Friday, 1 July 2011

Lighting up your life...

As part of the continuing ‘beautifying your home both inside and out’ series, I thought I would focus this week on lighting within the living room - or, perhaps more appropriately, ‘lighting up your life, one energy efficient bulb at a time’. For me lighting is absolutely critical within an interior space as it has an impact on both the atmosphere and mood, as well as influencing the practical usability of the space. Lighting, whether natural or artificial, should never be an afterthought - it is absolutely at the heart of the design process. The type of interior lighting fixture, placement in the room and level of light all have a substantial impact on the overall appearance of the space and should be considered at the same time as other elements of the design, both to complement and to emphasise features. I’m not sure what the ‘trusted estate agents’ would say on this topic (no statistics readily available), but have you noticed that when you are selling your home the first thing they do, either when taking pictures for the brochure or showing to prospective buyers, is open the curtains and turn on all the lights...


(Image from House to Home)
Above all else, make sure that you consider natural light (and how you can capitalise on it) first as it creates a warm and inviting atmosphere and, more practically, also saves you from unnecessary costs (electricity isn’t getting any cheaper...). In simple terms, artificial light should be an addition to the natural light in the room - as usual, I am stating the obvious, but there are so many examples of where artificial lighting actually competes with the natural light in the room.

Lighting for spaces such as living rooms and bedrooms can actually be more challenging than lighting for task areas such as the kitchen and bathrooms. This is simply because the lighting needs to be flexible enough to accommodate the variety of different activities that take place in these rooms. So, when considering the lighting for a living space it is important that you take the time to think properly about the activities that take place in the room (a bit like when you are buying the sofa). Living rooms are often used in many different ways. They may be a space for children to play (although lighting isn’t a priority when we are talking WiiStation 360), a place for entertaining (both parties and more intimate events) or somewhere to switch off and relax. Given that these are, broadly speaking, the primary categories of activity for most living spaces, the lighting you choose should consider all of these requirements and accommodate a combination of general, task, accent and decorative lighting. Each type of lighting has a particular aim and can really change the feel of a room.



  • General Lighting: Essential for any room - its primary purpose is not just to be the main source of light, it should aim to fill the volume of the room with a consistent glow of light (and complemented by a combination of accent, task and decorative lighting).
  • Accent: Accent lighting defines a space or object; the focus is the object that is being illuminated, not the source of light itself. Living rooms are where accent lighting really comes into its own. It is used to highlight art displays, structural elements within a space, display areas and objects of interest.
  • Task: Allows us to fulfill a specific function or activity effectively and safely - a good example is reading areas. It can be provided simply and effectively by either floor or table lamps, or even wall-mounted lamps (but probably with separate switches).
  • Decorative: or ‘architectural jewellery’ are the glamorous luminaries such a chandeliers, wall sconces or very grand table lamps that make an impact in a space. In short, they are the lighting equivalent of Bling.

It is the combination and layering of these four basic lighting principles that provides the key to successful lighting design.



(Image from Find Me Furniture)

Here are my top tips to consider when considering the lighting in your living room:

  • Instead of using one central light, aim to use plenty of different light sources to create pools of light; this will create a more interesting effect. Two or three table lamps placed around the perimeter on tables, shelves or furniture will give the room a more spacious feeling as the light radiates inwards.
  • Placing lights at different levels in the room will add warmth and atmosphere to a room. This can be achieved by using a combination of up lighters, table lamps and standard lamps. 
  • Floor and table lights are good options for ambient light and using freestanding lights gives flexibility if you want to redecorate or rearrange furniture. If you do choose fixed lighting, it is best to align it to permanent features, such as fireplaces and alcoves than to something that may be moved or replaced at a later date. 
  • To make your living space seem larger, continue the atmosphere outside by lighting gardens, shrubbery and water features that are visible from the windows in the room. 
    These rules apply to all living spaces so have a look around your home and consider whether you are currently using all four types of lighting to maximum effect. If not, consider how you could add a layer of lighting to improve the mood and atmosphere of the room and maybe you can ‘light up your life’ just a little bit more.

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