There are more elements at play in determining the light quality of your living room than you might imagine. Certainly maximum light is not always the goal, but done right, good lighting can make the difference between a room you love and one that just doesn't get used.
Let's start with recessed cans. The living room is not the place to install a big grid of lights covering every square foot of the room. Instead, think accent lighting and task lighting.
A good lighting plan will include wall washers for key areas where art might be featured.
Consider a small grid over the main seating area for tasks such as reading, games, etc.
Be sure to have all lights on dimmers to ultimately control the ambience.
Wall sconces are a wonderful alternative to lamps. Overhead light can be harsh, and wall sconces save you space but give you a very desirable quality of light.
In rooms without accent cans, indirect lighting can provide the atmosphere of the wall washer without having to go to the trouble of tearing up your ceiling. Consider concealed lighting on top of tall armoires or up-lights on the ground behind large furniture pieces.
Floor lamps and table lamps should be dispersed about the room such that, separate from any other lighting, they can reasonably light the room for most occasions. The room size will ultimately dictate the number of lamps, but if you have some other light source, three lamps is a good number to consider - one being a floor lamp. Keep in mind that dark lamp shades really restrict the lamp's overall light output.
Don't forget the classic chandelier. It can add some light, but more important, elegance and character for rooms with adequate height.
The colors of walls, floors, rugs, draperies and furniture can all affect light. Dark colors tend to absorb light, which makes more lighting necessary.
Natural lighting during daytime hours is our most efficient light source. And, it has become more common to do some light-related remodeling to increase its presence. Adding skylights, more or larger windows, glass doors, and cutting back outdoor plantings that block light can all provide dramatic results.
No matter what lighting plan you decide upon, always keep an eye toward energy efficiency by choosing LED or compact fluorescent bulbs over incandescent whenever possible. They're eco-friendly and last much longer, saving you money in the long run.