Avoiding common lighting mistakes is essential to the successful lighting of a room
Lighting is great at creating effect and mood. Concealed lighting is brilliant at doing the heavy lifting of subtly lighting a space, while decorative lights are to be seen and admired and add interest and texture in a scheme design.
Home owners often are not aware of the importance of considering the lighting design at the very beginning of their project, with the result that it can be too late to make the structural modifications without a lot of expense.
Here are some tips to overcome common mistakes.
1. Overlooking Dimmers:
- Mistake: Neglecting to install dimmer switches is a frequent oversight. Without them, rooms are stuck with a single, unvarying light level, which can be limiting.
- Solution: I recommend incorporating dimmers in almost every space. They offer flexibility, allowing clients to adjust lighting for different activities and times of day, enhancing both the functionality and ambiance of a room.
Task lighting above breakfast bar and dining table – targeted lighting as well as decorative. Image Credit David Parmiter
2. Ignoring the Importance of Lamp Shades:
- Mistake: Choosing the wrong lampshades can adversely affect both the quality and direction of light. This can lead to issues like glare, overly harsh lighting, or insufficient illumination.
- Solution: Selecting the right lampshade involves considering its material, opacity, and size. For a softer, diffused light, opaque, lighter-coloured shades are ideal so the light can spill through the shade as well as above and below.
To create a more intimate space, darker fabric lampshades send the light upwards and downwards only, creating softer pools of light. For more focused task lighting, such as over an island, transparent or semi-opaque shades work well.
Be wary of using transparent shades or shadeless bulbs on wall lights – they can create a very bright, harsh and distracting light unless dimmed.
Custom lampshade with diffuser which slots inside the drum and sits on the bottom of the rim to stop glare. Image Credit David Parmiter
3. Ignoring the furniture layout when planning the lighting for an extension or renovation.
- Mistake: Lighting fixture positions are all too often decided before considering the full functionality of the room and the furniture layout. This can lead to a ‘runway’ of downlights which over-lights the room and creates glare or a pair of randomly hung pendants in a large room.
- Solution: Always consider the purpose and desired feel of the room first, then plan the furniture layout before deciding on the positioning for the lighting fixtures. Downlights are best when recessed (also known as baffled fittings) so their light gives an effect without distracting the eye. It is not necessary to light every centimetre of the space and some darker areas give contrast and depth to the room.
Decorative wall light in keeping with the more industrial aesthetic Interior Design by Colette & Co and The House Ministry. Image Credit David Parmiter
4. Mismatched Colour Temperatures:
- Mistake: Using bulbs with different colour temperatures within the same space can create a disjointed and uncomfortable ambiance.
- Solution: Ensure consistency in the colour temperature of bulbs throughout a space. Warmer tones (2700K to 3000K) are typically best for living areas and bedrooms, and while cooler tones (3500K to 4100K) are often recommended for bathrooms and kitchens, I personally think 4000K gives off a cold light – and who wants to be cold in a bathroom?! I almost always stick to 3000K or below.
Cordless rechargeable table lamp to add extra light but avoid the need for a cable trailing across the floor. Image Credit Carlé and Moss
5. Inadequate Layering of Light:
- Mistake: Relying on a single light source can lead to a flat and uninviting atmosphere. Compensating for this by increasing the brightness of the bulb does not work! Focusing solely on ambient lighting often leads to inadequate illumination for specific tasks like reading, cooking, or working.
- Solution: Employ a layered approach, combining ambient, task, and accent lighting. This creates depth and dimension, allowing for flexibility in setting different moods and atmospheres within the space. It also adds to the aesthetic appeal by breaking up the space and creating visual interest.
- Ambient – This is the main source of light in a room, providing overall illumination. It’s like the background light that helps you see and move around comfortably. Examples include ceiling-mounted lights, chandeliers, or wall sconces that spread light evenly throughout the space.
- Task – As the name suggests, task lighting is focused light that helps you perform specific tasks like reading, cooking, or working at a desk. It’s brighter and more concentrated, aimed at a particular area. Desk lamps, under-cabinet kitchen lights, and reading lamps are common examples.
- Accent – This type of lighting is used to highlight certain features of a room, like artwork, architectural details, or bookcases. It’s like a spotlight that draws attention to specific points of interest, creating visual drama and mood. Examples include track lighting, picture lights, or recessed spotlights.
Concealed lighting in a custom dresser. Adds an extra dimension to the space in the evenings. Image Credit Carlé and Moss
6. Neglecting the Scale and Proportion:
- Mistake: Choosing fixtures that are too large or too small for a space can disrupt its harmony and balance.
- Solution: Select lighting fixtures in proportion to the room’s size and ceiling height. In larger rooms, bigger or multiple fixtures may be needed, whereas in smaller spaces medium height lamps and fittings are more suited. As a general rule it is better to go bigger than too small for decorative light fixtures.
Candles provide intimate lighting in the evenings. Image Credit Carlé and Moss
7. Overlooking the Impact of Light on Colours and Textures:
- Mistake: Failing to consider how different types of light affect the perception of colours and textures can lead to a mismatch between the desired and actual appearance of a room.
- Solution: Test how various light sources interact with paint colours, fabrics, and finishes under different conditions. This ensures that the chosen lighting enhances and accurately reflects the room’s colour palette and textures.
The CRI value of light bulbs is a helpful indicator for this. CRI, which stands for Colour Rendering Index, is like a score that tells us how good a light is at showing colours accurately compared to natural daylight. It’s like a report card for lights, with scores from 0 to 100.
If a light has a high CRI value, for example close to 100, it means that under this light, colours look a lot like they do in natural sunlight. But if the CRI value is low, colours might look odd or not how you expect them to look. A low CRI value causes light to look ‘dirty’ or grey.
Aim for a CRI of 90 or above.
Known in the trade as a ‘pee light’. A low-level low-wattage light on a sensor switch to gently light your way during those middle of the night trips to the bathroom. Image Credit Julia Murray
Addressing these common mistakes can significantly elevate the quality of your interior design project and it will give you lighting that can not only enhance the functionality of your space but also its aesthetic appeal.
Interior design in all images by The House Ministry.
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