Open plan living: How to use lighting to create different zones in your home

Geek vintique open plan

Open plan living is more popular than ever – but nobody wants to live in a warehouse. So how do you create a large open space that has style, personality, atmosphere and versatility? The answer, of course, is lighting – specifically, lighting zones.

Here’s our expert guide…


What’s the best kind of lighting for creating zones in your home?

The best way to create zones in your home is by combining a range of different light sources, including overhead lighting, wall lighting and lamps. By layering your lighting you can ensure you have plenty of practical light, while creating a space that’s beautiful and inviting in its own right. 

There are three main types of lighting: ambient lighting, which is the general overall lighting in a room; task lighting, which is there to help you complete specific tasks; and accent lighting, which is used to highlight particular features and create mood and atmosphere.

Each area within your home has its own lighting requirements: for example, a kitchen workspace needs plenty of good practical task lighting for preparing and cooking food, while dining and living areas require some lower-level mood lighting for relaxing or entertaining guests. With the right lighting, you can create dedicated zones which will help to delineate each space and support a range of different functions.

Kitchen-diner by Alex Gardner, Interior Designed. Image: Woodstock Furniture


Using lighting to define zones in a kitchen space

The kitchen is one of the most hard-working spaces in your home. It not only needs to work on a practical level for everyday tasks such as prepping and cooking food, but it often doubles up as a family space, an entertainment space, a homework space or – especially in recent times – even an ad hoc workspace.

Pendant lights will provide plenty of good ambient and task lighting in a kitchen, while also helping to define the area as a zone in its own right – particularly useful in a larger, open plan space. Opt for a style that directs the light downwards and outwards. Our designer pendant lights come in a huge range of different shapes, styles and materials.

In the main working zones of the kitchen, such as the worktops, cooker and sink, you can supplement your pendant lighting with spotlights or adjustable wall lights. These will provide targeted lighting and help to eradicate any shadows.

Meanwhile, if you have a kitchen island or table, suspending some pendant lighting overhead will create a striking focal point while providing plenty of practical light, whether you’re preparing food, having breakfast with the kids, or doing a spot of paperwork. Make sure you choose a pendant that fits the style and dimensions of your kitchen table. If you have an island, a row of odd numbers works best, so opt for three or five pendants depending on the size of the island.

Finally, don’t underestimate the power of the dimmer switch – a set of dimmers will give you added flexibility, allowing you to lower the brightness of your lighting when it’s time to kick back and relax with friends, or a well-earned glass of wine (or both)…

Dining zone by Barbara Ramani Interiors, featuring Pooky’s Aquila pendant lights


Using lighting to define a dining zone

Whether you have a kitchen-diner, or your dining area forms part of a larger open plan space, you can use lighting to help create a dedicated dining zone with its own distinctive atmosphere and ambience.

The dining table itself should form the focal point of your lighting plan. A large feature pendant light suspended above the centre of the table will draw the eye, add depth and interest and help to define the space. If you want to make a real style statement, try a gorgeous designer chandelier – there are so many different styles available nowadays, from classic brass and glass dazzlers to sleek contemporary metal numbers. When installing your pendant or chandelier, aim for the bottom of the light to sit around 36” above the dining table.

While pendant lighting will offer plenty of good ambient light, you can add a level of warmth and intimacy to your dining zone by supplementing it with some additional lighting options. Wall lights are a lovely alternative to overhead lighting and will cast a warm, diffused glow along the length of the wall. Meanwhile, a striking designer floor lamp or two will offer great ambient and task lighting and will instantly delineate the dining space – and they’re a great alternative in an open plan space where more permanent ceiling or wall fixtures can sometimes be an issue.

Again, dimmable lights are a must in a dining zone, allowing you to make the best use of the space at different times. That way you can have plenty of good quality light during the daytime for working, reading or feeding the kids, and you can tweak your lighting in the evening to create a lovely relaxed atmosphere for your guests.


Open plan space with mezzanine divided into zones by lighting. Interior design by Lauren Gilberthorpe


Using lighting to create zones in a living area

The living area is another space that’s often used for a multitude of activities, from sharing a morning coffee with friends, to playing board games with the kids, relaxing with guests after dinner, or curling up with a box set or a good book. With some creative lighting solutions, you can create zones within your living area that will work for you, whether you’re working, resting or playing!

A beautiful (and ideally dimmable) pendant or cluster light will provide good overall ambient lighting in the living area for general day-to-day activities, and is also a great way of highlighting and defining a living space within a larger open plan arrangement.

Meanwhile, to create an area that’s perfect for relaxing, you can introduce a layer of softer, more diffused light in the form of some wall lights or sconces. A set of matching wall lights placed behind a sofa or a set of sofas will create a dedicated relaxation zone for when you’re entertaining or just chillaxing at the end of the day.

Lamps are another key tool when it comes to creating zones in the living area: place a statement floor lamp next to your favourite comfy armchair to instantly create a dedicated reading nook. Meanwhile, if you have a table or a writing desk in your living area, you can create a separate study or crafting zone by adding in some lovely decorative table lamps.

As well as providing excellent task lighting for activities such as reading, writing or crafting, the beauty of lamps is they can be moved around, offering you complete flexibility with your zoning. With our cordless rechargeable table lamps you have even more options, as you can put them wherever you see fit, without worrying about pesky cables or power sockets.

Rechargeable cordless lamps by Pooky – perfect for moving around different zones in open plan spaces


Get yourself in the zone, with Pooky’s whopping great range of beautiful, affordable designer lighting


See also:
How to light an open plan space – 5 top lighting tips
How to light a kitchen island – inspiration and ideas for pendants and more


Picture top: Open plan living space, divided by pendant lighrs. By Claire Botha of Geek Vintique