It's amazing what lighting can do. Here are five particularly striking insights from some of our favourite interiors experts: things you might not have considered, but which can inspire you in your own home and help you see your lighting in, well, a brand new light...
Lighting is the interior designer’s secret weapon. It’s the most cost-effective way to transform a space, and the easiest way to bring mood, texture and even drama into a room. At Pooky we’ve got to know dozens of brilliant interior design professionals, and we’ve learned (and are still learning) quite a bit about the different ways they use the magical powers of lighting.
1. You can ‘sculpt’ space with light
'You can also use light to add drama to any space or to distract from less than perfect walls. We can effectively sculpt space with light.' Michelle Ogundehin
Sculpt your space with light - interior design and photo by Claire Botha of Geek Vintique
As all interior designers know, light isn’t there merely to stop you bumping into things. It’s for mood and atmosphere, of course, but you can also use light to give a room ‘shape’. The trick is use directional lights, wall lights and well-places lamps to emphasise the features and architecture of a space in a way that pleases you. Highlight that beautiful original cornicing - or conversely, hide that awkward corner in shadow.
As renovations expert Fi Duffy of Fifi McGee puts it: “..Take directional or architectural ceiling lights... When positioned considerately to light up open shelving, to point downwards onto a coffee table or to downlight art work, they can illuminate chosen focal points in a room that otherwise would go missed, be cast in shadow or look flat. We all know that colours can change depending on the light in the room, but light also accentuates the shape of furniture, frames and vases, it illuminates textures and fabrics – so it’s a really important element of design to play with."
2. Set the colour temperature of your room to create mood
“My top tip would be to take the time to find the right bulb and colour temperatures for your room. This is often overlooked and the colour temperature ends up being too warm or too cool for the interior. Dimmer switches are also great for incorporating into an interior as you can completely alter the mood and ambience of a room in an instant. “ Diana Civil
Finding the right light colour is a way to create mood - and it’s really all about choosing lightbulbs. No, not those red and blue bulbs you had in your student digs, but the different colour ‘temperatures’ of white LED bulbs.
All white light has a colour, which, perhaps confusingly, is measured in degrees Kelvin. And, also confusingly, the lower the ‘temperature’ the warmer the light. So a candle has the ‘warmest’ light with a colour temperature of about 2,000k. At the high end of the lightbulb scale (above 5000k) are ‘cool’ blue and white lights, which are brighter and more stimulating – so good kitchens and workspaces and for helping us to feel productive. Meanwhile at the lower end (under around 3000k) you’ll find the ‘warmer’ yellow tones, which are softer and help us to feel calm and relaxed and cosy (and, in the right settings, attractive!) - perfect for sitting rooms and cosy corners.
So when planning the light in a room, check the colour temperature of your lightbulbs. Read more about choosing a lightbulb in our guide – and read more here about how home lighting can affect your mood and wellbeing.
3. Lighting is how you divide up your space without walls
'Lighting is a crucial part of any interior design concept. It’s one of the first jobs I look at when designing rooms and I always ensure there’s enough lighting opportunities to create different zones and atmospheres in a space.' Matthew Williamson
Use light to divide up a space. Interior design by Tash South. Photo: Michele Beatty
Living rooms, kitchen-diners, even bedrooms all have multiple purposes, and lighting is how you can divide up a space into zones without walls or screens. This is the essence of open-plan living, of course, but it’s also true of any largish room, whether a sitting room with a WFH desk or a bedroom with a dressing table and a reading nook.
The trick is to think of how you use a room, and design your lighting accordingly - placing pendants, wall lights, directional floor lamps and so on as required. As interior designer Diana Greenhalgh told us: ‘One of the first areas we tackle with each client is how they will use the space and plan accordingly. Lighting is so important at this stage as it’s integral to how you want to use the room, and be able to adapt it for different scenarios. For instance, the lighting requirements for a naturally light large room will be completely different to a small dark bedroom or study.’
4. Use lampshades to constantly reinvent your interior schemes at minimal cost
‘....Use lots of lamps. The soft ambient glow makes everyone look good, and the bonus is that you can transform the style of your space by changing up your lampshades every so often.’ Sarah Astman, Astman Taylor
Mix and matched Pooky lampshades in an Arts & Crafts Cottage by Astman Taylor. Image credit.
When it comes to low-effort ways to refresh a room, nothing gives you more bang for your buck than changing your lampshades. It’s a lot cheaper than changing your curtains and carpets, and a lot easier than repainting the walls - which means you can experiment and have fun with it without risking anything.
Try new colours and patterns - go minimal and monochrome, or loud and clashy. Introduce new textures and materials to find things you like. A big bold new shade on a floor lamp and transform it into a centrepiece. You can even rotate your favourite shades seasonally - why not?
See more ideas and tips in our guide to how to choose a lampshade.
5. Go larger than you think on ceiling lights
‘A large statement ceiling light can make a room sing, yet often I find that clients lean towards ceiling lights that are really too small for the space. Consider the diameter of the light, not just the drop – and go as large as you can in the space. It can make a huge difference’ Claire Botha, Geek Vintique
Finally, a very common trap to avoid: going too small on your overhead ceiling lights. Even relatively small rooms can take a surprisingly big pendant light, shade or, yes, really, a chandelier. An undersized central light looks lost in a space, whereas a large one can be the focal point that brings a space together and makes everything sing in harmony.