Lighting Design and Mood

By Sue Ridgeway

There are a multitude of ways to elicit a mood of belonging and comfort, including designing with color and incorporating biophilic elements. Another powerful way to impact mood is through lighting design, and it can impact the prospective buyers’ mood significantly.

Think about it: when you walk into a room that is bathed in cozy, inviting light, how do you feel? Instantly at ease? Walk into the same room buzzing with harsh fluorescents, and your teeth may start to grind. Why? We humans are very sensitive to light.

In 2014, a Journal of Consumer Psychology study found that the more intense the lighting, the more affected and intense the participants’ emotions were — both positive and negative.

The study included six experiments that examined the link between emotion and ambient brightness. Feelings of warmth increased when participants were exposed to bright light with hints of reddish hues. A sensation of angst increased when bluer light dominated. And the brighter the light, the more intense the participants’ emotions became. Both the intensity and the color of the light affected people’s moods. A professional interior designer/model merchandiser can effectively help create that positive balance of light to give the builder an edge.


Design for the function of the space. The entrance of a home should welcome guests and create a smooth transition from bright daylight (when prospective buyers are typically touring a model) to the home’s interior lighting.

This VT model home offers a soft glow of welcome upon entering. Using a warm neutral paint with the addition of pattern trimmed mirrors and a tradition inspired lantern creates a comfortable greeting compared to the bright sunlight of outdoors. Photo courtesy of Lita Dirks & Co.


The kitchen, a central location in any home, requires a brighter light, and specifically light that not only helps to facilitate cooking, but also encourage gathering and family time. These “skylights” shed light that is the same temperature as natural light — offering an open, airy feeling and helping the room’s occupants to feel a more positive vibe. Combining natural, ambient, task, over-all decorative lighting increases the level of effectiveness and drama to delight the sense of sight.

The kitchen in this NC model home employs sky lights, recessed lighting as well as pendants to create a bright, joyful atmosphere. Photo courtesy of Lita Dirks & Co.

Living Room(s)

Conversely, while the living room is also a central gathering space in a home, its purpose is for relaxation. As a result, the lighting in this space is typically warmer and more layered to allow for variances throughout the day. Lower level, great room areas of the home are also entertaining spots and as such the lighting is designed to encourage gathering.

Furthermore, homes today could have several rooms that may serve for entertaining, gathering, or other communal functions. We see this in lower-level family areas, lofts, large dens, play spaces or gaming rooms. In these spaces, lighting needs to encourage some drama and fun while containing task lighting so play can be highlighted when and where needed. Sometimes this might be a wine bar, game table or, perhaps a beer tap.

The lower level space in this model includes lighting that conjures up feelings of being in a bar or lounge area. The lighting makes you want to pull up a chair and stay a while. Photo courtesy of Lita Dirks & Co.


The lighting options in the bedrooms should be warm and soothing, with the light coming from lamps and other softer sources (vs. overhead fluorescents). Bedrooms are where rest and rejuvenation needs to happen. Here, lighting should embrace one’s inner peace, a feeling or calm the idea of self-preservation, perhaps even a touch of romance can fulfill that inner dream.

The romantic lighting in this room helps to create a relaxing, comforting feeling in this multifamily model bedroom in Atlanta. Photo courtesy of Lita Dirks & Co.

With the ability to largely affect the mood of a room, lighting is one of the most important elements our designers consider when designing a space. Professional interior designers/model merchandisers understand this. Through effective design they can help give the builder an edge by improving the overall emotions elicited by a space.

Post courtesy of Sue Ridgeway, Director of Marketing at Lita Dirks & Co., an interior design and merchandising firm based in Greenwood Village, Colo.

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