The walls are decked, the tree is trimmed, the stockings are hung. Yet it's likely no one has thought much about seasonal indoor lighting, save for the usual string of lights on the tree.
Lighting is now considered an integral part of interior design as opposed to an afterthought. More recently, party hosts and planners see lighting's potential as a decorative element, setting the stage for holiday gatherings and other events.
While most indoor light fixtures are permanent, they are not unchangeable; existing lighting can be altered and supplemental lights brought in for special occasions.
Keep it dim
"One thing people tend to do incorrectly is make the light way too bright in the entryway or foyer," says Jeffrey Dross, corporate director of education and industry trends for Kichler Lighting, a Cleveland-based decorative lighting manufacturer.
Guests usually arrive after dark for holiday parties, he adds, so unless you've lit up the yard a la "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation" it hurts coming in from the dim into ultrabright lighting.
Feel free to embellish
"One simple change that makes a big impact is if you have a chandelier in your dining room with exposed lamps, there are clip-on shades you can add to change the mood of the room" and correspond with holiday decorations, Dross says.
Chandeliers and fixtures can be gussied up for the holidays with add-on magnetic crystals, available at finer lighting stores.
Simply switching out light bulbs can create the desired party atmosphere, though it's best to avoid cheesy, unflattering bulbs that glow bright red, blue or green.
"My neighbor takes out the normal bulbs in her chandelier and puts in those little white flickery ones, which create a very warm glow and an intimate feel like candlelight," Dross says. Remember when switching out bulbs that warm, yellow tones are most flattering.
Get in focus
Lighting can be used to draw attention to centerpieces and stations, such as a champagne fountain, cocktail bar or dessert buffet, says Karen McCommon, vice president of communications for Intelligent Lighting Design in Austin, Texas.
Flexible adhesive LED light strips are a cinch to attach, unseen, beneath the countertop along the edge of a kitchen island or bar. The lights come in different colors and cast an atmospheric glow from beneath the countertop and partway down the facade, McCommon says.
A lower-tech way to spotlight impressive menu items or a small tabletop Christmas tree -- provided shadows won't spoil the effect -- is to position an enclosed low-wattage lamp under a table covered with a white tablecloth that drapes all the way to the floor. The table will glow from within and take on an ethereal quality "almost like it's floating in the room," Dross says.
With a rented lighting fixture called a wall washer, "You can wash an entire wall in color," McCommon says. "This is usually used in big productions like weddings, galas and fashion shows, but it's a great way to transform a room and wow guests."
The little things
There's no need to spend a lot of money on special effect lighting, though. Generally, people already have seldom used -- and often forgotten -- light sources that change the mood of a room. Remember the little bulb in the china hutch that makes the crystal goblets sparkle? While subtle, it may add just the touch of elegance guests don't necessarily notice yet somehow appreciate.