It is no secret I love the classic and elegant look a picture light can bring to a space. Remember when Chris hung one up in our living room this past winter? I do love to be a rebel and think outside the box, like using a picture light in our kitchen’s built-in. However, the most recent update to our primary bedroom now houses a picture light doing what it is intended to do – lighting up the beautiful art above our bed.
I bought this original piece of art for our bedroom a few months ago, but it was looking so flat against the wall! We decided to DIY a frame (here’s our floating frame tutorial–it’s easy!) and add a picture light and now I couldn’t love it more. Picture lights have such an elegant look, and this added touch in our bedroom makes the space look picturesque and luxurious. And because I love this classic look so much, I wanted to research the general rules for picture lights to share in this post. I can definitely say I learned a thing or two; maybe you will too!
You can install and use a picture light in a few different ways. The easiest being a battery operated option. Or, if you’re lucky enough to have a plug on the center of a wall–a plug-in option would be fairly straight-forward as well. In our living room, there was a plug in the middle of a wall where previous owners likely hung a tv (there was a cable hook up as well), which made plugging in a picture light easy peasy.
However, if you have to call in an electrician to add a plug for your art light–I’d recommend just going straight for hard-wired.
I’ve never seen a picture light I don’t like, and honestly, I love to play with scale. But! a picture light should be at least 1/3 to two-thirds the width of the picture frame being illuminated. For photos that are at least 30″, go for a picture light closer to 18″. Whereas for frames smaller than 30″, half the size will be plenty. My personal preference is for a picture light to either be one-third bigger or smaller than the art or space it is illuminating. (I’ll show you below where we went larger with the art light).
Lights that are too bright with harsh UV rays can cause artwork to fade over time. So, for picture lights, it is recommended to use a low-wattage LED light bulb instead of standard incandescent bulbs. When shopping for LED light bulbs, look for the light output (lumens), not the number of watts used. Aim for a color temperature of 2,700K or a color rendering index (CRI) of 95 for a more natural-looking light that will accentuate the artwork without washing it out.
In Greta’s bathroom, because the art was on the smaller side, we actually went larger with the picture light and I love the balance it creates!
A general rule of thumb is that a picture light should be about 6″ – 7″ above the art it will be highlighting. When positioning a picture light over the artwork, the goal should be an even spread of light over the whole picture. The best way to achieve this and to avoid glare or long shadows is by installing the picture light in the middle of the artwork. And to tilt the light at a 30 to 35-degree angle so the light is not directly on the piece but gentle accentuating it.
Regarding installing a picture light, if you are not hiring an electrician, then the box your picture light comes in should have clear instructions on how to install it. Picture lights are such a great alternative to other wall sconces or angled recessed lights.
They can really take your art up a level, but we also have used picture lights over shelves and even the wood serving boards in the kitchen!
Here’s a few of our favorite picture lights, both plug-in and hardwired, at every budget!
1. Rechargeable 16″ Gold $34
2. Hardwire 16″ Brass $38
3. Plug-in 14″ Bronze $47
4. Hardwire 16″ Brass $48
5. Hardwire 14″ Brass $68
6. Plug-in 14.5″ Brass $69
7. Plug-in 10″ Brass $149
8. Hardwire 14″ Antique Brass $165
9. Plug-in 9″ Oil-Rubbed Bronze $166
10. Hardwire 20″ Bronze $199
11. Hardwire 20″ Brass $249
12. Battery 24″ Brass $298
13. Hardwire or Plug-in 18″ Bronze $399
14. Hardwire or Plug-in 18″ Antique Brass $399
15. Hardwire 18″ Antique Brass $519
16. Hardwire 24″ Brass $540
17. Plug-in 16″ Bronze $540
18. Plug-in 24″ Polished Nickel $589
19. Plug-in 18″ Brass $629
20. Hardwire 23.5″ Bronze $1099
Our wood grain Shaker cabinet fronts were designed for busy, high-traffic homes like ours. Clad with durable textured thermofoils, this line is compatible with Sektion, Akurum, Godmorgon, and Besta cabinets from IKEA. It's the perfect, practical way to add the warmth of wood to all the rooms of your home.
We have teamed up with Loloi to create a line of rugs that are as affordable as they are beautiful. This collection houses a great mix of traditional and modern rugs, in cottage-y colorways, as well as vintage-inspired beauties that you’ll want to roll out in every room.
We partnered with Stuga on a line of hardwood floors — The Ingrid is really livable, and the color is very neutral. It doesn’t lean warm or cool, it’s that just right in-between. We have really loved putting it everywhere in our house. It’s the best jumping-off point for design, no matter your interior style. In addition to being beautiful, Ingrid is really durable — we have three kids, and we always have a home construction project going on. Ingrid stands up to it all.
Looking for our favorite things? A place to shop our home room by room, or just catch up on what Julia's wearing / loving right now? Browse the CLJ shop.
Befores, afters, mood boards, plans, failures, wins. We’ve done a lot of projects, and they’re all here.
We have a long-standing relationship with DIY, and love rolling our sleeves up and making it happen.
Even when you don’t want to rip down a wall, you can make that space in your home better. Right now.
The next project we’re checking off our 2023 project list is the mudroom! This used to be the laundry room until we built out a much bigger, better laundry room upstairs. So, in the meantime, this space has been exclusively Cricket’s room. Cricket will still have a special space here, but we’re transforming this dingy […]
Another way for us to stay in touch! Joining our weekly newsletter gives you access to exclusive content, never-before-seen photos, your questions answered, and our favorite DIYs. Sign up below!
Make yourself right at home
Make yourself right at home