Written by Laurie Davidson

The ultimate guide to lighting

Looking for lighting ideas? Never underestimate the power of a well-planned lighting scheme. Not only can it transform your home, both in the way it feels and how it functions, but it can also create interest and visual drama, with layers of light that allow you to see clearly and highlight stand-out features. Ready to be illuminated about lighting up your home? Read on for expert advice and inspiration, whether you’re looking for mood lighting, task lighting or accent lighting to complete your space…

Mood lighting ideas

Whether it’s a statement chandelier, a row or cluster of pendants or recessed lights, use ambient lighting to create a diffused, even level in a room. Make sure that whatever you hang overhead is the right size for the space. Too big and it can cast unwanted shadows and make your room feel cramped – too small and it can look lost and out of proportion.

1. Pendant clusters

A row of pendant lights, or a cluster, hung over a dining table makes for an inviting place to eat, while allowing you to see what’s on the table when needed. Think hard about where you hang them, though – too high and you risk not getting enough light, too low and you’ll be knocking them every time you reach over the table.

Amini black pendant lights with gold inner from Iconic Lights

Amini large matt black pendant lights with gold inner, £96 each, Iconic Lights

2. Use a dimmer switch

As beautiful as your chosen light fitting may be, it’s hard to appreciate if the light itself is too harsh, which is where a dimmer comes in. This way you’ll be able to set the brightness to exactly the right amount, whether it’s low-lit mood lighting or at a more general level.

3. Tactile materials

Light fittings can help with the overall feel you want to create in your room, whether it’s sparkling glass for an elegant vibe, a metal design for a more utilitarian look or something softer. Add texture by introducing a shade in a more touchy-feely material – linen, velvet, rattan and silk are all good contenders.

pom pom pendant light

AGRA pendant light with pompoms in beige, £66, Maisons du Monde

4. Open-plan lighting ideas

When you have one open-plan room with different functions, such as eating, watching TV or cooking, it’s crucial to light each part for its own specific requirements. For example, you may want lower mood lighting in the living area, while the kitchen will need something more functional and bright. Remember that you don’t have to have the same light fittings throughout – contrast and diversity can be a good thing.

Lighting and automated blinds control system, price on application, Lutron

Lighting and automated blinds control system, price on application, Lutron

5. Bathroom lighting ideas

Pendant lights are fine to use in a bathroom, but there are regulations in place to keep you safe. Fittings close to a bath will need to have an IP (Ingress Protection) rating unless your light fitting is high enough that it’s out of the bath and water ‘zone’. Find out more about IP ratings at plumbworld.co.uk

Roundout pendant, £1,581, Hudson Valley Lighting Group at The Design Buzz

Roundout pendant, £1,581, Hudson Valley Lighting Group at The Design Buzz

Mood lighting style tips

  • Think about the colour and warmth of the light you use – from warm white to amber, you can play around with hues to get the best effect. It’s worth noting that yellow light will appear warmer, while blue light is a cooler option.
  • Most overhead lights use incandescent bulbs, which come in a variety of wattages. A more eco-friendly alternative are compact fluorescent bulbs, which last longer and are recyclable, although are a little more costly.
  • Consider positioning a stand-out pendant at a height where it’s reflected in a mirror, to really get the full effect.

Task lighting ideas

When you need more than just an overhead light, task lighting will help illuminate those poorly lit areas. A desk space, for example, can benefit from a lamp – aim for one with varying intensity levels, so you can set its brightness, and cordless is also a good way to go for flexibility and to keep clutter to a minimum.

1. Illuminate a mirror

Bathrooms are notoriously the room where we do our hair and make-up, so it’s likely you’ll you need some extra light to be able to see clearly while not being so bright that all you can see is glare. Wall lights are ideal and should be positioned either side of your mirror to get the best effect, with a warm light rather than anything too clinical.

Buckley Bathroom double wall lights, £150 each, David Hunt Lighting

Buckley Bathroom double wall lights, £150 each, David Hunt Lighting

2. Use spotlights

Whether you need extra light to read in bed, under a cabinet, or in the office, spotlights are a practical option. Decide whether you need a singular design or one that comes with a few spots that can be angled in different directions.

