Getting The Light Fantastic In Your Home

Think about any room, any area of your home, any feature or any nook and cranny and the chances are that if you haven't already got it covered it will benefit from lighting of some description or other.

From the darkest d├ęcor to the lightest lobby, be it daylight or midnight, lighting will make a huge difference to how you feel about a particular space.

Lighting a Dark Room

I am a firm believer that you can happily decorate a room in a really strong, dark colour so long as you get the lighting right. You will need a mixture of natural light, overhead lighting, ambient lighting from lamps and task lighting which gives a focused pool of light for reading, sewing and so forth.

One room that springs to mind is a bedroom I decorated a few years ago in a deep berry red. It could have been overpowering but by ensuring the room was well lit with both overhead lighting and bedside lamps along with light oak contrasting furniture and ivory coloured bedding and curtains. It worked particularly well at night when the soft, warm coloured lighting made it feel cosy and welcoming. When I think back it now seems very late 80's early 90's but at the time it worked and I absolutely loved it. And no, it didn't look like the inside of a drag queen's dressing room despite the picture you might have in your head from the description!

Just recently I have been working on a north facing dining room with little natural light. One of the biggest changes which has dramatically altered the natural light in that room was painting the dark wooden window frame white. I have used this trick in other properties and it really does help to reflect daylight into the room. Mirrors can also help significantly.

Feature Lighting

Another great lighting success which ticks my 'nook and cranny' category was the installation of recessed spot lights in a chimney breast.

During the renovation of a house built c. 1890, we had a problem with damp and a recurring crack that ran up the chimney breast. At the time the house was purchased there was no fire there - it was just a 'wall' - but it was quite evident that it had been a fireplace in the past. We decided that the best thing to do was to take the plaster off and re-render. To my surprise, when we got back to the stone (it was built of stone, not brick), it wasn't just a little rectangular hole as you might expect - it was a huge opening that came up to chest height filled with rubble, hence the cracks and damp, and must at one time have housed a range.

The room was already serviced by an open fire and as it wasn't a huge room, we decided that rather than cover it back up we would make a feature of it. We raised the inside of the fire hole by around 8 inches and installed a large slab of slate to make a raised hearth. The chimney was sealed off and two recessed spot lights installed and, apart from the slate, it was painted the same colour as the rest of the room. Finally, because I love spaces to be useful, we stood a wine rack in there. With the lights on it made a really attractive feature which in the evening served as ambient lighting. Of course the other very important plus was that you could see which wine you were picking out of the rack!

Get the Infrastructure Right

A top tip when re-decorating any room is to check where you have plug sockets. Ideally you will have them in every corner of your room but if not it is a sensible move to get additional double sockets installed when you have the opportunity. You might not think you need them initially but believe me, you will find a use for them, be it plugging in the vacuum cleaner, lamps, phone chargers or other devices and of course, don't forget the Christmas decorations. Installing these before you decorate will save you having extension leads trailing around the room and behind bits of furniture. Have you noticed as well how extension leads mysteriously vanish and then re-appear in your son's or daughter's bedroom?

Having lots of sockets available means that you can swap your lamps and task lighting around at your whim. Think about how you are going to use the room and look at your furniture layout to help you decide where best to position lamps. You might need to invest in side tables to help situate these in the ideal spot.

If you are planning on getting an electrician in to install additional sockets, take the opportunity to also think about installing picture lights, wall lights or specific lighting to enhance any objects or pictures that would benefit from some additional illumination. These can also double up to help create you ideal ambient lighting in the evening.

LEDs

Getting the lighting right in any space can make or break a room. Another aspect to consider is whether or not you want lights that give off a cool 'blue' light or a warm 'yellow' light. There is a huge variety of lighting available and LED bulbs have come on leaps and bounds over the past few years. Originally they used to take ages to warm up and give off a decent amount of light but now they give out quality light pretty much straight away. The cost has also come down and the energy saving that these bulbs afford is, in my opinion, well worth the investment. LEDs are also now available in warm and cool lighting colour.

I could go on a great length about feature lighting but will save it for another time, so here is a brief list to re-cap:

1. Before you decorate think about how you want to use the room and what lighting you will need;

2. Consider what the orientation of your house is and how much natural light comes into the room - it may be too much or very little;

3. Employ an electrician to install additional sockets, wall lights or picture lights and to replace any old switches or wiring;

4. Decide whether you want warm or cool coloured light and buy your bulbs accordingly;

5. Make sure that you have good task lighting for reading and so on in the right places;

6. Finally, try different combinations of lighting at different levels to get that perfect ambient lighting for the evening.