What You Can Learn About Lighting Design From Modern Family

Have you ever critiqued the interior design on your favorite TV show? It may sound strange, but it’s interesting to look past the characters and consider what you would have done differently (or similarly) with furniture placement, color schemes, and lighting design. I’ve definitely found myself thinking, “nice under cabinet lighting” a time or two while watching a show set in a luxury kitchen. Maybe that makes me a lighting nerd …

Modern Family is one of the most popular sitcoms on ABC right now, featuring three households that are impeccably designed. Phil and Claire Dunphy live in a traditional style family home with their three children, Jay Pritchett and wife Gloria live in a sleek, modern house with Gloria’s son Manny, and Mitchell and Cam’s home is a blend between the two styles. I included a few snapshots below, along with lighting design lessons:

1. Just a few recessed light fixtures can wash an entire wall with light. You can see just four recessed cans in this photo, but they create a wall washing effect so that the far wall becomes a focal point. I actually wrote a post recently on how wall washing recessed lighting  is often used in museums, hotels, and art galleries because it makes quite a statement. As you can see, it’s just as easy to incorporate into a home! The photo is of the Dunphy living room. Read more on how to wash a wall with light here.

Photo via zimbio.com

2. Layer your kitchen lighting for a high-drama effect. Between the red paint color, unique pendant over the kitchen table, and modern appliances, Jay and Gloria’s kitchen is dramatic all around. Notice how the lighting is strategically placed in layers. There are recessed cans with silver trims on the ceiling, two large pendants a little above eye level, and under cabinet lights to illuminate the countertops.

Photo via zimbio.com

Layering lighting in the kitchen makes your room highly functional. It’s next to impossible to adequately light an entire kitchen with a single ceiling light. By incorporating multiple levels of light, you ensure that the lighting is working for you – whether you are cooking, cleaning, dining, or reading. Layering the lighting is also extremely visually appealing. You really can’t beat that natural contrast between light sources and shadows.

3. For ambient/mood lighting, use several soft, shaded light sources. I would bet that the pendant and wall sconces depicted in this photo of Cam and Mitchell’s dining room are on dimmer controls. Between the soft light streaming in from the window and the circular lamp shades giving off warm white light, the overall effect is very cozy. Want to create ambient or mood lighting in your dining room? You can’t go wrong with several sources of warm white light with lamp shades to soften glare.

Photo via zimbio.com

What’s your favorite TV show? The next time you watch it, check out the lighting in the background. It’s interesting to consider how it contributes to the feel of the show – or to a particular scene!

The Office isn’t too much fun to analyze. The lighting is definitely meant to portray the somewhat-depressing atmosphere , fluorescent troffers and all. Although, is that an LED desk lamp I spot?

Photo via krackblog.com

Emily Widle

Emily graduated from UNC Chapel Hill with a degree in journalism. She enjoys scouring the news to report on the latest in the lighting industry as well as bringing valuable remodeling tips and exemplar home projects to light.

2 thoughts to “What You Can Learn About Lighting Design From Modern Family”

  1. My favorite show is Futurama, and I gotta say, people sure are wasteful with their lighting in the future. The folks at Planet Express leave every light in the building on, even when they’re on runs!

    BTW… Awesome idea. Wish I thought of it first 🙂

  2. Maybe the idea is that lighting in the future will be so efficient there will be no need to even turn it off? I’ve seen Futurama a few times – good show! Thanks for commenting 🙂

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