3. Kitchen lighting ideas

Create a safe food-prep environment and make chopping and grating a breeze with a good, even light across your worktops. This under-cabinet strip lighting is not only dimmable and wireless, but it uses LED lights that consume up to 85% less energy and last 20 times longer than incandescent bulbs.

cheap strip lighting for kitchens from Ikea

Mittled lighting strip, £22, Ikea

4. Brighten an office

Avoid eye strain by making sure you have enough light to work comfortably when natural or overhead light just isn’t cutting it. Opt for a desk lamp with a softer bulb, so it’s not too harsh on your eyes, and choose from stylish globe-style orbs or anglepoise designs that can be angled to where you need them.

Kyoto brass table lamp with opal glass, £225, Alex Price

Kyoto brass table lamp with opal glass, £225, Alex Price

5. Reading lights

A reading nook wouldn’t be a reading nook without a handy lamp to cast light on your reading material. A floorstanding design is ideal as it’s tall enough to sit behind and above you, casting a much-needed glow onto your pages.

Marine Nickel Searchlight floor lamp, £350, Ruma

Marine Nickel Searchlight floor lamp, £350, Ruma

Task lighting style tips

  • Like to read in bed? Exchange lamps for wall-mounted lights or attach them to the side of your headboard, so they’re in easy reach without having to get out of bed to switch them off. Just make sure the lights are at the right height to shine down on pages, while you’re sitting up in bed, rather than on you where they could create shadows.
  • As a rule of thumb, a task lamp that’s on a desk or dressing table should be set at a height that’s equal to where your chin is, so you won’t be looking straight into the bulb.

Accent lighting ideas

Highlight an area of your room to create drama or show off your most treasured items with carefully planned accent lighting. Wall-mounted lights can be fixed above shelves for a softer way to showcase books and collectibles.

1. Picture lights

Give a glow to walls and showcase pictures with smart wall lights that are designed to cast a downward glow. Whether you opt for picture or track lights, keep the light source close to your artwork and opt for a low-wattage bulb to provide a sense of intimacy and ensure it doesn’t damage your art over time. The idea is that you’ll feel you want to stand closer for a look.

Blake picture light, £51, Pooky

Blake picture light, £51, Pooky

2. LED strips

There are a number of lighting options to choose from when it comes to highlighting the items on or under your shelves, or in cabinets… LED strips can be run along the front of the shelves or used to back-light them for extra drama, while recessed spotlights offer discreet downlighting. Whatever you choose, this form of lighting works best when concealed, offering a beautifully soft glow in your chosen area.

Manhattan home office with Manhattan bedroom in Dove, from £2,000, Sharps

Manhattan home office with Manhattan bedroom in Dove, from £2,000, Sharps

3. Wall lights

If your overhead light doesn’t stretch all the way to each corner of the room, consider using wall lights to brighten the space, add interest and create an extra layer of light. Being that wall lights will be in your eyeline and very much on show, opt for a design that is as attractive as it is functional, and fits seamlessly with your décor.

Montpellier antiqued wall lamp, £225, Curious Egg

Montpellier antiqued wall lamp, £225, Curious Egg

4. Light panels

If you’re searching for something a little different, then look no further than these wood-look light panels that give you a warm glow while on and provide a piece of geometric wall art when off. Available in different shapes and formations, these smart lights can even be set to respond to your music by changing colour – clever!

Hexagon wall light panels, from £199.99, Nanoleaf

Elements light panels, from £199.99, Nanoleaf

5. Quirky lamps

Lighting can also be used to add humour and interest to your space – as these three eclectic table lamps show.

Accent lighting style tips

  • Lights consume energy, so take stock of the bulbs that you buy. Longer-lasting CFL and LED bulbs can be more pricey, but will likely save you money over time.
  • Ask your electrician to install lights on separate switches so that each ‘type’ of light can be operated independently.

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