- How to get started on a home lighting makeover with ambient, task and accent lighting.
- Top picks for stylish lighting accessories to ensure your home lighting is on trend.
- The best bulbs for every light fitting.
Lighting is something many people take for granted in the home, or forget about completely unless a bulb needs changing. The impact great lighting can have shouldn't be underestimated though and a few simple changes can create a stylish impact. Whether you've just moved into a new home which needs a little modernisation or if you're fed up of squinting as you prepare dinner for your family, it's time you gave your home a lighting makeover.
Seeing your home in a new light
Transforming the lighting in your home doesn't have to be disruptive, unless you're planning a huge rewiring project. Giving your lighting a makeover doesn't have to cost the earth and it's a great way to refresh your living space. If you start with what you already have in terms of natural light from windows and doors and the ambient light that is likely to be already there (in the form of a ceiling light) you can build on it with lamps and spotlights to create a totally different atmosphere.
Where's the best place to start?
Before you think about how to switch up the lighting in your home, walk around your home at different times of the day and take note of what works with your existing lighting set up and what areas look too dark and gloomy.
As you view each room, ask yourself the following questions:
- What is the main function of the room?
- What activities take place in there?
- Is there an area that is permanently gloomy no matter what time of day it is?
- How does the sun effect the room, does the brightest time of day coincide with when the room is in use?
- What features or areas of your home would you like to highlight such as alcoves or artwork?
What is the function of the room?
Think about how each room is used. Is it used mainly in the evening for relaxing, such as a bedroom or cosy lounge, or is it a ‘functional' room, such as a kitchen, office or playroom? If you want to revamp your rooms, start with the practical considerations first, for example, functional rooms will need brighter lighting, possibly with additional task lights, whereas rooms that are predominately used for relaxing require softer, mood lighting.
Aside from the obvious purpose of each room there will be secondary needs that will require attention. For example, although bedrooms and lounges require soft lighting, specific activities such as reading or applying make-up will need more direct task lighting. Likewise in kitchens the lighting is generally required to be quite crisp and bright for food preparation, however, if you have seating in the kitchen, you will probably require the lighting to be less stark and more atmospheric at meal times.
Keeping the fundamental uses of each room front of mind, the following lighting tricks can make a huge difference to your home:
Start with the Basics - Ambient Lighting
So many well-designed rooms are let down by inadequate lighting. Before you even look at mood lighting take a look at the ambient lighting in your room. This is the lighting that provides the overall lighting for the space, often coming from the main ceiling light. Ensure you are using the right wattage for the size of the space and also consider using a different hue to adjust the warmth of the light to suit the function of your room.
Choose bulbs with a warm hue for your ambient lighting as this will help create a welcoming atmosphere, although you might want to use a cool hue for rooms where you work, such as an office. The hue of the light you require is a personal preference but generally, if your home is cosy and traditional then it will suit warm lighting. If it's a contemporary, minimalist design then it will suit cool hue lighting. Bulbs such as the CFL range from Sylvania last 10,000 hours and are an affordable way to bring a warm white hue into your home. Sylvania offer the same bulbs in cool white.
Ambient lighting rarely offers enough light to cater for everyone's needs without drowning a room in bright light. This is why it's important to backup ambient lighting with task and accent lighting.
- To determine the ideal amount of ambient light that your room requires follow this simple calculation: multiply the room's dimensions to calculate the total square footage, then multiply that number by 1.5. This will give an idea of the total number of watts needed.
- The colour of light is measured in Kelvins (K) and the higher the Kelvins, the cooler the light. Look for a bulb with around 3,000K for a warm light which many people prefer and around 4,000K for a bulb which offers a cooler light, similar to natural daylight.
- Ambient lighting is a great excuse to make a bold style statement and introduce a striking centrepiece to your room. Below are some suggestions:
- Classic showstopper - Caprice Antique White 8 Arm Chandelier by Daisy West - takes 8 E14 40 watt screw bulbs
- Modern touch - The Nautica Light Shade by KaiGami
3. A bit of both - Bunch of Nine Hanging Lamps by Out There Interiors
- No matter what age your home is, you can give it a personal touch with a few lighting accessories. Ceiling roses are a traditional feature in period properties and have been a staple of interior design since the 1600s. They are a simple accessory to bring back into your interior design and an affordable one as they start from as little as £20 and cost around £30-£40 to be fitted. You can replace a ceiling rose yourself and there's detailed instructions on how to do this on Dave's DIY Tips website but remember, if in doubt, always use a qualified electrician. The Electrical Safety First website from the Electrical Safety Council lists a range of websites where you can find qualified electricians. The website also has a handy list of tips for finding the right electrician for your project.
