Ask the Expert: What is the best way to light a media room?

As the weather gets cooler, we tend to move indoors for entertainment. We watch more television, play video games and watch movies. We gather with friends for the holidays and use the common spaces in our homes to entertain.

Media rooms or variations of such, have become increasingly common. Technology has made it more affordable, and creativity has made it more accessible to most homeowners. However, one common item that sometimes gets overlooked in a media room, or combination living-media room, is the lighting.

Lighting is especially important in a media room. This not only includes the lighting that you will add to your media room, it also includes the amount of daylight that enters the room as it can alter the lighting scheme and create a glare.

In a movie theater, your eyes are focused solely on the screen. Your eyes and pupils adapt to the level of light in the space, even as the lights dim. Then there is a constant darkness, until the movie ends, and the lights come back on.

When you are home watching a movie our focus is not as centered. There are many distractions and many places your eyes can wonder. And often, there are times where you are watching television, and at the same time, doing something else. It is important that your lighting is set up in layers to accommodate the different uses of the room, while providing a “media room” affect when desired. For example, you will need a certain type of lighting to watch television, however you will need another type of lighting if you are doing work, and a third level if you are using the room to entertain friends.

A ceiling mount fixture or pendant lighting is not a good idea because they can get in the way of your line of vision, create a glare onto the ceiling, or worse, on your screen. The best overall lighting for this area is recessed lighting. Typically, you do not want to place the recessed lighting over your seating area, rather it should be installed around the perimeter of the room – not shining on people’s head or shining above the screen.

The line of lighting should be behind the furniture hitting the floor and illuminating the room a little bit so there is no reflection of the cans in the room. It is recommended that you use recessed cans that are trimmed in black, as white or shiny metals can create additional glare.

Wall sconces with opaque fronts, with lighting that is directed up or down are preferred, rather than sconces that distribute light all around them. Sconces can be a good additional source of lighting however, you don’t want to see a bright light shining off the wall as it can affect your sight of the screen.

LED lighting that highlights overhead architectural elements works on a tray ceiling or columns so that light bounces off the ceiling and reflects into the room. This can be a great source of lighting when entertaining to provide an intimate setting with guests. This is also a great use of lighting when placed on a dimmer to provide background light when watching the big screen.

Another suggestion is to place small recessed lights on the walls about eighteen inches off the floor creating a low level of light without any reflection on the screen. This will allow for you to move around the room with care, without affecting the screen.

One thing that is usually not a good idea in a specifically designated media room is a table lamp. Table lamps, if they are on, will create a glare on the screen and can be a distraction. They are useful when you are entertaining guests or doing other activities in the room but not when the screen is on.

Some lighting manufacturers have specifically designed lighting for media rooms and offer kits that include recessed cans trimmed in black, as well as wall sconces with dark coverings, step lighting and more.

When constructing a media room, take care in the planning of your lighting. Consult with a design professional who can refer you to a local lighting company that specializes in lighting for just this purpose. The investment in the right lighting package is the next best decision after the technology needed to create your ideal media room.

Sonny Golden, President – Golden Key Interiors

(718) 761-2366     [email protected]