Getting the lighting right in a home has the power to change everything for the better. The right placements, colors, warmth and more can set the mood and help define a style. Without the right lighting scheme, important architectural details, artwork, and focal points can either be missed or look flat and unnoticeable.
The lighting of the home essentially needs to be the right composition of fixtures, layers, direction, and flow. So if you’re wondering if it’s time for an update, you've reached the right place. Throughout the year we spoke to some of the most sought-after designers and experts from the field, who helped us understand the discipline of lighting a little better during our conversations.
Now, we've compiled some of their best tips and advice, to give you a lovely, comprehensive 10 point rulebook. From living room lighting ideas, to the bedroom, kitchen, bathroom, or dining, we have it all here.
10 top lighting design tips
1. Layering warm lighting is the best way to illuminate a room
Essentially, the light temperature is measured in Kelvins, which defines the type of glow you will receive from the fixture. When it comes to cool light vs warm light, the latter is usually between 2,700-3,200 Kelvins, while the former is between 5,000-6,000 Kelvins. In between warm and cool light sits daylight at 4,000-4,500 Kelvins.
When it comes to lighting up spaces that are meant for relaxation or informal entertaining, like the bedroom or living room, it is advised to go ahead with warm lighting.
'Warm lighting creates essentially helps to create a cozy look which is relaxing and helps us wind down, and on the other hand, cold lighting. which replicates natural lights, creates a brighter and more vibrant space which is better for performing tasks such as reading, sewing, cooking and more,' says Robbie Llewellyn, co-founder, and designer at lighting brand Bert Frank (opens in new tab). 'Each can affect our mood so it’s important to consider the ambiance you want to create before selecting the light that’s right for the functionality of the room.'
'To naturally brighten your space and help transition the day into evening, choose to layer with warmer lighting,' says Scarlett Hampton, co-founder of Lights&Lamps (opens in new tab). 'The use of brighter ceiling fittings in the day is often a subtle enhancement to natural daylight. Dimming them down in the evening and complementing them with warm, low-level lamps can transform a bright space by day into a cozy living room or bedroom by night.'
2. Position spots strategically to reduce overhead harsh lighting
To ensure any room is easy to work in, with the right ambiance, you have to make sure the overhead lighting is less harsh. For this, choosing the right fixtures, wattage, and positioning is important.
'Make your overhead lighting less harsh and cozy by avoiding a boring grid of lights and position recessed spots where your furniture is grouped or light your walls,' says Piero De Marchis, director at Detail Lighting (opens in new tab). 'Where possible, use extra warm 2700K lighting and more narrow beams for a warm and inviting feel.'
3. Choose the number of lights by the size of the room
When it comes to the how many lights you should have in a living room or bedroom, do keep a few things in mind.
'The number is dependent on the size of your room,' says Emma Deterding, founder and creative director of Kelling Designs. (opens in new tab) 'Be careful where you put what lights and at what height. The objective is to light the room and not the ceilings – many people install them way too high. Consider whether the wall light points up or down, and then decide on a height. Usually we hang them between 5'2" and 5'8" at the highest (consider higher if you have massively high ceilings, but this is very rare to do).’
4. Layer lights keeping heights of the fixtures in mind
A great way to make the bedroom, kitchen, dining, or living room lighting feel cozy is by layering different fixtures for a nice, evenly-lit scheme.
'By layering lights, you tend to make the space more flexible for different uses and create visual depth,’ says Will Earl, design director of lighting brand J Adams & Co (opens in new tab). ‘Hang your light sources at different heights, and in various zones and surfaces. Use a mixture of light sources at multiple levels, and different types of light (direct and indirect light sources; ceiling and floor, wall and table lights) to create an ambient background light level which you can then layer on top of by highlighting features and surfaces to create drama. Finally, add a layer of low-level lighting to balance the room.’
5. Accent lighting can be used to influence the dimensions of the room
Accent lighting is used to spotlight the most arresting elements of the home, and other times, double up as a piece of art itself.
