Many people underestimate the power of lighting on how a space looks and feels. If you are dealing with issues such as minimal floor space, lack of natural light, or creating distinct areas in one room, lighting and how it is used is crucial. There are many savvy ways you can transform a home.
Make a plan
Lighting needs to be considered early in the design process and its importance cannot be underestimated.
Alison Gibb, creator of the Interior Design Toolkit, explains: “Lighting is the most important but often the least prioritised element of an interior. Due to the need for sometimes quite complex installation requirements, it needs to be considered early on in the design process, before the decorating really.”
Lighting affects everything, including the ambience and mood of a space and, if planned correctly, the whole feeling of your interior will improve.
Diana Lloyd-Jones and Jane Duncan, of interior design specialists J&D Design, say: “Every room should have a mix of lighting, including overhead, accent and task lights. Think about what activities will take place in each room, such as eating, relaxing or working.”
Lloyd-Jones and Duncan advise that you start by assessing the amount of natural daylight the room receives, what aspect it is; north or south facing, or otherwise.
“The amount of natural daylight will determine light levels during the seasons and affect the type of light the room needs. For example, a north-facing room will only receive a small amount of natural light, even throughout the summer months. During winter, however, it could be nearly dark after lunchtime, so it would be beneficial to use higher luminescence or lux lighting fixtures.”
Think carefully about functionality
To maximise design and function, architect Tala Akkawi, of Kube Management, uses a simple exercise, where she closes her eyes and imagines waking up in the property, getting ready for the day, working, entertaining, living, going to bed, then asks a man to do the same.
She adds: “Each property has its own quirks, and this is a great way to spot them and draw up your shopping list efficiently at the start. It could mean the difference between a standard bathroom and one with a secondary mirror that’s anti-steam – perfect for a man shaving in the shower, with integrated lighting that can double as mood lighting for a bath. I have seen rental values go up with low-cost details like this.”
Layer your lighting
The lighting of a home should make it feel inviting, and to accomplish this you need to think about layering different sources of light across various levels. This can take advantage of the size and shape of the room and create atmosphere.
Lloyd-Jones and Duncan comment: “To make a room feel more spacious, use uplighting, or to create an illusion of height, use low-hung pendants. Clustered lighting makes large rooms seem more homely and snug.”
“Every room should have a mix of lighting, including overhead, accent and task lights. Think about what activities will take place in each room, such as eating, relaxing or working”
Diana Lloyd-Jones and Jane Duncan, J&D Design
They point out that table lamps, wall lights or picture lights provide added interest and an opportunity to highlight art or special architectural features. “This level of light is the most creative and can add character and depth to the room. For example, you may need different types of light for specific functions.”
Busola Evans, associate editor and supplements editor at Livingetc and Homes & Gardens magazines, says: “Having bookshelves backlit with LED strips will elevate a simple display. But it’s important that the strips are not visible as it can ruin the look.”
She adds that recessed floor sockets are worth considering so there are no wires trailing across the room.
Choose your bulbs carefully
The types of bulbs you choose should not be an afterthought; think about how bright you would like the space to be, and what atmosphere you are trying to achieve.
Lloyd-Jones and Duncan advise: “Halogen, compact fluorescent and LED bulbs come in a range of warm or cool hues. Do you want to create a cool or warm atmosphere?”
Walls that are covered in cooler tones, such as blues and greens, may benefit from a lightbulb that casts a warm glow. Conversely, you may wish to use a bulb that emits a cooler glow to brighten up a darker area. Choose from a variety of bulbs and consider the energy, light, colour and cost.
Akkawi adds: “I am a big fan of daylight LED, it has a modern feel and brightens older decor and furniture, as well as smaller spaces. If you are opting for tonal colours on the walls (as opposed to the white on white buy-to-let standard), be aware that paint/print colour will look different with the various types of lighting.”
The best way to do this, she explains, is to make sure you have the final colour light shining on the samples, and if you are still debating which bulb, then shine different types on to the furniture and see what you like best.
If budget allows, a dimmer switch is always great for tenants to have more flexibility.
Evans says: “Having lights on different circuits and ensuring each room has a dimmer switch gives flexibility. This means that in a kitchen, for instance, you can have bright task lights for food preparation but softer mood lighting for the eating area.”
Once you have the plan in place, you can create the perfect ambience.
Gibbs concludes: “Get it right – soft, dimmable pools of light around the room combined with candlelight – and the dullest evening will seem like the most romantic soiree, conversations will sparkle as you relax and unwind. You will feel your troubles gently float away.”