Joanna Gaines’ Fool-Proof Guide to Light Fixtures

Lighting might not be the most exciting thing about home decor, but to Joanna Gaines, it’s everything. “Good lighting can transform the look and feel of a space, not to mention what it does for its usability,” the former Fixer Upper star shared in the Winter 2018 issue of Magnolia Journal. With that kind of pressure, choosing the right light fixture to tie in a space or make a statement can be confusing. Fortunately, Jo Jo shared her fool-proof tips to sconces, chandeliers, and pendants in the magazine so we can finally stop second-guessing our lighting woes.

We break down Joanna Gaines’ light fixtures guide, ahead. But first, a few notes on lighting in general:

Several light fixtures highlight the wood and tile elements of this craftsman style kitchen as seen on Fixer Upper.

Joanna Gaines uses light fixtures as a focal point and accent pieces in her designs. | HGTV

Layer the light

When adding light fixtures to a space, one of the first things to think about is how the light layers. “Most rooms need a variety of ambient, accent, and task lighting to strike the right balance of dimension and brightness,” says Joanna. “For example, in a kitchen, you might have recessed ceiling lights (ambient), pendants over an island (accents), and undercabinet lights for the counters (task),” she continues. Depending on the room, she suggests varying the light fixtures by type, size, and location to give it a more layered appeal.

Focal point versus accent

When it comes down to it, you can use light fixtures as a focal point (like you would a couch or coffee table) or intertwine it into the decor as more of an accent piece. No matter what its purpose may be, keep that in mind when choosing a light fixture. If you want an accent piece, look for fixtures that tie the room decor together or add an additional element to the design. And, if you’re going for that focal point feel, make your light fixture choice first and select items based around it.

Lighting falls into three categories

If you want to get into the nitty-gritty of light fixtures, “lighting generally falls into three categories: ambient, accent, and task,” says Joanna. “Ambient lighting acts as your foundation, and it includes recessed or flush-mounted fixtures that blanket a space with soft, even light,” she adds. Her example of this type of lighting is likened to an outfit — ambient is the “jeans and t-shirt,” or the blank canvas if you will. As far as accent lighting (think: chandeliers and sconces) is concerned, she believes it’s the jewelry of the room. Task lighting, aka functional lights, “are like the shoes you choose to go with your outfit — you want them to look good and work hard,” she explains. Accent lighting has a very specific purpose to fill such as a reading light or light above the stove.

Joanna Gaines’ guide to light fixtures

With a little of Joanna Gaine’s light fixtures background knowledge, you’re now ready to dive deeper into the world of surface mounts, chandeliers, sconces, and pendants. Here’s Joanna Gaines’ guide to light fixtures in this month’s issue of Magnolia Journal.


You’re probably already familiar with chandeliers. But, not all of them equal bedazzled crystals with an impressive — read: expensive — price tag. These works of art feature a host of different styles that help amp up the design without sacrificing the functionality. “Chandeliers are a popular choice for living areas, dining rooms, or open-plan spaces because they make a stylistic statement while also providing ample light,” says Joanna. When it comes to choosing a chandelier, she recommends taking a close look at the room’s size, as that will help determine how big or small the fixture needs to be. “A large loft might require a 60-inch-diameter chandelier, while a 16-inch fixture might be just right for a cozy breakfast nook,” she notes.

Joanna’s chandelier tip: Need help figuring out size? Joanna suggests leaving at least “48 inches of space between the chandelier and surrounding walls.” She also says utilizing your dining room table for measurement can make a big difference. “A good rule is to install a chandelier that’s about 12 inches narrower than your dining table,” she notes.

Surface mounts

Confused about what light fixture would go best in your small space? A surface mount is a great place to start. “Designed to sit flush or semi-flush against a ceiling surface, these fixtures help to illuminate small spaces,” says Joanna. Surface mounts should go in the center of a room or hallway and can either be small or large focal points. “As with all light fixtures, match your surface mount to the size and style of your room,” Joanna notes.

Joanna’s surface mount tip: If you aren’t sure about style, Joanna says to consider brass and glass for a more traditional abode and “a factory light with a metal shade” for a modern farmhouse home.

Wall sconces

Sconces are an excellent way to open up a room and are super easy to incorporate in your home. Joanna says “they’re ideal for framing windows, doors, mirrors, or artworks,” but they can also go on either side of a bed for extra reading light or above a mantel. Just be sure to “install them at eye level, with at least 36 inches of space in between.”

Joanna’s wall sconce tip: If you rent your space and want to change a few light fixtures — including sconces — Joanna says you can easily find plug-in options for a less permanent upgrade. “Conceal the cord behind furniture, or choose a cord that’s attractive enough to be on display,” she suggests.


Pendants are another stylish way to bring light into a room. “A pendant is a single light source that hangs from the ceiling. They can be helpful for anchoring a ‘floating’ space, like a kitchen island, and work especially well in pairs and multiple,” notes Joanna. “Pendants should hang 24 to 38 inches above the countertop of 84 inches from the ground,” she adds.

Joanna’s pendant tip: If you need more space on your nightstand, Joanna suggests hanging pendants on either side of the bed “as an unexpected element.” She also says you can “cluster them in a stairwell or above the dining table for a sculptural focal point.”

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