Getting the light just right

Shaun Davis of LED lighting specialists tp24 explains why it is essential to plan early to ensure the perfect lighting scheme


good lighting scheme can really define a house and its interior .design. Getting it right is all about planning at the early stages of a project – not leaving it as an afterthought. Lighting is a versatile and important design tool that’s often overlooked until the decorating phase. All too often self- builders and renovators make rushed and therefore poor decisions because the electrician is due on site the next day. Inevitably, they end up with regimented rows of recessed ceiling spots and pendants in the centre of every room with little thought to accenting, highlighting or controlling the lighting ambience. The installation of low-energy light sources in new build homes is now a must – and with the rapid development of LEDs, you can enjoy energy efficient lighting that is functional, durable and stylish.


You should ideally begin planning and making provision for your lighting scheme at the same time as the plumbing. Make a start by ‘walking through’ your plans, or house in the case of a renovation, and in each room ask yourself the following questions: • What is the space going to be used for? Consider all possible uses

• Will there be furniture, architectural features or artwork that you want to accent/highlight?

• Who will be using this room? Someone of 60+ years generally needs 15 times more light than a 10-year-old

• At what times of day will the room be used the most?

• What direction does natural light enter? Next, draw a plan of the room to help you determine the best points to situate lights. Mark permanent fixtures, such as windows and doors, alcoves, fireplaces and other heat sources. Then indicate the direction in which occupants are likely to spend most time facing. Mark where light switches will be best placed. Finally, have

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a think about where you plan to site major items of furniture.


Living rooms are where a really flexible design is required, to fit in with the multiple ways in they are used. It is no longer likely that background lighting will be provided by a central pendant. Increasingly, people are choosing to provide background lighting through a combination of downlights and table or floor lamps, to provide a cosy ambience. Others may want a central focus, such as a striking chandelier, even if it mainly for decoration. In terms of accent lighting, consider uplights beneath fireplaces, downlights in alcoves, picture lights and concealed lighting behind cabinets. For reading, consider task lighting. The key requirements in the bedroom are bright in the morning and restful at night. In addition to a soft background light, best achieved by table and floor lamps, accent lighting can draw attention to a stylish headboard. It is also useful and practical to have light switches at either side of the bed.

With bathroom materials usually reflective, lighting can have exciting results. Good lighting can make a tiny bathroom appear bigger, and a large bathroom more intimate. You will need to pay some attention to the various zones when it comes to bathroom lighting and to the IP rating of fittings. Zone 0 is the area inside the bath or shower, for example. The IP rating denotes a fitting’s resistance to water and what is needed will depend on which zone the light is to be fitted in.

Recessed downlights work well in bathrooms as background lighting. Task lighting, above mirrors for example, can be provided through an illuminated mirror or by lights than run the width of the mirror, or that sit either side of it. It is best to avoid a single downlight above the mirror, as this will be unflattering.

Halls, corridors and landings are generally last to be considered, and consequently are often left with a bare bulb or bleak looking lampshade. They are tricky to tackle as their proportions are often compromised, but they are actually a great area to play around with lighting. A row of central recessed spotlights is best avoided, and as with other larger spaces, variety is all-important. Use a mix of low level floor washer, wall lights, table lamps and perhaps the occasional spot to access an object.

You can also create a focal point with a large pendant or chandelier with a dimmer, but combine it with other light sources. In corridor-like hallways, spotlights may be a less clumsy alternative than a pendant.

Arguably the most important room in which to get the balance right is the kitchen, which needs to function efficiently throughout the day. You ideally need at least three varieties: background lighting, task lighting and feature pendant/accent lighting.

Background is key to providing all day general light, and best achieved with recessed downlighting spots. Avoid arranging this in a grid where all the light is cast on walkways. Use the spotlights more thoughtfully in dark pockets, over your workspaces, in entrances. Look at your kitchen plan and relate the lighting to this. Try not to place spots where they shine uncomfortably or create a shadow. Move them to where they cast light on the work surface and wash wall hung units with light. A directional recessed spot directed towards a feature bank of units can also be very effective. It’s best to have recessed spotlights on a dimmer switch. The key area for task lighting is under wall cabinets using rope lighting or a variety of warmer fluorescent bulbs. Over a central island is also a good area to mix downlighting with feature pendants.

Shaun Davis is managing director of tp24 51

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