Working as a painter for 15 years and a designer for the past couple, I see a lot of finished houses and rooms. And for my money, people just don’t put enough effort into lighting plans. Here are some solutions to common problems.
On many projects, I’ve seen five or six downlights in a row, flooding a hallway with light. Instead of filling the skinny ceiling of a hallway with umpteen downlights, focus on what’s in the room. Usually hallways house art, photographs or sculptures, so instead of downlights in the centre, try installing them over to the side of the wall where the frames are located. And instead of focusing the beam downward, tilt the globe to the wall and beautiful washes of light will illuminate the wall, the artwork and, in turn, the whole space.
Take it a step further and have either wall lights – high or low – and table lamps if the space permits. Wall lights create so much more of an atmosphere than a plain downlight and, placed correctly, even a boring ceiling can have an uplight to make it more interesting.
Referred light is less harsh on the eyes and creates a feature, but just be mindful that lighting up walls can draw attention to dodgy paintwork or bad plaster joins, so make sure your finishes are top notch. A hallway is the first thing you see on entering a home, so give it the impact it deserves.
OPEN-PLAN LIVING/DINING ZONE
I’m steering clear of the kitchen, because it needs a whole magazine of its own, so let’s focus on where we spend (or wish we could) most of our time. Again, people usually go for bucketloads of downlights and given the fact that there is a lot of open ceiling space, I can see why it’s the default option – but I’d try something different.
Floor and table lamps are great for highlighting different zones – just make sure you use globes that aren’t too white and bright, and dimmable switches are always a good idea. Sam Buckby from Buckby Electrical (our electricians on The Block: Glasshouse) wired all of our lighting to be controlled from an iPad. We used a C-bus system, which meant we could control floor and table lamps that were plugged into a powerpoint.
Also, commit to a lighting hero for the room. Usually an oversized pendant over the dining table is a better idea than above the coffee table. That said, if you have pendants in the kitchen, a dining pendant may not work as they could be too close and may crowd the space. Wall lights, up lights and downlights ranged close to walls are a better idea than downlights in the centre of the room – this combination will make the space feel softer. You want to create a calming aesthetic overall, with your specific task lighting being a minor element. Over-lighting a space as popular as the living/dining area is a common mistake, so remember less is always more!
My big issue with bedroom lighting is seeing four downlights in a square on the ceiling. I hate it… where’s the creativity? Again we want to set a mood – it is the bedroom after all. Task lighting may be needed for reading and such, so either wall lights, pendants or table lamps can be present beside or just above the bedhead. If you have mirrors, downlights can be used to assist putting on makeup and getting changed. Just make sure the fitting is not too far from the mirror – otherwise, it may render it useless.
Warning: don’t over-light your bedroom. Soft downlights against walls to highlight art can create atmosphere, as can wall lights. Go out on a limb and have an uplight throw a beam from the floor against a wall. This referred light is sexy as hell, but make sure the light is warm and that the globe won’t get too hot. Kids’ rooms may not need as much task-oriented light, but you may need a night-light for the little ones. Keep it soft – we do not want them over-stimulated before bedtime. If you have a baby, a task light may be needed for changing and feeding, but keep it specific. As a rule in general, ask yourself ‘what do I want lit in the room?’ before you make the trek to the lighting store.
So, when it comes to your lighting plan, get on to it early and even better, talk to your sparky! They’ve done it a thousand times and will have some great ideas. Sam, our electrician on The Block, created a plan with us, instead of Simon and I telling him what we wanted and how we wanted it. They’re the experts, and if you’re not confident with them, give me a call. I’m happy to pop around for a cuppa and we can smash out a plan together!