I was having dinner this Easter long weekend with a girlfriend. The food wasn’t that great, the décor questionable to say the least (How does a string of miniature hot air balloons strung across the ceiling work with the Oriental theme? I’m not kidding.) but the light was BLINDING. Despite these barriers we still had a great old time chatting, but it definitely gave me pause to think how often lighting is overlooked or just plain wrong, both in restaurants and our own homes.

When we are renovating our homes it’s often one of the last things people think about. There are so many decisions to be made, whether it’s tiles, fittings, appliances, flooring, paint colours and furniture that by the time you look up at your sad old lights you are just exhausted and often just hand over the lighting decisions to your electrician. NOOOO!

1. Don’t let your sparky decide your lighting plan

Don’t get me wrong, they are usually lovely guys, chatty, often with a surfer dude sensibility and they sure know their stuff electrically, but you can’t rely on them to create a lovely ambient mood, to consider where you need your task lighting, where your statement pendant will go, whether you need LED strip lighting or some spotlights instead. You need to have a considered plan, and this is where someone like me comes in. I am all about creating the right atmosphere in your home to make it shine, pun intended! What we are wanting to create in a home is a layered lighting plan.

2. Choosing your downlights

All downlights are not created equal! If you are buying a cheap LED downlight with a sub par chip and a crappy diffuser across it you will end up with a nasty looking light beaming down on you with no atmosphere and you wonder what went wrong. These days you can have anti glare downlights that are partially recessed, or you can choose the ones that sit flush to the ceiling.  Find a showroom that has the downlights on display so that you can see what you’re paying for. Please don’t buy the downlights with a frosted diffuser across it, it will result in a very flat light. Try to get ones that have a silver look lamp behind the globe which reflects the light cleanly. I’m not going to confuse you with lots of technical jargon but one thing you can know is something called Kelvins. No, it’s not just an unfortunate male name, it’s a way of measuring the colour temperature. For residential purposes I like to use 2700 Kelvins, or 27 K. This gives a beautiful warm, mellow light that is just right for relaxing at night. If you wanted a brighter light, perhaps in the kitchen or bathroom you could go to a 3k, but it’s not really necessary. If you want to be super pepped up and alert, as in a supermarket, you could use 4K! No, please don’t unless you like florescent light!

3. Where do I put my lights?

When downlights first hit the scene it was a case of more is more and let’s all try and recreate the airport runway effect. Not anymore. What you want is light where you need it. That is, over the kitchen bench and island so you can see what you are chopping. Over the dining table. Lights that can be swivelled on a gimble (love that word!) to highlight your art. All of these should be on dimmers, and switched separately, that way you can create the atmosphere you want at the touch of a button. We mostly live in an open plan living space so this is crucial. In bedrooms you don’t have to have a light right over the bed, you can place your lights 400-500mm off the wall as there will be enough spill to light it. You do need decent light in walk in wardrobes and again consider dimmers, especially if one person is needing to get up earlier than someone else! I love a fan in the bedroom but I’m not a fan of fans with the oyster light in the middle. Yes, it’s multi functional but it ain’t pretty. Sorry.

4. Feature lights

This is the exciting part! There are so many fabulous lights out there now and this is a chance to really make a statement in your home. They can actually set the scene for the entire style of your house, so take your time thinking this through. For example, I am currently working on a coastal/tropical style home so I am specifying lights in jute/rattan /wicker. If your style is a little more industrial go for something in matt black and glass. Glamourous types can use metallics and blown glass. Drum lights can be custom made to bring all your soft furnishing accent colours together and can be lined with a contrasting material. Think of your pendants as another form of art for your home. Pendants can look great over an island bench or a dining table. If you have a generous stairwell or void it’s a perfect spot for a fantastic pendant light.

5. Lamps and mood lighting

This is the final layer of lighting and no less important. Lamps are fabulous for reading, creating intimacy and letting us a take a big sigh of relief. I like to use a floor lamp next to the couch or armchair where I am likely to read or do anything that requires close up work. Hidden lighting under kitchen cabinets, either in the form of LED strip lighting or small cabinetry downlights is fantastic once you’ve done the washing up and want to settle down for some TV. Again, make sure the colour temperature is warm white, not daylight or cool white. Table lamps are great to place on sideboards or floor lamps in corners to create a really welcoming and relaxing mood for yourself or visitors. In the bedroom you can go for hanging pendants above your bedside tables or for a lamp itself. If you like to read real books (as opposed to a tablet) a bedside lamp is often a better choice for reading. Try and keep the lamps in a style that works with the other elements of the room, that way everything flows cohesively.

I could go on and on, particularly about switches and power points, but maybe that’s for another post! Please like and share with your friends who may be going through their own renovation crisis and let me know if you found this helpful. You can also contact me via email or phone to arrange an in home consultation, I would love to hear from you!

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