adding atmosphere with lighting

Whether you’re planning a room from scratch or just want to make an easy update, it's pretty hard for anything to come close to lighting to deliver you maximum wow for your wad! Use it to add atmosphere, intimacy and drama throughout the house.

1. Mix it up

The key to designing a good lighting scheme is flexibility. Banish the overpowering light hanging from the centre of the room and go for layers, up and down, so you can adapt to different moods and activities and one room can become several. This means a mixture of overhead lighting, pendants, floor-standing lights and table lamps. Task lighting is essential of course, but a glaring light doesn’t make for a relaxing bedtime or a pleasant chill-out in front of the TV, so give yourself other options too.

Trafalgar table lamp in Antique bronze £115, Drum shade in card £48

2. Be generous with your lighting

The more sources of light you have, the more moods you can create. Clustering a few small lamps is a great way to add impact to an alcove or mantelpiece. And a handful of small pendant lampshades over a table or along an island unit will have a bigger visual effect than using one alone. If you want to create a smart, designed look then go for symmetry – paired lamps on matching console tables or at either end of a mantelpiece will frame whatever is between them and give a structure to your scheme.

3. Highlight your room’s features

Whether it’s elegant Victorian cornicing, a beautiful fireplace or the art on the walls, pick out the key features in your room and show them off with lighting. A standing lamp can be used to highlight an alcove or attractive architrave. Low lamps at either side of the fireplace can add a warm glow year-round and also draw the eye to an appealing feature. For walls, consider picture lights. They don’t have to look like museum-pieces. Contemporary bars that point light down onto pictures will make your art shine while being barely noticeable as fittings.

4. Light negative space

A great way to create an atmospheric lighting scheme is to light the spaces that do absolutely nothing! The gap between your sofa and the wall, the area behind the log basket or the empty bay window – all these are ‘negative spaces’ that can be lit and will help bring your room to life. The best sort of light for these areas is something soft and diffuse, so pick a semi-translucent shade that will create a subtle, warming glow.

Felix Table Lamp in Gold £95, Empire Shade in Red Silk Ikat £56

5. Create zones In most rooms you will have different areas with different uses. In your living room, for example, you might have the family sofa, a dining table, a desk and a favourite armchair. Each area of your room deserves its own lighting, and creating zones with light will also help you enjoy the space more. Make a side table and armchair into a cosy reading nook by adding a table or standing lamp to throw a pool of warm light downwards. Create an intimate feel at the dining table with a dropped-pendant light over it, allowing you to eat in warm light while closing out the TV and the rest of the room.