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Choosing the right lighting is a tricky business

19 June 2013

Choosing the right lighting is a tricky business, as you need to know the effect it will have on the room, and you won't know this until you have had it fitted. For this reason homes are often very poorly lit; gloomy during the day or too bright in the evening. Architect Dinah Bornat founder of Bornat Architect gave us a few tips and suggestions on how to choose the right lighting for your home.

As an architect I will tell my clients that lighting is one of the most important elements of the design, and if thought through properly, will transform a space.

Think first about the activities you will do in each room and choose lights accordingly: In a bedroom you will need good general lighting and probably a reading lamp, so it’s quite simple. In the bathroom good flattering light, in particular onto the mirror so that you can see your face. The kitchen will need good general lighting and also task lighting for preparation and cooking. The living room may not need to be so brightly lit as the kitchen but you will probably want it to feel cosy in the evening.

The space itself will largely dictate the lighting requirements. If it has a low ceiling avoid recessed lights as they will make the ceiling appear dark. Limit recessed spot-lights to the kitchen and bathroom at most.

Up lighting the ceiling will increase the feeling of height. Avoid old-fashioned wall lights and go for longer strips to up-light bigger spaces. There are a range of exterior lights that work very well in this situation. White ceilings and walls work best to bounce light off of course.

In the living room, dining room and kitchen, divide the lighting into daytime and evening activities so that you can switch easily between the two.

In the kitchen and dining room pendants over tables are very fashionable. If you use them for just evening meals and entertaining then you might want an opaque light that only illuminates the table. Switch off your lights around the cooking area and you can ignore the cooking and focus on the dinner and guests. A pendant that is needed for day and evening use should glow, and give more general light to the space. Both are very effective.

In the living room you can install 5 amp sockets and have them switched by your main switches. These are special sockets that take only small 3 pin plugs that you can easily fit to your lamp. Choose the best location for these for your side lights and spots, such as in corners or close to armchairs to transform the space with one flick of the switch.

In bathrooms you can often use exterior lights as they are sometimes designed to be waterproof.

Think also about the type of lamp you want. Most fittings can take low energy bulbs and with LED you are given the choice of warm or cold lighting. Many people choose warm light (more yellow) it is softer and more flattering, but cold light is best in kitchens as it more accurately replicates daylight.

Once you have solved the main requirements then you might want to choose lighting that is particular to you. Flamboyant chandeliers, feature lighting onto favourite objects or artwork, handmade lamp shades (providing they are heat proof) and using lights in alternative situations are all ways to make the lighting unique to your own home.

Read our tips for the 5 best locations for pendant lighting for more inspiration. 

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