It’s all too easy to be baffled by lighting, because the choice today is dazzling.
Faced with spotlights, downlighters, uplighters, lamps and chandeliers, not to mention all the advancing technology in light bulbs, it’s enough to make you retire to a darkened room and forget the whole business.
But that would be a big mistake because lighting has enormous power to transform rooms and alter atmosphere and mood.
A sensitive lighting system can go a long way to redress spatial limitations - by tricking the eye into thinking there’s more room than there actually is.
“Too many people treat lighting as an afterthought, or place it a long way down the list of priorities,” says Peter Bowles, managing director of Davey Lighting.
“Ideally, lighting should be considered at the planning stage of a renovation or new build. You need to look at each area of your home at different times of the day so you can see where the natural light falls and its quality.
“Then you can also pinpoint any areas which are underlit by both natural or artificial light. Once you’ve assessed that, you’re in a good position to make a lighting plan and finally move on to choosing decorative fittings.”
Many designers regard lighting as the equivalent of jewellery for rooms and this season there’s a wealth of styles to choose from, with the strongest trends emerging as metallics in copper and brass, in colour and in industrial or retro style.
“A combination of general, task and accent lighting will ensure your home works on all light levels. Invest in good design with quality materials and sleek styling and it will stand the test of time,” says Bowles.
Winter’s long dark nights and early evenings leave us craving well-lit, welcoming spaces, so follow the room-by-room guide to lighting up your life.
Light and lounging
Living rooms are often multi-functional spaces which require a variety of lighting to suit different activities at varying times of the day.
“Lighting not only performs a function but is a key element in creating the right mood in any living space,” says Andrea Warburton, lighting buyer at The Conran Shop.
“In order to choose the right lighting, it’s important to focus on its purpose first: for instance, whether it is to diffuse light across a whole room, to be bright enough to read under, or to zone a space.
“Consider materials, colour and style next and look to other elements in the room for inspiration. Match the colour or material of the lamp to another item in the room for example.”
Tip: Pendants hung over sofas will create a dramatic seating zone in a room.
Star lights: For elegant, contemporary style it’s hard to beat an Elsa six-arm ceiling light, £180, or a slender Lily floor lamp with five curved stems branching outwards, £190, and matching table lamp, £75, all John Lewis.
Scandi appeal endures and John Lewis’s Secto Victo pendant ceiling lights, from £650, made from laminated birch slats, are classics.
For a truly different light it’s hard to beat the Favourite Things Suspension Lamp Cloud, £295, The Conran Shop, which allows objects to be displayed and illuminated in a clear bowl beneath the fitting.
A tight budget needn’t prevent you putting on a light show. Turn on to chic supermarket style with Sainsbury’s Tu Sebastian black glass table lamp, £35, and Tu Smedley Wooden Tripod with grey or cream shade, £40. Use Marks & Spencer’s brilliant value Iconic floor lamp, £99, available in selected stores, to highlight a room feature or statement piece of furniture.
Feast of light
Kitchens require lighting to work hard so it’s bright and focused in preparation and cooking areas but intimate in eating and dining zones.
“To light work surfaces, practical space-saving wall lights make a great alternative to under-cabinet lights, and bring a more quirky, individual look,” says Peter Bowles.
“Interesting fittings will stop your kitchen looking overly clinical. Match the style of your light fittings to your room. Prismatic glass and bone china work wonderfully in country-style kitchens, metallic pendants give an industrial flavour, and brightly painted pendants bring an often-needed pop of colour.”
Tip: Look for flexible lights which can be angled and adjusted to effectively control direction or spread of light.
Star lights: Complement industrial style with a Diner 125 pendant, £658, with its weathered brass and glass oblong shade and four bulbs, or opt for a School light, £358, in polished copper with a white interior, both Davey Lighting.
The fashion for metallics is reflected in the Celeste pendant light, £80, available in a gold or copper finish, John Lewis.
Punchy colour brightens the dullest kitchen and Dwell has lamps in vibrant shades including a Kinja pendant, orange, £79, or a tubby Shroom table lamp, from £29.
Night night lights
Bedrooms benefit as much as any room from versatile lighting which is bright and appropriate for dressing, but can be soft and intimate to conjure a soothing, sensual space.
“This room should never have one light source,” says Bowles. “Overhead lighting and task lighting will ensure the room feels welcoming and the light flatters the occupants and the room. Dimmer switches are essential.”
Tip: In small bedrooms use wall rather than table lights to avoid cluttering surfaces. To create a relaxed mood, consider lighting hidden behind cornices and bookshelves or illuminate bed plinths and headboards.
Dunelm Mill offers affordable style including a five-arm Romance chandelier style-light, or a modern Spiky Ball four-light halogen ceiling fitting, both £59.99. For a similar look, Marks & Spencer’s Oval Diner three-light table lamp, £79, glitters with glass droplets. Available from selected stores.