Let there be ... light!
Over the years I've seen that when someone is faced with a room to decorate, she's quick to think about the "big" things first. For example, when you consider decorating an empty family room, what do you think of? Probably the couch. Will it be a sectional? Two sofas? A collection of chairs around a great table. Then maybe you worry about the entertainment wall, the extra pieces of furniture, occasional tables, and so on. Then, almost as an afterthought, you grab a couple of lamps that were sitting in the basement and call that lighting. You aren't alone.
But lighting is key. Whoever coined the term "mood lighting" long ago is onto something. Lighting can dictate the mood of the room -- and of those using it. Consider the difference between a family room illuminated by a bunch of can lights and a ceiling fan lamp and the same room lit by a couple of lights spotlighting the fireplace, another on a favorite ceramic art piece, two table lamps with three-way lightbulbs for flexibility, and a chandelier on a dimmer. I know which makes me want to snuggle in.
You should consider four types of lighting for each room to accomplish the mood you want: ambient, task, accent, and decorative. Ambient is the general lighting that lights the room as a whole. Task serves a particular function, for example, reading or sewing. Accent lighting offers a highlight of some room element. And decorative is just that -- a special touch that probably doesn't provide any useful light but adds a special effect.
And while every room doesn't need all types, the more strategic you are about offering a bit of each, the warmer and more functional the room becomes.
These days fab lighting is available at a range of pricepoints and in myriad styles. From awesome online sources like www.lightology.com and www.rejuvenation.com to places like Target, which has a great collaboration with Jonathan Adler and offers trendy basics that won't break the bank, and TJMaxx, where I recently scored aqua blown glass beauties for a smidge of what they would have cost retail.
So don't be lazy when it comes to lighting. And make the mood what you want.