The right lighting can lift your spirits and make you more relaxed and productive. Here’s how the pros do it.
Any experienced designer will tell you that lighting is an essential element when you’re decorating a room – not the afterthought that many of us consider it.
If you’re tempted to spend more of your time picking out furnishings or puzzling over room layouts, remember that lighting can completely transform a space – not just by illuminating dark corners, but by affecting your emotions. Lighting is a powerful thing. The right light lifts the mood, inspires productivity, and motivates us. It enlivens the little things, our morning routines at home, or the moments we spend with friends. Here are some guidelines for creating a well-lit space.
MIX IT UP
Most designers agree that you need more than one source of light in a room. Think layered illumination with a mix of overhead, accent and task lighting. In the living room, for example, you might begin with a decorative ceiling fixture near the middle of the room, then add some downlighting to gently wash the walls, curtains and art with functional warmth that bounces light off the ceiling.
Depending on the room’s layout, accent lights can be used to highlight art, and table lamps can be placed by seating to add another layer of light.
For extra ambience, try candles. The aim is to create a contrast between the middle of the room, its edges, and the darker spaces between. Without quieter moments, everything is flat and boring. It’s the subtle interplay between light and dark, that creates appeal.
GO BRIGHT IN THE KITCHEN
One place where bright light is more important than mood is the kitchen. Try flooding the space by installing recessed lighting along the edge of the ceiling. If you have a kitchen island, consider hanging overhead pendants, without taking up room which you might need to prepare food. And don’t forget under-cabinet light: running LED strips on the bottom of your upper cabinets is the easiest way to create an evenly lighted bench space.
BANISH BAD BATHROOM LIGHTING
The worst lighting is a recessed fixture over the basin, as it casts shadows that will show up every wrinkle and make you think it’s time for a shot of Botox. Instead, opt for wall-mounted sconces with 75-watt bulbs which help cast even illumination across your face. Another great feature to add is motion lighting at the washbasin cabinet base which creates a very subtle glow, like a night light.
Or create intimacy and spa-like luxe with a pretty pendant light near the tub, which will make the bath a focal point.
DON’T OVERDO THE OVERHEADS
The biggest mistake people make is with overhead lighting sowing in strips of recessed downlights which can be excessive, generating spots, and unwanted shadows. Lighting is all about creating atmosphere – try using a mix of large pendant fixtures or chandeliers in common areas, with uplights, that wall the ceiling with a gentle glow that reflects the floor and everything in between. For living rooms, try subtle light source like wall sconces, table lamps and in dining areas, a sculptural centerpiece about a table provides depth, while accent lighting adds warmth.
CONSIDER A ROOM’S ORIENTATION
IF you have a south-facing room without direct sunlight, it might require more thought by installing recessed fixture along the perimeter of the space of discreet uplights in the corners of the room or a pair of sconces.
LIGHT UP THE CORNERS
When you have an awkward, empty corner, transform it with a floor lamp that complements the surrounding space.
A dark corner doesn’t have to stand empty – with a desk or squashy chair, and pretty lamp, it might become the room’s new star turn.
PLAY WITH AMBIENCE
Put dimmers on your lights to respond to changes in natural light, seasons, etc. The more flexibility, the better.
DON’T FORGET THE DETAILS
Whenever you use a shade, whether it’s on a lamp, a sconce or a chandelier, use frosted or soft bulbs, to eliminate the shadows and hotspots.
BE CHOOSY ABOUT YOUR BULBS
We’re all about LEDs now, but we like the warm-coloured LED bulbs that look like traditional incandescents. Plus they’re made for all fixtures, including recessed, table lamps, and sconces. For a warm, inviting look go with 2.700 to 3000 often called ‘warm white’, as the higher you go in the the colour-temperature range, the more blue is introduced, and this ultimately gives you the dreaded warehouse cold look. The one piece, decorators swear by? The uplighter; it can add another dimension, change everything, and make a difference to the furniture, the walls and the people in the room.
By using individual uplighters to bounce lots of light across walls and ceilings. This way, you get dynamic lighting with the ability to change the mood of the room, as required.
CREATE THE FEELING OF SPACE
By using uplighters to wash the walls with light, and draw the eye up. Our eyes perceive light through its reflections across all of the surfaces in the room.
EMPHASISE THE ARCHITECTURE OF A HOUSE
By using carefully placed and angled lighting. Uplighters can help to direct the gaze upwards toward the ceiling.
Lead image via HK Living.