Illuminate your imagination
Our human need for lighting
As our awareness of the need for good lighting increases in the dark winter months, we may have the basic desire to make our existing home and interiors more effective rather than re-locating or even extending. Lower energy consumption too might get more than a passive moral interest if we could claw back some of the expenditure on a lighting scheme by lower running costs post-scheme in the longer term. New builds with a clean slate approach have much less of an excuse for not getting it right, since advance detailed planning provides the ideal opportunity for a bespoke and well considered lighting scheme.
Approach and research
But how do we go about it in the existing home where physical disruption and cost need to be kept to a minimum? Well, the first part of the answer might sound like a cliché, but early and professional planning is key. Designers who only do lighting design are scarce, besides you might identify more with a design source which provides total interior advice of which lighting is a part of. It’s also a good idea to visit lighting showrooms and shops and talk to qualified electricians – not just to see what products are available, but to review first hand some of the techniques and effects.
However, not all interior design/décor outlets offer a lighting advisory facility. Many of the places where light fittings are on sale aren’t equipped to provide design or technical advice, so you will have to shop around. This experience will help you build up a picture of not only what is on the market now, but also how certain possibilities might work well for your home with its individual requirements.
The differing types of lighting
Before you try to comprehend what the many wall lights, pendants, ceiling lights etc can do for you, it would be a good idea to grasp the key differences between the various types of lighting or lamp sources to give the correct term. The appreciation is fundamental not only in building up one’s discernment, but sorting what would work where – so without blinding you with science, here goes:
This is the standard GLS ‘Bulb’ – twist or screw in. Does provide atmospheric warmth, but due to relative energy inefficiency, is no longer manufactured in the original standard form.
(Not to be confused with low energy) Usually 12V requiring transformer(s) was a very effective mood setter since when used as ceiling down lights, the beam is narrow and punchy. Runs hot at source and required quality product and good installer to minimise the likelihood of short lamp life. At this stage LED has in real terms taken over due to longer life and lower consumption etc.
Low energy and now made in a great variety of shapes and sizes, which in turn, enables them to fit into a huge range of light fittings both free-standing and wall or ceiling-mounted. Be aware though that most of these lamps are available in choice of white, warm white or cool white in their rendering with corresponding obvious effect on any interior.
High in output but often high in energy use and from September 1st 2018 no longer manufactured. One or two in a home used with a dimmer can be a great feature pendant in the stairwell and/or particularly over a dining table and will have an attractive warm appearance. Capital cost of Halogen fittings a lot less than dedicated LED and some can be retro-fitted with LED lamp which of course will be happening in increasing numbers.
Where it’s all now going. Since about 2013 LED has come of age – it is now reliable (if quality purchased) dimmable and available in warm white. The main thing to look out for is that often an LED retro-fit approach can be used with fittings which are originally designed as screw or twist in lamps (bulbs).
Lighting design and selection of light fittings
Having addressed some of the above pointers, you should feel more equipped to talk to a designer or lighting advisor. Early planning for lighting is imperative in the sequence of things. Your budget and subsequent extent of works will dictate whether or not drawings are needed, but try a ‘walk through’ your home and note where you would ideally like switches, such as at the bed head as well as the existing beside the room door and where you would like more than one circuit, dimming etc and write these things down. Of course, not everyone is prepared to put up with the ‘surgical’ disruption of wall tracking, floorboard lifting, ceiling cut-outs etc let alone the financial cost – but it is still possible to seriously improve your lighting with professional advice and well considered purchasing. Those of you embarking on a new build should consider it imperative to obtain a professional lighting design.
Without giving away all my trade secrets, the predictable centre lighting outlet operated by a switch at the door of most first floor bedrooms is easier to augment since there is usually access to the above ceiling roof void above where critically positioned down lights can be inserted. Other areas in the house need specific attention such as:
In this critical hub of the house, you need to avoid ‘general’ boring solutions like a regular grid of down lights. With this, you could be preparing food in your own shadow if you don’t balance the main lighting with some lighting from the other side. If your kitchen is open plan to your living area, then the kitchen lighting needs to be planned to avoid looking like a disconnected black gloom when not in use. Islands in bigger kitchens often warrant their own highlighting and integral lighting within extractors needs to be taken into account.
Think about TV watching, reading and so on and you will soon realise you will certainly be looking for choice and mood settings, so a single centre light is unlikely to be sufficient here. Table and floor standing lamps are a quick fix but fumbling behind furniture to switch them on and off every time is not so user friendly. It may be possible to provide power to wall lights through the wall from an adjacent room.
Light fittings here need to be of a specific moisture-proof design and don’t forget the shower cubicle as it also makes for an easier time during cleaning! The feasibility of carrying out any design proposals can be examined by a registered electrician. The guy you meet in the pub might well be capable, but may not have the accreditation (NICEIC in Northern Ireland or RECI in the Republic of Ireland) or appropriate insurances to do the work. We have only touched on the very vast topic of lighting in these pages but do shop around and seek professional guidance. In my 30-year career of changing trends, the one thing that has remained constant is the need for a lighting design both for new build or renovation. This is inexpensive and will prove to be money well spent. Lighting brings an interior to life if it provides flexible solutions for mood setting. Done correctly, it makes a good interior into a great interior.