At this time of year we depend heavily on artificial lighting. Yet so many homes are poorly lit. Older homes tend to be under lit and newer homes over lit. Now, my general advice is that too much artificial light can result in a space that feels “clinical”. However, poor room lighting usually will make your home feel gloomy and uninviting.
Getting the room lighting balance right can be a challenge. Room lighting is one of the most important design aspects of a home: get it right and the space will be a pleasure to be in, get it wrong and you’ll never feel comfortable in the room.
There are four main room lighting styles: ambient, task, accent and decorative and each one provides a completely different effect. To decide which option is right for you, you will first need to decide what the area is going to be used for, then select the best option to achieve the optimum lighting for that room’s function. Here is a guide to room lighting to help you get the lighting in your home absolutely right.
‘This is where you can afford to do something a bit wild’ says lighting designer Rocky Wall of Wink lighting. A hallway is a transient space that people pass through rather than hang out in, so it’s the perfect space to be a little bit brave with your light choice. Make a real statement with a unusual or decorative pendant light for example. This kind of fitting not only illuminates the space but is also a feature in its own right.
Your choice of bulb is very important too as the colour of the lighting in your home can completely affect the look and feeling of your décor – so choosing the right bulbs is of the utmost importance. ‘It’s really important that the colour temperature of the bulbs is right’ says Rocky.
‘You want to avoid cool colour temperature bulbs in hallways, this will make you and your guests look pasty and pale, always go for a warm colour temp instead’ Colour temperature is measured in degrees Kelvin, any bulb between 2,400-2,700K will be warm, 2,700-3,500K will be lukewarm and anything over 3,500-4,000K will be cool. Most good bulb brands will display these ratings on the box.
If you have a long or narrow hallway a good tip is to place your downlights off center. By placing the lights closer to the wall you will create a lovely scalloped effect where the light washes the wall. This is also a lovely way to highlight any architectural features or pictures that you have hanging on the walls.
The kitchen is an area that is very often over lit with far too many downlights. ‘You don’t need to fill all of the blank ceiling space with lights’ says Rocky. You should light the work spaces really well, make sure your island or counter tops have plenty of light and light your dining table well.
Pendants over a dining table or island work well, put them on a seperate circuits to the rest of the lights in the room so that you can control the atmosphere in the space. Getting the height of a pendant light over a dining table right can be hard to gauge. Rocky suggests positioning it so that ‘when you are sitting it is over your head and when you are standing it is under your head.’
Open plan spaces
When planning your lighting scheme for an open plan living space you should do so with the location of your furniture in mind rather than simply focusing on the ceiling. By doing this you will be able to light the different zones more effectively.
Don’t rely solely on ambient and overhead lighting – this kind of lighting is purely functional and gives an overall illumination for a space. It is generally achieved either by overhead pendants or spotlights. Make sure you include some secondary lighting such as floor and table lamps. Not only will they help to dress a room but they will also create atmosphere.
Once again try to avoid the temptation to over light a room with too many fixed downlights – the result will be harsh and will tend to create glare. Instead, position directional fittings so they light the walls to reflect light back into the room.
Have seperate circuits so you can control the mood of the space and make sure that you can dim the lights. ‘If you are going to go for automated lighting control this is the area to go for it.’ says Rocky.
In a large open plan area you will find that you have multiple light switches. By opting for an automated system these would be replaced with one switch plate on which you would have each setting programmed giving you effortless control to create the perfect atmosphere whatever the occasion.
Sitting room or Den
‘If you have a separate sitting room or den it’s nice to try to have a completely different kind of lighting treatment in that space,’ says Rocky.
This will give the space a completely different atmosphere to the rest of the rooms in the house. For example, it is nice to keep the ceilings completely clean so why not consider a mix of wall lights and either lamps or if you have built-in joinery in the room you could include some cabinet lighting to create ambience.
Home office or Study
In a home office or study you need to go for really good room lighting. This is where the light source provides a focused source of illumination in an area where a task needs to be carried out. A desk lamp and a secondary floor or table lamp would be adequate. You could consider putting these on a 5 amp circuit so that they could be operated by the main light switch.
Kids rooms are a bit of a moveable feast says Rocky ‘since their furniture tends to move around as they get bigger.’ So one central light source will give you the most flexibility. Never try to light a bedroom with downlights says Rocky. For a master bedroom simply lighting the room with lamps on a 5amp socket or alternatively wall lights or two even-hanging pendants either side of the bed is sufficient.
When it comes to lighting your garden ‘pick something outside and light it really well’ is Rocky’s advice. This way you are creating a focal point that will connect you to the outside.
‘Be very conscious of your viewing points from inside the house,’ says Rocky, ‘You’ll spend more time looking out onto the garden than you will spend in your garden at night so your lighting scheme should work to highlight parts of the garden rather than light it functionally.”
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