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The Right Lighting Can Transform a Room

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Lighting, explain Colin and Justin, will make or break your interior scheme. Here, they break down the basic categories of optimum home illumination...

Lighten up, for God's sake. Give your house a break. D'you hear us? Aye, your home's overall mood depends on schematic levity. Come on -- it's a basic decorating principle: good lighting will make or break your project. Set mood incorrectly, and you'll forever languish in under- or over-lit spaces. Set it correctly, however, and confident atmosphere will instantly 'pop' the rest of your interior.

The best news, as today's epistle gathers momentum, is that lighting is NOT the difficult science some commentators suggest it is. Under our watch, it falls into five distinct -- and rather simple -- categories: ambient, task, mood, accent and decorative.

Lighting, used creatively, helps illuminate notable features and assists as you endeavour to make style statements. And it allows you to see after dark. While that last snippet might sound obvious, you wouldn't believe the number of homes we've attended (on both sides of the pond) where it felt like we were visiting troglodytes.

AMBIENT

This basic form of lighting replaces, or bolsters, natural sunlight and allows you to see clearly from room to room. We advise adding dimmer switches to vary how much illumination you require. For 20 bucks a pop they're a sensible investment. Ambient lighting is typically achieved with ceiling-mounted shades, wall-mounted fixtures or chandeliers.

TASK

This category aids any 'task' that requires extra light and is typically associated with side lamps (to help when reading, crafting or sewing) or in the kitchen (under cabinets) to shed extra light on food prep, thus avoiding finger detachment as you julienne carrots.

MOOD LIGHTING

Always-good mood, of course, never bad! Think shadow throwing lamps, positioned behind houseplants to cast frondy light/dark patterns on the wall. Generally speaking, we opt for fuzzy low-wattage lighting to warm low-lit environments. Mood lighting is all about creating atmosphere; the mood set being much more important than the fitting itself.

ACCENT LIGHTING

This is our favourite category; it illuminates aspects of which we want to see more. Think directional spotlights strategically positioned to pinpoint artwork or sculptures, or track lighting beaming dramatically onto a cantilevered marble kitchen island to make it appear even more architecturally diverse.

DECORATIVE LIGHTING

Where form and function combine. Or, in other words, where the lamp itself is as important as the light that it emits. Examples include Tiffany lovelies that proffer an eclectic air, snaking Arco lamps that create a feeling of retro modernity or kinetic Mathmos lava lamps that positively scream 1970s.

Lighting 101 -- our room by room guide.

LIVING ROOM

Successfully lighting a living room requires forward thinking, being that you generally need to satisfy several requirements at once. Why is it, then, that many of the people we visit rely on one single pendant or a couple of lonely table lamps? Our best advice is to list all the lighting aspects required of your space -- cozy lighting for TV viewing and cuddling on the sofa, overhead lighting for the kids to play, or task lamps which allow you to read. Try creating attractive vignettes by placing a pair of decorative lamps on either side of a credenza or by flanking a sofa with occasional tables and lamps. Floor level spots (on flex from a nearby plug) will highlight corners and send a flourish of light ceiling bound.

DINING ROOMS

The focal point of any dining experience is the table, so concentrate your efforts there. When hanging a pendant shade, ensure it's low enough to create an intimate pool of light, but without glaring into the eyes of each diner. Remember, too, that electric lighting isn't the only answer -- few things are more romantic than a candlelit dinner so strike a match and light those wicks.

KITCHEN LIGHTING

Lighting, here, should be practical and flexible. This in mind, keep the emphasis on 'task' (to ensure safe food prep') and 'ambient' options. 'Mood' lighting may also be a consideration if you have an open-concept kitchen and want it to look great when not in use. You can easily fit under cabinet spots, while a smart extractor will generally include a built-in lamp to brighten your countertop. Avoid fabric-covered fittings as these absorb grease (and smells) and keep lamps off counters to free up work zones. Make more of glass-fronted cabinets by installing internal down lights to showcase beautiful china.

BEDROOM

Hmm, the boudoir. It's not all about sexy lighting and being flung around like a wet track suit -- in an amply lit bedroom you also require ambient lighting for dressing and making the bed, side lamps for reading, and a floor standing lamp next to a chair. To free up night stand surfaces, we've hung ceiling pendants long and low on either side of the bed and, to evoke the popular 'hotel at home' vibe, we've wired anglepoise lamps into the wall above the bed. Whichever option you choose, make sure it's dimmable and that it can be operated from the bed and as you enter the room. Attention to detail? It'll max' up your bedroom experience big time.

In a nutshell...

  1. Sometimes the smallest changes make the biggest difference. Adding a 20-dimmer switch, for example, will help you create flexible mood at the touch of a knob.
  2. Don't expect a centre pendant to provide sufficient illumination -- the best-lit rooms are those which feature overhead and side lighting.
  3. Hallways look wonderful when dressed with long slim console tables occupied, at either end, by attractive lamps to complement overall decor. Position a mirror between to bounce light even farther.
  4. Under-cabinet 'Task' lighting looks great as 'Mood' lighting when overhead options are switched off during the evening.
  5. In rooms with low ceilings, keep pendant fixtures out and pot lights in. Opt for 'dangle free' pots or ceiling tracks that don't interfere with 'eye lines'.
  6. Conversely, to 'tame' a high ceiling, hang a dramatic centrepiece light fitting to draw attention away from vertical proportions.
  7. Scented candles -- we love 'em -- provide visual and olfactory pleasure. A host of flickering flames will add dinner party drama -- or sexy mood during nights in. But remember; don't leave your waxy lovelies unattended and ensure that flames don't come into contact with curtains or other fabrics.
  8. Be adventurous and search out less obvious sources. Our favourite lumiere emporiums are Kijiji, eBay and consignment stores. A veritable Aladdin's cave, they're generally crammed with every conceivable lighting option. With prices way less than typical high street stores, you'll be spoiled for choice.

Et voilĂ  -- lighting -- the perfect turn on...and off. So go on, moderate those overheads, turn up the table lamps and we'll see you -- thoroughly illuminated -- next week!

Good Lighting Can Really Make A Difference

Kitchen Before

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KItchen After

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Living Room Before

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Living Room After

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Dining Room Before

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Dining Room After

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