Take a good look around a room in your house. What is missing? Are your best features on display or lurking in the shadows? It’s time we focused less on changing our paint colours or furniture and switched our attention to our lights.
“Lighting is a hidden and much underestimated tool,” says Sally Storey, design director at John Cullen Lighting. “It can make the simplest white tile in the bathroom look magical, or expensive marble look terrible if you get it wrong.”
Good lighting is about creating “layers” of different lighting effects. Just as an interior designer works with colour and texture in the home, the lighting designer will play with downlights on artwork, uplighters to highlight architectural elements and energy-efficient strip lights to turn shelving into a feature of the room.
A cheap IKEA vase, says Storey, can look glamorous, if backlit properly. “With the right lighting, objects come alive. It can bring out texture in a garden, and create a dramatic effect in the shower, making it appear like a luxurious spa.”
With the right lighting, everyday objects can come alive
Add some pendants and lamps, spotlight your fireplace, coffee table, painting or uplight a window and it makes the space look as though it has been redecorated without buying a single scatter cushion.
“You can create interest and sculptural effects where you never thought possible – uplight a door, under the stairs, in small recessed spaces. Lighting the space beyond draws the eye and makes the spaces appear larger. If you light your garden or roof terrace it creates another room and adds to the sense of space.”
Bounce light off mirrored surfaces for a smoky glow, use a diffuser sheet at the base of a ceiling shade. Opaque glass, perspex or coloured shades in warm ochres and browns also soften the lightLucio Longoni
Having an entire energy-efficient LED (light-emitting diode) lighting scheme put in place does not come cheaply, at around £100 a bulb for a professionally fitted scheme, but the argument is in the energy and cost saved in the long term. “Instead of using the equivalent of, say, 60 watts in energy, you use 7 watts, with the same amount of brightness.” Storey recently lit an entire garden with just 60 watts – the equivalent of one traditional light bulb.
If money is no object, Storey recommends recessed lights with a handmade frame to silhouette a particular work of art and movement sensors that automatically turn on low-level lights in a bedroom or bathroom. If on a budget, lamps with shades made from silk or parchment diffuse the light and allow it out sideways, “which can often be enough in a bedroom”.
It makes sense to make use of any natural daylight, whether that involves pruning a large climbing rose or swapping bulky curtains for something less intrusive, she adds.
There are affordable options, still. Lucio Longoni, chief lighting expert at Heal’s, recommends buying plug-in floodlights, such as their “funnel light” to put behind plants or sofas and bring light into dark corners.
Or use an “angle light”, clamp light or extendable wall lights, such as theadjustable wall light from Rockett St George (£69.50) in an antique finish.￼
Make use of natural daylight
Simply having all your lights on diffusers can mellow the ambience, says Longoni. “Bounce light off mirrored surfaces for a smoky glow, use a diffuser sheet at the base of a ceiling shade. Opaque glass, perspex or coloured shades in warm ochres and browns also soften the light."
Heal’s has launched a useful service where customers can book a consultation in their ‘Light Box’ room and try out which bulbs, fittings and styles best suit their taste and home. Single “antique-style” bulbs, such as the Edison squirrel, where the filament is the centrepiece, wound in the shape of a cage inside the lamp, are a top seller. They have become a feature to display in their own right, without a shade, being some of the closest in colour to the warm, golden glow of the now banned incandescent bulb.
Even wires have become decorative, rather than something to hide away under the sofa. Simple hooks with coloured flex running down the wall make a modernist statement.
The cord is the main draw of the quirky Design House Stockholm Cord Lamp where the bulb is suspended upright, as if by magic, by its cord and steel tube.
And if you want to do away with wires all together, new technology from Philips (philips.com) offers a bespoke “wireless lighting environment” where you can control, dim and bathe your room in all the colours of the rainbow from your smart phone or tablet (Hue, starter pack with three LED bulbs and router; £180).
Programme them to ward off intruders, energise or relax you, or to wake you up slowly in the morning. Lighting is clearly no longer just for illumination.