Shine a light
Shine a light

From creating an illusion of space, to setting the mood or finishing a look, lighting is the hottest trick in the book, says Suzi Boyle

article advertisement

Often the best lighting is something you don’t immediately notice. It slowly creeps up on you. Perhaps you remark on how striking someone’s dining area looks, or wonder why their lounge appears so cosy.

At its finest, rooms can take on different feelings; one minute bright and practical, the next low-lit and inviting. But no matter the impact you’re trying to create, it’s important to work out what you want from the room.

Bill Noble, lighting designer for Wow Lighting, says a top trick is “layered lighting”. “Living rooms, dining rooms and master bedrooms need different kinds of light. One layer for general lighting, one for decorative and another for mood.”

Most lighting professionals use one method to illuminate the whole room, a second for task-related purposes such as a reading light or suspended pendent, and a third used purely for drama - think candles, patterned shades and bright pops of colour.

It may sound complicated, but giving your home a lighting makeover isn’t a long or expensive process. For a quick-fix, Bill says: “Hide a light fitting, such as a small table lamp, on the floor in the corner of a room. Positioned to cast light up onto the wall, it will give instant mood and atmosphere to any space.”

Interior designer Debbie Neal is of similar opinion. “As a rule, I always mix overhead with ambient lighting.” But don’t expect a dimmer switch to do all the work. “Dimmers can create an unnatural feel. There’s something about table lights and sidelights that give a soft, lovely glow - and they needn’t be expensive to look good.

Shops like B&Q and Homebase are doing great designs right now. You just need a good eye.” Choosing the right decorative lamp depends on the theme and look of your home. But bear in mind harsh lighting is never flattering. Look out for shades that warmly diffuse light and cast a soft shadow. Choosing a lower wattage bulb will add more intimacy and cosiness, while dark coloured and perforated shades can create interesting shadows and glamorous hues.

Robyn Clifford, buying director for Dwell, says: “Lighting is no longer just a practical need in the home, it has become as important as your décor and furniture choices. Remember each piece has the potential to make a statement so look at LEDS, moulded shapes, over-sized pieces and colour.”

But try not to overdo it. “Don’t buy anything you’re not going to use,” says Kia Sunda, founder of interiors company Kia Designs. “When a house has too many lights, it takes forever to switch them all on and off.” She recommends wiring multiple lights to one switch. “A lot of my clients ask for the kind of easy control you find in hotels.”

For open-plan living, another thing to consider is ‘zoning’. In the absence of walls, “the right lighting should bring a great design to life”, says Kia. Low-level pendant lights over the dining table create an intimate space while a reading light by the sofa can define it as an area of relaxation.

Whatever you go for, there’s one thing the experts insist - be brave. “I love lighting that makes a real statement,” says Robyn Clifford. “A light can really be an art form.” “It’s easy to um and ah over all the designs,” adds Kia. “But don’t take the safe route. A small paper lampshade will not change your home. Take a risk on something that really stands out.”

Design Experts reveal their lighting solutions for key areas in the home


A well-lit hallway should instantly welcome you into the home. If it’s narrow and pokey, Bill Noble suggests adding glamour by “bouncing light off the walls - it will make them seem bigger”.


Adding a dimmer switch will help you adjust between task and mood lighting. Be aware, some eco-friendly bulbs don’t dim without making a buzzing noise. Another key fashion is indirect lighting - illuminating the bottom of your bath or the flow of water from the showerhead for an instant wow affect. Bathroom lighting must be IP rated.


Downlighting underneath your kitchen cabinets to illuminate work surfaces can be attractive and task effective. Debbie Neal explains: “The kitchen is somewhere that good lighting is vital. You really need to see what you’re doing. By mixing overhead lighting with under cupboard lights, when dinner is finished you can relax in a more social spot.”


“Remember big is beautiful,” says Kia Sunda. “The most common mistake people make when lighting their lounge is picking a shade that’s too small for the room.” As a rule, if you’re decorating a 4m x 5m room, don’t be afraid to pick a shade that’s 50cm-1m wide.

Dining Room

Lighting is the most important aspect of the dining room, says Robyn Clifford. “A glamorous pendant hung low over the dining table is essential for setting the mood.” As a general rule they should hang about 30 inches from the table so as not to bother diners.


Traditionally bedrooms don’t need much light, so choose shades that cast interesting shadows or give off an exotic glow. But bear in mind you don’t want to restrict the space either. For example, if you read it’s important you can have a light that won’t disturb anyone else.

next article