A light source creates a pool of light but there is a second effect produced when this light is reflected by surfaces. It is this secondary effect which cannot be reproduced in the shop where you buy your lights. Consider where you are to put the light and the surfaces under and around it. What effect will the reflected light have?
Avoid hard contrasts which can be tiring to the eyes and, where possible, try to combine different types of lighting in the same room. Direct lighting for reading or working, pools of light to highlight features such as paintings or objects and washes of light on walls all help to add atmosphere to a room whilst remaining functional. If a room has to perform several functions, consider installing a dimmer. This will allow a higher light level for working or reading and a lower light level for relaxation. This can prove useful too for older eyes which need more light.
Colour is most important, incandescent bulbs help create a cosy atmosphere in living areas while fluorescent lamps give a cooler, more efficient light for utility rooms. A room painted in a dark colour will need more light as much of it will be absorbed, whilst lighter colours reflect light. You can add colour to a room by illuminating a coloured surface.
Avoid glare by placing the lights at a height which prevents the eye from seeing the bulb directly. Pendants should not be hung so high that the bulb is clearly visible underneath. Take care that lights placed over reflective surfaces such as glass tables have a diffuser in them.
Room by Room
Different rooms have different functions, accordingly each room will have a different lighting requirement. The following guide will help you decide which light sources you need for each room in your house.
Avoid using one central light which will create hard shadows and possibly glare. Instead aim to use plenty of different light sources to create pools of light, this will give a more interesting effect.
Let’s start with where you sit. An adjustable reading light beside or behind your chair which can be switched whilst seated will prove invaluable. If it can be adjusted for height, even better.
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. These small pools of light also create interest.
Illuminate bookcases, pictures or objects of interest with picture lights or halogen spot lights. This indirect lighting of a different colour will add contrast.
Wall lights and pendants on a dimmer switch can raise the level of illumination in the room without needing to adjust any of the other light sources but beware of glare if they are mounted too high. Indirect light from wall washers (light fittings designed to light the wall and ceiling often made in ceramic or plaster) will create dramatic effects. Remember that the light given from wall washers will be coloured by the surfaces on which they are mounted. Floor lamps come in many guises and can be very effective at adding general illumination to a dark area where it is not easy to fit wall
We spend most of our time in the kitchen and it has multiple functions, many of which require care to avoid accidents. A higher level of illumination is required here.
Fluorescent tubes under wall mounted units cast an efficient light over work surfaces and prevent shadows. They also ensure you are not blocking out the very light in which you need to work.
A central light is also important in a kitchen to provide a general level of illumination and, if you have the space, the use of halogen spot lights mounted on the wall will help to add accent.
If you have glass fronted display cabinets in your kitchen the use of small halogen lights specifically designed for the purpose will add interest.
If your ceiling is low or you want to avoid a central light, consider the use of a number of downlights which create a glare free and pleasing effect whilst remaining functional
The main light source here will be over the dining table. The use of a dimmer will allow the table to be used for jobs such as sewing and yet give a low mood light for dining.
Don’t hang a pendant so low that your diners have to peer round it, about 60cm above the table is about right. Better still fit a rise and fall pendant.
If you like to dine by candle light, make sure the heat and smoke are far enough away from the light fitting.
If you have a glass dining table, make sure the light is fitted with a diffuser so that your diners are not looking at a reflection of the light bulb. Long tables can be very effectively lit with a longer light fitting suspended on two wires.
This is an area so often neglected. Consider the number of functions required of a bedroom.
For dressing you may need a general illumination or, if your partner has to rise at a different time, do you need a lower level pool of light which won’t disturb them? A well positioned downlighter will help here.
Many people read in bed and with a double room, it is useful to have bedside lights which are individually switched. Adjustable reading lamps are ideal if you want to read while your partner sleeps. For convenience and safety you should aim to have all of the bedroom lights controlled from the bed.
Dressing tables used for make-up will need more specific lighting and the use of two slender table lamps either side of a mirror gives a good working light without glare and will add to the cosy effect of the room.
Try to create pools of light to reduce any hard contrasts. Adding a table lamp or illuminating pictures will be very effective.
A general background illumination is important to avoid the hard contrast if only a desk lamp is used. Indirect wall washers or a floor lamp will do nicely.
For the desk lamp look for one which is adjustable for height and will reach over the area where you are working. It is most important to avoid working in shadows. If you have a computer try and light the wall behind it to avoid tiring your eyes when looking at the screen. Make sure the lights in the room do not reflect off the screen into your eyes.
A good central ceiling light is useful to provide a general illumination and a bedside or wall mounted reading lamp is recommended.
Night lights for children’s rooms give peace of mind and cost very little to run.
Older kids will want to have fun lighting and there are many effective novelty lights but always be safety conscious and choose lights which are suitable for the age of the child