How to light your home: a guide to modern, stylish lighting
“Each room in the home has its own role to play in your daily life. Take this into account when planning lighting, find that balance between functionality and personality, whilst allowing for flexibility. Remember that your home changes character throughout the day. Do not also forget about the humble light bulb and the inspirational transformations it can achieve. You can change the whole atmosphere of your home just by the careful use of lighting.”
In addition to the aesthetic and mood-enhancing benefits of lighting, it also has a functional role too, illuminating task areas such as the kitchen or the home study.Today, the available choice of modern lighting fixtures is as limitless as the imaginations of the designers who create them. From Italian, German and Scandinavian through to the UK, form and function is very much at the forefront of innovative designers' thinking and there is a light option for every room and every situation. With such choice, it is all too easy for the consumer to get confused, especially at the planning stage, so it is vitally important to know before purchasing exactly how light works and what to think about for each room where you plan to change the lighting configuration.
Things to considerBefore drawing up a wish-list of your precise lighting requirements, it is important to plan and one of the key issues is assessing the amount of natural daylight the room receives, what aspect it is, whether north or south-facing, or otherwise &ndash as this will determine light levels during the seasons and thus affect the type of light the room needs. For example, a north facing room will only receive the minimum amount of light even in summer. During winter months however, it could be practically dark after mid-day so more lighting fixtures with a higher luminescence or lux will be needed.
In the kitchen, the priority will be to emphasise and illuminate key features such as counter-tops and work areas, so bright, clean light rather than an ambient radiance more suited to relaxation areas will be the order of the day. In bedrooms and relaxation areas, mood lighting comes more into play and one should be looking for light options such as dim controlled pendant lights, floor-standing uplighters and bedside lamps which will instantly create a feel of relaxation and harmony.
Types of bulbs
The choice of bulbs available for modern lighting fitments is vast in terms of shape, style and design. Price varies too, but experts advise sticking to well-known brand names as these bulbs are generally manufactured to a higher standard and give a longer service life. Cheaper, mass-produced bulbs tend to be unreliable, have a shorter life and can have safety issues.
Low energy bulbs, often referred to as energy saving bulbs (ES), do not have a filament but a sealed glass tube which is full of inert gas illuminating when an electrical current is passed through it. As technology has improved in recent years, the choice, size and style of ES bulbs has allowed them to be manufactured much smaller so the number of decorative options for their use has increased. ES bulbs are highly efficient using up to 80% less electricity than standard incandescent bulbs and can last up to twelve years. On the downside, low energy bulbs tend to offer a less intense light so for brightly lit areas, you might wish to look at an alternative.
Incandescent lightbulbs are the conventional bulbs we are all used to. They work via a filament which becomes white hot as electricity passes through it. The key advantage of incandescent lighting is that it offers brighter, whiter light as well as being highly versatile with the majority of light fitments being manufactured specifically for these types of bulbs.
The choice of incandescent bulbs is massive in comparison to other types but all this is set to change. In 2007, the Government announced that the UK will phase out incandescent bulbs by 2011. Some retailers have already started phasing out certain conventional bulbs replacing them with energy saving equivalents. This has caused consternation within the industry but such is the need to reduce carbon emissions that all areas of lifestyle, including domestic lighting, are being examined.
Halogen light bulbs are similar to their incandescent counterparts but employ different materials and gases which emit a very attractive bright, white light most similar to natural daylight. Halogen bulbs come in two forms: low voltage or mains voltage, although the former does need a separate transformer to operate.
The key advantage of low voltage halogen lighting is that it is much safer to use than mains voltage which opens up a number of aesthetic options ideal for contemporary modern living. They are also relatively energy efficient, using up to 50% less energy than conventional incandescent bulbs. On the negative side, halogen light fittings usually run at higher temperatures so have to be manufactured using special insulative materials which make production costs higher. This is reflected in the price of replacement bulbs. However, for striking, clean white light suited to contemporary fitting designs, halogen has few peers.
As mentioned previously, mood plays an important role as far as room lighting is concerned. Within each room, you may wish to create various effects and moods using light. There are three main types:
Ambient LightAmbient light is perhaps the most basic of all illumination mimicking the effects of natural light. Softer than harsh halogen lighting, ambient lamps and wall lights are used to create a calming effect within a room and are usually used within living and dining rooms as well as the bedroom where soft focus light for relaxation is required.
Accent lightAccent lighting is the most creative of lighting options and is not intended for functional use. Instead, accent lights are used to create drama in a room by highlighting key features such as an alcove, a display or fireplace. Accent light is ideal for use in a living room in conjunction with ambient light to give greater flexibility, for example when friends and families visit and one needs a higher overall level of light.
Task lightTask lighting gives off a bright, focussed light fixed on one position or work surface such as a study or in the kitchen where recessed ceiling downlighters and underwall unit lighting is used to directly focus on counter tops and food preparation areas. In the study or home office, task lighting usually takes the form of a halogen desk lamp for reading or working.
Room by room lighting guide
The hallway is the room that gives visitors to the home their first impression and so lighting must always create a warm, welcoming effect. Hall lighting tends to generally be softer so things like hanging pendants, wall sconces, lanterns and chandeliers might be more appropriate. By combining the right type of lighting in your hallway, in conjunction with large mirrors which accentuate the effects of the light, you can create a spacious area that is instantly welcoming and bright.
The living room
This is the room where the majority of us spend our leisure time. Living room light should be easily controllable, functional and take into consideration natural daylight, the positioning of furniture, TVs etc. The most efficient mix is a blend of ceiling pendant or track lighting with strategically placed floor-standing uplighters which can be independently switched on and off as needs dictate. Dimmer switches are also ideal for living room situations where TV screen glare is an issue.
The dining room
The dining room should be a place of relaxation where friends and family can gather for family meals or lavish dinner parties. Allowing adequate above lighting such as a strategically placed track light or pendant directly over the table will ensure that people can see each other during mealtimes as well as their food. However, when coffee is served and conversation becomes the main focus of the table, softer wall or floor-standing uplighters which take light away from the table but throw it around the room is more appropriate, creating an ambient, cosy effect.
Lighting is a kitchen should always be utilitarian and task-oriented. Focused under-cupboard lights pointed down onto work surfaces as well as recessed ceiling spotlights should be used to create a clean, almost clinical effect which works well in harmony with a heavy domestic use work area such as a kitchen. If the kitchen is used as a social area too, consider a dimmer option to create a less clinical lighting effect.
Modern bathroom lighting should ideally offer a mix of effects depending on your mood and the layout of the room. Bright, clean white light such as halogen spots to create maximum light, a single, focused shower downlight is ideal for when you just want to illuminate the shower area – to task lighting such as that attached to a mirror for personal grooming. Another useful option is to have an exteriorly controlled dimmer switch for creating a warm glow when you want to take a slow, relaxing bath. Alternatively, when the mood takes you, you can forget electricity altogether and opt for candles which are more romantic!
The bedroom is another room requiring thought and a mixed variety of lighting options; soft lighting to help you unwind and relax, bedside lamps or wall lights which can be individually switched on and off for reading – and for the evening and early winter mornings when there is no natural daylight, bright pendant or track lighting for dressing/personal grooming etc.
The Home office
When it comes to task areas such as a home study or office, a two-pronged approach to lighting is best. Clear, direct light such as a halogen desk lamp to illuminate a workstation, desk or reading area and soft, dimmable lighting for when a more relaxed mood is required for leisure use.