experiment on some parchment paper, and hopefully, this will work to fix the over-sink lighting mistake.


Here’s how it went.


Arteza acrylic paints

I started messing around experimenting a little on the parchment paper but then realized that I just had to put a sample up on the light fixture. Of course, I would then quickly wipe it off. These paints dry fast!

Fortunately, I did have the presence of mind to tape off the parts not being painted.


number one lighting mistake-paint that overly bright baby

First, I thought I would try titanium white with a DAB of sunflower yellow. I mean a dab. And then I thinned it down slightly with a little water. That’s a conservative place to start.


Sunflower yellow - oh no!
Yikes!!! And, believe me, it was greener than it looks in the photo. I quickly grabbed the camera before I wiped it all away.

Well, what happens if I use just plain white?


titanium white


This isn’t going so well. However, I’m determined to do a temporary fix for this lighting mistake.


Titanium white with violet
I tried a dab of violet, I believe. Well, it’s worse, as you can see.

Okay, I’m going to need more color, so I grabbed the terracotta and put a speck of it in the titanium. I knew a little would go a long way.


Arteza - camel
No kidding. You will see, shortly; It is a very pale shade of pink with the light off.

I did thin layers of the paint, which ended up looking a bit like photos of Jupiter with the light on. But, anything is better than that hideously blinding fluorescent light.


Light fixture after painting-cure for thenumber one lighting mistake

I couldn’t get a good image with the light on, but here, you can see how it looks with the light off.


Okay, let’s first review the kitchen image with the overly bright overhead lighting mistake.


number one lighting mistake - overlighting

We went from this above.


Warmly lit-homey kitchen - cured number one lighting mistake

To this.


I am not saying this lighting is the end-all.


It’s not. But, in my opinion, it’s a helluva lot better than the one with the overhead LED nightmare, coupled with the over-the-sink seriously bad fortune.

Well, I went on a little longer than intended.

What else is new? haha.

Have any of you done something similar to get your place looking better in a hurry?

Please also check out:

22 Living Room Lighting Rules You Need To Know

and Why is Kitchen Lighting So Difficult To Get Right?




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Welcome To Laurel Home!


Hi, I’m Laurel, and Laurel Home is the website and blog for Laurel Bern Interiors.
I’ve been creating new-traditional interiors since 1988. The blog is where I share all.

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