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Designing the Perfect Interior Lighting

Photo by Etienne Girardet

Choosing the perfect interior lighting is probably the most important element of any interior design. It can create a mood, set the tone for a space, make a room look bigger or smaller, make a room useable and, of course, make or break the whole style. There are many different types of lighting available, each with its own unique properties. In this blog, I’ll talk about the different types of lighting used in interior design and how to choose the right lighting for your space.

How to Choose the Right Lighting for Your Room

When designing lighting for a room or hallway or lobby, there are a few things I always consider at the very start to get perfect interior lighting to match your space. Firstly, what’s the purpose of the room, what’s the main function and how will it be used? Is it for lounging, dining, sleeping, cooking, working or bathing? Each room has different lighting needs, and many are multi-functional. A bathroom, for example, may be intended as a calm haven of soothing peace, but you still need to see clearly in the mirror!

Secondly, what’s the size of the room? A large room will need more lighting than a small room. High ceilings often lend themselves to feature light fittings, whereas low ceilings might benefit from concealed lighting. Big spaces can be made to feel cozier or zoned, and small spaces can be expanded with clever lighting.

Thirdly, what’s the budget? There is a plethora of options from off-the-shelf to bespoke. Lighting can be expensive; be careful you don’t blow the budget on a fabulous centrepiece and not leave enough for table lamps, which you’ll probably use more often.

Finally, the electrical supply. You’ll need sockets in the right places for plug-in lamps and a ring-main with the right capacity for everything in the room. Get a good, qualified electrician to quote as soon as you have your final plans and make sure you schedule the work to finish before any decorating or furnishing begins. There is nothing more disruptive than having to gouge a channel for an extra switch or socket through a newly plastered wall!

Here are the main categories of lighting to consider when designing any room. It looks easy at first glance, but it’s not a case of picking just one – you need to involve all these different types, whatever the room! 

1 - Natural Light

Natural light is by far the best and most important type of lighting for any space. It can provide a warm, inviting glow and can improve the mood of a room. Depending on where your home is located it can also change dramatically with the weather and seasons. Investigate existing windows, skylights, or doors to check the aspect and try to manage the natural light with the right curtains, blinds and voiles if needed, rather than fight against it. There is an abundance of choice available to exploit natural light coming into a space – and, of course, daylight needs no electricity – so always begin by making the most of what is already there and adding more skylights or windows if that’s an option.
Photo by Andreas Dress

2 - Ambient Lighting

Ambient lighting is the term used for general lighting in a room. It’s the switch you flick at sunset to provide the overall illumination, and is used to create a sense of brightness, openness, and mood. Ambient lighting can come from overhead lights, floor lamps, or wall sconces – most frequently a mixture. Dimmer switches can be very useful and different tones of bulb can produce moods from pink-tinted through warm yellow hues to pure practical white. These different lighting tones can completely change the colours of fabrics and paints so be warned, always check the final effect with samples before deciding. Ambient lights, particularly overhead, often double as decorative feature pieces even when switched off.
Photo by Callum Hill

3 - Task Lighting

Task lighting is used to provide focused light for specific tasks, such as reading, writing, cooking or make-up – this is what you switch on when you need to see what you’re doing. Task lighting is often provided by desk lamps, floor lamps, or spotlights, but can also be produced from discreet strip-lighting with a bit of clever design. My tip here is to spend time thinking hard about the tasks that will be done in the space, because there’s nothing worse than a mirror where you can’t see what you’re doing, or an office that strains the eyes after dark.
Photo by Jean-Philippe Delberghe

4 - Accent Lighting

Accent lighting is where you highlight specific features in a room, such as artwork, architectural details, or maybe plants. Think about the final furnishing and where you want to draw the eyes. Track lighting is a great way to create a dramatic effect in a room; it’s particularly good for showing artwork, architectural details, or antiques. If a room needs clean lines, recessed lights are a more subtle way to add accent lighting. They can be placed in the ceiling to create a soft, diffused light. Wall sconces can also look great, especially to highlight a single item. They can be placed on either side of a doorway or mirror to create a symmetrical look.

Photo by K8

Let there be light!

Lighting is an essential element of interior design which can’t be overlooked. Filling a space with the perfect interior lighting will create the mood, set the tone for a space, make a room look bigger or smaller, and properly enhance all the hard work of the design. When choosing lighting for your space, consider the purpose, the size, and the style of the room, and how much you want to spend. Plan it early as mistakes are hard to fix later. Finally, there is no substitute for a good, qualified electrician. The best planning can easily be ruined by an overloaded circuit and a fuse that keeps tripping!

Learn more about lighting and other interior design services offered by Studio Hinton.