A trio of Freya Cordless Lamps with Heraldic Ikat Printed Linen Lampshades by Pooky illuminates an outdoor tablescape.

Master the Art of Layered Lighting With These Expert Tips

Pooky founder Rohan Blacker knows how to make a room shine.

February 21, 2024

At Pooky, a beloved British brand known for its chic lamps and colorful shades that makes its U.S. debut this month, lighting doesn’t just enhance the mood—it creates it. Whether you’re looking to achieve a vibrant vibe for a bright and cheery space or a warm and soothing style that creates total calm, says Pooky founder Rohan Blacker, there’s one secret weapon that will help you achieve it all: layering.

“Lighting serves many purposes: It’s functional, decorative and creates an ambiance,” Blacker says. “Layering light with different style fixtures with different purposes delivers it all.” Pooky’s stylish mix-and-match collections give buyers hundreds of choices—and infinite potential combinations—to pair handmade lampshades (in a multitude of shapes, sizes, hues, patterns, and textures) with just the right base, be it a table lamp, pendant, sconce, or otherwise. “We’re injecting fun into lamps,” Blacker enthuses.

Whether your style is traditional or contemporary, whimsical or wild, there are myriad lighting options for every room. Here’s Blacker’s advice on how to layer all the components to get it just right.

Multiple levels of lighting—like Pooky’s Bow-Tie Three Arm Chandelier and Aesop Floor Lamp—create a more balanced mood.

Know Your Lighting Types

The most beautifully lit rooms are the result of careful layering. Blacker likes to focus on three primary types of lighting: ambient lighting, which provides general illumination; task lighting, which is stronger and more targeted; and accent lighting, which is used to highlight specific features or areas. Every room will need some sort of ambient lighting, but it doesn’t necessarily need to come from ceiling fixtures—sconces and lamps can also provide ambient light (just make sure you can flick them on and off with a switch for ease). In kitchens and bathrooms, task lighting is especially crucial: Start with fixtures like pendants or desk lamps that light the hardest-working areas, then layer in more decorative pieces. In larger rooms especially, accent lighting can play up certain features (think a picture light above a favorite painting) or anchor smaller areas (pair a floor lamp with a tray table in a quiet corner to encourage people to gather for conversation). To customize your lighting levels even more, consider cordless lamps that let you take pops of illumination with you wherever it’s needed, whether that’s a soft glow by the bathtub or a reading light by the sofa for curling up with a book.

Pleated lampshades in an array of ikats add global texture.

Choose the Right Shade Style

Different lampshade shapes can transform the aesthetic of a room. A minimalist drum shade brings a touch of modernity, especially in a fun pattern on a clear cylinder base. While an empire shade lends a more traditional look, its tapered shape is incredibly versatile, evoking a streamlined style when paired with a stick lamp or balancing out a more sculptural base. Size matters too: Your shade should always be in proportion to its base. (As a rule of thumb, the shade height should be about three-quarters the height of the lamp base, and its width should be roughly equal to the height of the lamp.) Still, there’s always room to experiment!

Get Creative With Color and Texture

Just like a great accent pillow or rug, a stunning lampshade can be the dynamic detail that completes your room. It takes guts to paint an entire wall orange, but an electric orange lampshade? That’s a much lower-commitment way to add a burst of color. Top a table lamp with a rattan or vivid patterned shade, and watch it set a whole new tone. You can mix and match your shades and lamps to re-style every room of your house depending on your mood, the season, or whatever else strikes your fancy.

Hang a mirror (like Pooky’s Grouper Convex Mirror) to visually multiply a room’s lighting.

Mix in Mirrors

While mirrors can help make a room look larger, they’re also a brilliant tool to double the lighting in any space—no extra outlets required. Lean an oversize floor-length mirror on the wall opposite a window to reflect the sun’s rays (and outdoor scenery), place a classic carved mirror over the mantel to amplify the cozy effect of a fireplace, or hang a petite convex mirror in a dark corner to catch ambient light.

Add task lighting like the Mo Desk Light for more targeted illumination.

Steer Clear of Pitfalls

The most common lighting mistake, according to Blacker? Relying solely on multiple recessed spotlights or strip lighting, which can drown out a room and is entirely one-dimensional. Too-bright lighting can also ruin the atmosphere: Adding a dimmer to hardwired fixtures will allow you to magically change the mood with a flick of your finger. Using the wrong type of light bulb is another faux pas: Skip the blue-toned “cool white” bulbs in favor of yellower “warm white” or “soft white” LEDs, which create a more inviting atmosphere for lounging, entertaining, or simply living your best life!