#interior design lighting
Interior design: Nina Campbell’s lighting tips
All rooms need a variety of lighting: ambient or background lighting, task lighting for close-up work or accent lighting to highlight special features. You can always update a room and improve the atmosphere with good lighting; equally, nothing makes a room feel dated and unwelcoming like bad lighting.
Think about a lighting scheme before you start to decorate a room. Where is the furniture to go? You can install floor sockets underneath tables or free-standing furniture, avoiding ugly (and dangerous) trailing cords. How will you be using the room: is it primarily for use during the day or at night? For study or entertaining?
1 Downlighting is something people love or hate. I think it can be incredibly helpful and effective in some respects, but, like everything, should be used in its proper place. During the day, rooms with good-sized windows will receive a fair amount of natural light. Yet in the evening, downlighters can help to create a soft overall glow that adds ambience. This is extra-useful in a reception or dining space.
2 Spotlights make a feature out of key possessions and architectural detail. They can also be interesting when used in the corners of rooms, where you would not normally have light. You can then install two different switches, so that any ceiling lights would be on a different circuit to spotlights. In my bedroom, I have installed two circuits. One is for spotlights to highlight specific areas and one for periphery lights, which is good for adjusting levels of light for different moods. A blanket of spotlights on a ceiling isn t glamorous and the excessive light they provide can be exhausting, but a dimmer switch can instantly change the lighting from dramatic to cosy.
3 Lighting is probably the most important aspect of a dining room. It should be subtle, yet sparkling. Bright overhead lights, other than chandeliers, are inappropriate and even chandeliers should be fitted with dimmer switches, so you can experiment with brightness levels for different occasions. If it is too dark, you won t be able to see what you are eating, but if it is too light the atmosphere will be spoilt and people s complexions will look drained. Wall lights are a good option and setting wall sconces into a mirror creates a dazzling reflective effect, although they would need to be installed by an expert.
4 You want to achieve different levels of light, which is where table lamps come in and picture/wall lights (depending on how much art is in your home). You can wire these to become either a picture or a wall light. Indirect lighting is an interesting way of adding atmosphere to a room I have lit the underneath of my footed bath, which gives a nice glow. Equally, I like to light the front of bookcases. You can light up a display of objects in a bookcase by carving a track out of each shelf and inserting a run of LED lights. This provides hidden light that casts upwards and downwards, lighting the display without producing any heat. John Cullen is a great port of call for all sorts of lighting to solve problems.
5 A living room is likely to have different seating areas and each chair needs to have its own lighting. A sofa, for instance, might require practical yet elegant swing-arm library lights to provide good light for reading, while armchairs can be lit effectively with lamps. The problem with relying predominantly on table and floor lamps in a lighting scheme is that 90 per cent of lamps need lampshades, so you have to think about how many sorts of shades a room can support without looking like a lampshade shop! They also need to be beautiful. Lampshades are like the shoes and handbags of the home: the right shoes can make an outfit but if you have the wrong shoes, you can feel old-fashioned in the smartest suit.
6 One area often neglected is the staircase. Staircases are built around awkward angles, so spotlights from the ceiling can create insufficient pools of light and shadows in places, which isn t very safe. By installing directional lights at floor level, you avoid this and create a more subtle, evenly distributed light (see picture). Stairs are also a great place to hang prints or pictures that mean something to you, so it s important that they are well lit so you can see them.