Lighting is crucial in design. Not just because it allows you to see, or not, but because it can make or break your space. We like to think of it as the makeup of the home – done well it can highlight the right corners and materials, but done wrong it can make even the prettiest thing look bad. So with its importance in mind, we’re here to help you navigate the sea of good lighting, and in particular, how to choose the right bulb.

First things first – on January 1st, 2014, production on incandescent bulbs 40 watts or higher was banned in the US. Yes, our beloved incandescent, with its soft warm glow will soon be phased out and replaced with more energy efficient alternatives. So, while they are still on the shelves, buy as many low wattage incandescents as possible.

So now that we have to figure out the new world of energy efficient bulbs and the more-often-than-not terrible quality of light that they give off, what should we be looking for?

Here are a few things you should know about light bulbs:

1. Watts is the amount of electricity a bulb uses. But to tell how much light a bulb will give off, you need to look at the lumens.

  • A 40 watt incandescent bulb gives off 450 lumens, however energy efficient bulbs now produce the same amount of lumens with only 6 watts.

2. It’s all about the kelvins: if you love the warm glow of incandescent bulbs, look for alternatives that produce light at 2700 kelvins. The higher the kelvins, the colder light it produces.

3. The best lighting scheme for your home is to have numerous sources of light that emit a low amount. This is how you create soft lighting, that keeps your eyes relaxed and makes everything in the room look a lot better. We recommend using 40 watt bulbs or lower (or 450 lumens or lower).

So, what’s left now that incandescents will be phased out? Halogens, CFLs and LEDs. Here’s what you need to know about them.


  • Similar to incandescents (they also use a filament) but are more energy efficient.
  • They emit a soft light.
  • Because they aren’t as energy efficient as LEDs and CFLs, they will be phased out in the next five years or so.

CFLs (Compact Fluorescent Lamp):

  • They are less expensive than LEDs.
  • Take a while to turn on.
  • Have to be disposed properly because they contain mercury.

LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes):

  • Produce a lot of light without heating up the bulb.
  • Are expensive.
  • Will last over a long period of time.
  • Emit directional light: the beauty of incandescents is that they emit light in all directions, creating a very soft environment around it. LEDs cast light in only one direction, which is why they have inferior light quality to incandescents. The good news is is that lighting manufacturers are developing LEDs that imitate incandescents.

For general lighting purposes, we think LEDs will be the way to go. They aren’t quite at the standard of our beloved incandescent bulbs, but there are a few that are certainly getting there. Check out our slide show to find out our picks!