So bright, yet so oddly distorting, overhead lighting really is that we advise you to ignore it altogether in favor of lamps. But if you or your landlord has installed dimmers, you know that the opposite can be true: Dimming the brightness of those downward-facing bulbs can make them soft and shiny, not sharp. (You'll really want to turn them on!) "Crucial" is how important New York stylist and designer Michael Bargo says dimmers are in home design (which is really saying something, given that his Brooklyn apartment doubles as a furniture store to buy from; the light in it needs to be as flattering as possible). "I use them in every room ... I use them whenever possible."
Good news for anyone who's ever cursed their overhead: installing dimmer switches is as simple as replacing your existing switches (and switch plates) - which is easy if you're knowledgeable about wiring and even easier if you have an electrician swoop in to do it for you - and making sure the bulbs you use are dimmable. There are several options to consider, but the two main buckets are paddle-style dimmers, which you touch on and off and feature a small, nubby lever next to them to control the brightness of the bulb, and knob dimmers, which you twist to turn the light on and up. Blade-style dimmers are more typical, with a light switch that just so happens to have a dimmer function, but dimmer knobs are a little more satisfying design-wise, whether you're going the modern or antique route. "House of Antique Hardware [in New York] has the best old-fashioned push-button dimmers," advises Bargo, who prefers them to paddle switches and pairs them with white or black metal plates. Vintage switch plates can be found on sites like eBay and Etsy.
While Michael primarily uses dimmers for overhead lighting, it is also possible to add them to lamps without wiring: The dimmer simply plugs directly into the wall like a small extension cord with a lever on it. Push it down or turn the dimmer knob and watch the shadows soften, the lights that once resembled spotlights transform into a very soft, soothing glow. Adding lamps at different heights and wattages will make the room lighting more multi-dimensional if that's what you're interested in, but with dimmers on top, you'll never be more than a click or twist away from good lighting.