Getting the lighting right in each room is essential to create the right mood. Read on for our do’s and don’t’s. Words: Georgina Blaskey.
“IT’S IMPORTANT TO KNOW EVERYTHING ABOUT THE ROOM BEFORE DESIGNING A LIGHTING SCHEME”
Creating a good lighting scheme can be difficult without experience because light is affected by its surroundings,” explains Sian Baxter, one of the industry’s leading professionals. Her award-winning consultancy creates schemes for a variety of projects, from a single room to a large hotel. “It’s not like a piece of furniture that will look the same wherever you put it. The light effect created by a particular light fitting can be very different depending on where it is – which room and even the position within a room.”
Interior designer Emma Green agrees. “Lighting is absolutely key to all design schemes. The worst thing a home owner can do is to just have one type of lighting in a room or to have overly bright spotlights and place them in a row.” Ill-thought-out lighting is instantly noticeable, like a clashing colour scheme or a badly-designed kitchen. Good lighting flows and enhances, warms and adds atmosphere. From task-focused spots over a kitchen counter to dimmed night-time sensors on stairs, back-lit wine cellar shelves to illuminated art, one size does not fit all.
“It’s important to know everything about the room before designing a lighting scheme – height of ceilings, the colour of walls, the type of flooring, how the room is used,” says Sian. A good lighting scheme will be flexible and balanced. It should enhance the good qualities and features of a room and detract from any negatives.
Rebecca Crawford, Senior Designer at John Cullen Lighting, advises: “Always consider the furniture within the space as well as the decoration. Think about where you might hang artwork as this is always worth lighting, especially for the added bonus of getting the reflected light back into the room, resulting in the space feeling bigger and brighter. Also try to avoid direct lights onto the sofa, as they can cause glare and discomfort to anyone sitting beneath them.”
All our lighting experts agree that all lights should be on dimmers at the very least – that way you can create different moods and effects, for example, up bright for kitchen-table homework time, dimmed with added candlelight for dinner parties.
The future of lighting, like so much home tech, is wireless. “The ever-increasing trend of having everything available at the touch of a button is filtering through to lighting systems,” says Rebecca. “The added bonus of it being wireless means it can be accessed by the user’s mobile phone or tablet. One control system that we use is Rako. It can be as simple or as multi-functional as the client requires. The keypads can be wireless too, allowing for a simple install in areas that have limited installation options, such as pocket doors.”
In terms of trends, gold, brass and copper finishes on pendants, chandeliers and table lamps continue to be fashionable, replacing silver and nickel. “Architectural fittings such as stair lights, uplights and linear lights are becoming more and more popular, but these need very careful positioning to create the right effects,” concludes Sian. If not, you could end up with strange beams at the wrong height, highlighting the wrong space and ruining the scheme completely.
So don’t make lighting an after-thought. Plan ahead, ask an expert, and you’ll avoid making expensive mistakes.
10 TOP TIPS FOR THE RIGHT LIGHT
1 Plan around furniture, art and equipment. Direct light where you need it or where you want to draw focus.
2 Consider time of day, mood, use and social occasions. Set up circuits for different scenarios, use dimmers for control.
3 Create pre-programmed lighting scenes at the touch of a button (eg Lutron or Wise).
4 Avoid too many downlighters in the centre of the room.
5 Beams from sidelighters directed to the top of the wall create beautiful arches. Direct sideways to illuminate art. Change the degree of beam from pencil-point focus to diffused.
6 Emphasise architectural features such as fireplaces and cornicing with uplighters.
7 Use directional spots to emphasise and outline. Use stand-alone floor lights to illuminate little-used areas.
8 LED recessed strips are the designer’s killer trick for fabulous shapes and lines. Recess lights into cornicing or fit in shadow gaps at ceiling/wall junctions. Normally used as accent lighting, the most powerful now provide effective light flow and can be dimmed.
9 Lumens is the measure of LED light flow. For areas requiring ambient lighting allow 100 to 150 Lumens per square metre and 250 to 500 Lumens per square metre for brighter places (kitchen worktop).
10 Kelvin gives temperature and warmth. The lower the K-power the softer and gentler the light hue; 2500K for a candle-like yellow and 5000K for a bright, blue and clinical light.