'Accent lighting helps set the mood, uses multiple layers of lighting. and also allows lighting pieces to be sculptural and decorative objects that enhance the aesthetic of a room,' says Robbie Llewellyn, co-founder, and designer at lighting brand, Bert Frank (opens in new tab). 'Through the use of such additions a room can be made to look more expansive than it is, with the addition of lights that project large and bright beams of light. Alternatively, a space can be made to feel smaller and more intimate through lights that illuminate or encompass only a small surface area.'
6. Try wall washing to highlight the texture of the walls
'By 'wall washing', you can draw focus to the irregular texture of a wall tile,' says Reena Sotropa, founder of Reena Sotropa In House Design (opens in new tab).
'This accent lighting in combination with the recessed ceiling fixtures can allow space to go from a brightly lit space to a soft relaxing spa with the flick of a switch. Choose flush mount fixtures as these are very subtle in their appearance and can provide an extremely bright and even quality of light in a space that is the next best thing to natural light.
7. Use lights in such a way that they do not cast shadows below
When choosing your kitchen ceiling lighting, make sure your overhead fixtures are positioned right, and even hung at the correct level.
'Choose decorative pendants for kitchen island lighting ideas as a way to make a statement and feature,' says Piero. 'But also remember, that it’s important to be careful not to create shadows over the cooking and prep area.'
'To make sure this doesn’t happen, we would normally advocate decorative lighting ‘filled-in’ and supplemented with focused spotlights to eliminate any dark spots. By opting for this combination, you will then have a ‘cooking mode’ where all the lights are on and then a more relaxed mode where you can turn off the spotlights and dim your decorative lights.'
8. Consider red colored lights to aid sleep
'Humans are sensitive to short-wavelength radiation or blue light which means that even low levels of blue light for 40 minutes leads to increased heart rate and alertness and increased levels of melatonin,' says Dr Maja Schaedel, clinical psychologist & co-founder of The Good Sleep Clinic.
'Choose warmer, red-toned lights as they mimic natural evening light, which aids melatonin production and helps ease our bodies into a natural sleeping cycle,' says David Amos, CEO at Amos Lighting + Home (opens in new tab).
Our guide to the best smart light bulbs will help you here.
9. Consider transparent fixtures in small spaces
For small spaces, it's not only important to illuminate the space right but also to choose the correct look and design of the fixture.
'Transparent fixtures, such as glass globes or wired drums are great for small kitchen lighting ideas, while linear and pared back designs are good for a sleek look if the light has an interesting backdrop,' says New York-based interior designer Ahmad AbouZanat (opens in new tab). 'Heavier or larger, or there’s an opportunity to see them from a different perspective – in other words, they’re there but not necessarily obstructing a view of or from the space.'
10. Choose lighting based on the shape of the dining table
You'll be surprised how effective your dining room lighting scheme can be if you choose fixtures as per the size and shape of the table.
'If you have a round or square dining table, a centrally positioned pendant or pared-back directional chandelier with one or multiple light sources would work really well, as do a cluster of pendants hanging at different heights,' says Rohan Blacker, founder of Pooky (opens in new tab). 'Both statement-making as a pretty feature while providing optimal lighting for dinner time.'
'If you have long, rectangular tables, these require light which spreads across the length of the table. We recommend opting for either a linear chandelier with multiple light sources as part of its design or a trio of pendants styled side by side which will have the same effect. For a playful touch, use different colors, finishes, or even different pendants but complement shapes and styles. This will draw the eye and add a dash of quirky personality to the room.'
Aditi Sharma Maheshwari is an architecture and design journalist with over 10 years of experience. She's worked at some of the leading media houses in India such as Elle Decor, Houzz and Architectural Digest (Condé Nast). Till recently, she was a freelance writer for publications such as Architectural Digest US, House Beautiful, Stir World, Beautiful Homes India among others. In her spare time, she volunteers at animal shelters and other rescue organizations.
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