More often than not, a standard lighting plan consists mostly of recessed downlights throughout the home with a few feature pendants sprinkled around for good measure. The problem with this is every nook and cranny looks and feels the same. There are no features, no focal points, and no intriguing spots for the eye to land on.
A shift in mindset is required from “lets just illuminate each space from above by with downlights” to “how can I create moments within each space by highlighting specific features and creating the right mood.”
Before embarking on a lighting plan, start by answering these three questions…
What is your unique style?
- Start by researching different interior design styles. Pinterest is a great place to look.
- Narrow it down to your favourite 2-3 styles. This combination of styles forms the basis of your unique style.
- Next step is to analyse the images of these different styles you’ve chosen, and looking at the various interior elements start to define characteristics that you love and don’t love. For example, when looking at lighting, ask yourself what style of pendants are used in these images; modern, traditional, a combination of both? What’s the overall brightness of the style, is it bright and fresh, dim and moody or a bit of both?
- Once you’ve analysed the various design elements, write a short sentence that summarises your unique style. Include at least three descriptive words like elegant, funky, casual, glamorous etc.
### What is the mood of each space?
Start a list of the various spaces within your home. Under each space name, jot down three words that describe how you want that space to feel. For example, your master bedroom could bed described as elegant, casual and cosy, and your main bathroom could be elegant, casual and fresh.
Can you start to see how, by clearly outlining the mood for each space, this will inform your lighting decisions?
### What are the functional requirements for each space?
Finally, add to your list any particular functions you want to perform in each space. For example, bathroom – shaving, applying make-up, etc.
Now you have a strong blueprint of your lighting requirements. Let’s take a look at some general tips for lighting, space by space.
- Generally, people want this space to feel welcoming, so harsh recessed downlights everywhere won’t do.
- Do you have a feature wall? Highlight this with a row of recessed small tiltable downlights that wash down the wall.
- Perhaps a piece of furniture is the focal point so you could hang some pendants over it.
- If you have a high enough ceiling, a centralised pendant might be the focal point of the room.
- Returning home laden with bags, putting your shoes on, greeting guests are all typical functions. With this in mind, you need flexible lighting so ensuring there is enough but that these are on a dimmer is key to having the best of both worlds.
- You may even consider a sensor so that when you walk in with full hands, you don’t have to wrestle with the light switch.
- Do you want your main bathroom to be bright and fresh? Do you want your master ensuite or powder room to have a more romantic or cosy feel? It’s up to you.
- If your bath is a focal point, consider a pendant light over the top or in-ground uplights behind the bath. Any lights near a bath, shower or vanity will likely need to be a low voltage and have the correct IP rating in accordance with the zone.
- Do you have a tiled feature wall? Highlight with a row of recessed small tiltable downlights that wash down the wall.
- Perhaps your vanity is the show stopper? Highlighting this with a hanging pendant, wall lights either side and an LED strip under will do the trick.
- If you will be applying makeup or shaving in this space, ensure you have enough task lighting near the mirror to illuminate the face evenly.
### Main open living areas (lounge, dining, kitchen)
- These spaces create the hub of the home, it’s often the largest and busiest zone and requires the most flexibility when it comes to lighting.
- In your kitchen, you may like to highlight a kitchen island, backsplash, the top of your overhead cabinetry or feature shelving; strip lighting is great for this.
- Pendant lights over a bench, your dining table or in the centre of your living room look great, but I’d select only one or two areas. Having pendants in all three spaces will often just clutter the space.
- If you have feature high ceilings that you want to highlight, wall mounted up lights will achieve this beautiful effect.
- Do you have a feature wall, shelving unit or art? Highlight with a row of recessed small tiltable downlights or tiltable spotlights.
- Relaxing, entertaining, eating and making food are all common activities in these spaces. Having lights on separate circuits and dimmers will give you much-needed flexibility.
- Ensure you have plenty of task lighting overworking spaces like your kitchen bench.
- Determine your mood for each space, your master, guest and kids bedrooms based on your style.
- If you have a feature wall behind the bedhead, such as paint or textured wallpaper, use a row of recessed small tiltable downlights that wash down the wall.
- Use a large pendant over the foot of the bed or have pendants over each bedside table.
- You may also have an architectural feature that you wish to highlight (such as a fireplace, intricate ceiling or a beautiful window) or a piece of furniture. Highlight using directional downlights, spotlights or wall lights.
- If you read in bed, ensure you either have reading lamps, pendants or wall mounted task lighting for this. The light source needs to be at chin height. So the base of a lampshade or the base of a pendant should line up with your chin.
- Sensor-driven strip lights within wardrobes and cupboards throughout your home are very useful.
- Dimmers are always great for bedrooms, especially your master bedroom.
- When it comes to walk-in-wardrobes, centralised wide beam recessed downlights are great. You can also opt for built-in cabinet lighting such as sensor-driven strip lighting or recessed downlights. I love amping up the WOW factor with a feature pendant, especially in the master wardrobe.
### Creating natural light
Bathing a room in light is best achieved through the creative use of glass. Roof windows and skylights are a fantastic way to add more natural light and warmth to your home, and it’s a great way to save on energy.
“Artificial lighting in homes constitutes 15% of the average annual household energy bill. However, effective daylight designs lower energy use and energy bills substantially, without compromising on thermal performance and occupant comfort”, explains Matthew Church from Adlux, a family business with decades of experience in natural daylighting products.
“Incorporating effective day lighting into domestic developments brings a host of benefits including better sleep quality, as well as, better physical, emotional and mental well-being. Occupants of a house with daylit rooms get more sleep per night. It’s no secret that a naturally lit home is instinctively more appealing to homeowners and tenants - offering financial benefits too.”
Adlux encourages homeowners to consider how much time is spent in each area of their home and to look at where roofs and walls could provide an opportunity to bring in more natural light.
“Skylights create an illusion of space”, notes Matthew. “They provide more than three times as much light as a vertical window of the same size. They also free up wall space, illuminate larger spaces and distribute light more evenly. Skylights perform better on overcast days and are less affected by the sun’s position than wall windows. Overall, shadows are reduced, creating more appealing environments.”
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