Attention to Detail – Task Lighting
Whilst ambient lighting is great for overall brightness, it's not exactly flexible and even if you have a dimmer switch, there will no doubt be areas of the room which would benefit from a little more light. The most effective way of using lighting to bring a room to life is to use your ambient lighting as a base and then use task lights to highlight particular areas and occasional lighting to warm up the overall atmosphere.
- Task lighting works best when it is placed to the side of the person performing the task, such as studying or cooking. This will prevent the person's body from casting a shadow over the area that they are focusing on and also prevent glare. If you're left handed, place the task lamp to the right of your work area and if you're right handed, place it on the left to prevent your hand from casting shadows on the area you're working.
- A flexible lamp with an opaque shade such as this one from Forest & Co is ideal for reading as it can be angled into position and the shade ensures the light is directional rather than being dispersed by a fabric lampshade. For the most comfortable reading conditions, you'll need a 40W - 60W bulb or the equivalent such as the 9W energy saving golfball bulb from BC.
- Consider who'll be using the room as well. Our eyesight gets worse with age so if older people will be using the room, bear this in mind as on average a 60 year old will need three times more light to read than a 20 year old.
- If you have a large dining table or an island in your kitchen then fitting a pendant light above this makes a strong style statement and provides vital extra lighting to a busy area. If you're looking for a style which is timeless and which will complement most decors then try an industrial style pendant lamp such as this one from Artifact Lighting. This pendant lamp can be hung low over work surfaces or a dining table (not too low that you bang your head though!) to provide extra lighting. Fit with an antique style lamp, such as this 60W bulb from Bell for a true vintage look.
Go one Step Further - Accent Light
Most rooms can be perfectly lit by means of ambient and task lighting. However if you want to go the extra mile and get the most out of your room, accent lighting can add the perfect finishing touches. Accent lighting is non-essential lighting that is used to highlight decorative areas, such as pieces of artwork or architectural features.
Accent lighting doesn't have to involve expensive light fittings. The light emitted is the feature, rather than the actual lamp itself, so simple high street uplighters or lamps do as good a job as the designer equivalents. Especially as they are usually positioned behind furniture, tucked away in corners or even used to light the inside of a fireplace cavity. If you want to highlight a plant with lighting - check the care instructions first as some plants don't fare well in direct light.
- You can make a feature out of the lamps themselves and accent lighting is a great way to show off your personality. Rather than being a requirement accent lighting is purely for style so you can have some fun! Below are a few of our top picks:
- Neon Alphabet Lighting from Out There Interiors - Choose your own combination of letters or symbols and see your message up in lights!
- For children's bedrooms or contemporary living rooms, try a Memory Balloon Wall Light from John Moncrieff Ltd. Available in a range of colours, these lights will bring a unique look and a sense of fun to any room.
3. Fairy lights always add a sense of magic to the home and they shouldn't just be restricted to festive season either. Add a little sparkle to your living room with these clear pin lights from Discover Attic.
- Kinetic lighting describes lighting which moves, such as candles or flames in a fireplace, and it can also be classed as accent lighting. Candle flames bring a real warmth to a room and there are hundreds of options available for candles and holders but if you're looking for inspiration, then the below are a good place to start:
1. For a contemporary take on a traditional candle holder try the Thora Rustic Zinc Candle Holder from Rowen & Wren - a great centrepiece to the dining table or to add ambiance on the mantelpiece.
2. Create a real talking point with your kinetic lighting with this Vintage Style French Blue Lantern from Made With Love, use with one large candles or a cluster of tea lights.
3. Add a pop of colour to a shelf or your mantelpiece with these cute tea light glasses from Fairtrade retailer Paper High which glow like jewels when lit up.
Help is at Hand
You will also find that you can make simple adjustments to your current lighting, such as replacing conventional switches with dimmers, installing wall lights, or swapping your existing ambient light fitting for a more contemporary one. Although it is possible to do these jobs yourself, without using a qualified electrician, we would always recommend getting an expert to do the job for you as this will be safer and usually quicker than a DIY job.
As many electricians charge a minimum fee - it might be better value for money if you have a number of smaller jobs done at once. Below is a rough idea of what you can expect to pay for a range of small electrical lighting jobs:
- Replacing a ceiling rose with a new design will take around an hour and cost £30 – £40 (excluding the cost of the rose).
- Fitting two double sockets to a room will cost around £100 – £160 based on 2 – 4 hours' work. This is something you might want to do if you live in an older house as period properties tend to have fewer plug sockets. You will need a number of plug sockets in order to use a range of lighting.
- The cost of fitting a dimmer switch in place of a regular light switch (useful for creating ambience!) is about £50, excluding the switch.
- If you want to add another light circuit to a room so you can control the lighting from a different entrance to the room for example, you should expect to pay around £150.