Perfect lighting for every occasion

Family: Movie set style standing and pendant lights, prices vary, John Lewis

Family: Movie set style standing and pendant lights, prices vary, John Lewis - Credit: Archant

As the clocks go back and the nights draw in, now is a good time to re-think the lighting in your home to allay seasonal depression

Achieving well-balanced lighting is an art and requires careful thought and consideration.

First of all make a lighting plan. Consider what you will use the space for and what times of day it will be inhabited. Also bear in mind if there’s anything you want to highlight or display – a particular art work or a plant, for example.

It may be sad to acknowledge but you should also consider the age of the people using the space: the over-60s need 15 times more light for reading than a 10-year-old.

Draw up a plan of your room marking immovable fixtures and the power sockets, then add arrows showing which way people are likely to be facing in different areas (i.e. towards the television, facing a desk, or reading in a chair).

If you’re completely redesigning your lighting you have the luxury of positioning your light switches. Don’t waste the opportunity. Scrabbling around in the dark for an illogically place switch or cord is a pain. And three is probably the maximum number of switches you should have per panel as any more than that and you’ll forget what each switch is for.

Don’t forget areas like your hallway or staircase. You can entirely change the mood of your home with a welcoming hall light, while a dingy staircase can even be dangerous.

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Types of lighting and how to get the look:


Background lighting is your basic background light source, which is used to replace (or supplement) daylight, usually from a central pendant light, or, increasingly from a spot light. This can feel a little flat, but it’s important that it’s adequately bright to be able to do general tasks and reading.

If you live in rented accommodation you may have fluorescent strip lighting, which is horrible, will make your home feel like an office and can even trigger migraines. If you have this in your home, you may want to avoid turning it on entirely, in which case you’ll need lamps with 60 watt bulbs – a standing lamp, especially one that reflects upwards can be a good solution for filling a room with light here.


If you have a large communal space where people might be gathered but doing different things, it’s a good idea to have plenty of additional light sources to your ambient lighting. Table lamps placed next to seating are good for readers, while a task light (see below) will make a desk bright enough without disrupting the overall ambience of a relaxing environment. You can have too many lamps though so pick wisely and sparingly.


This is lighting for a particular job, whether reading, cooking, working or sewing, which should be focussed on the particular area you work in. Go for an adjustable angled lamp, which can be moved around or angled. Clip on lights are also good here as you can move them easily to suit your work and location. Task lights should be able to take at least a 60 watt bulb to be suitably bright.

TOP TIP: place the light opposite your writing had so you’re not trying to see through your own shadow.


Jettison your overhead lights if you want to create an atmosphere for seduction. Candlelight is by far the most flattering but may not be practical. Instead try lamps with pink or red-toned shades (or drape a scarf over a shade, making sure not to let the fabric touch the bulb) to create a beautiful glow. Wall lights are also good for a diffuse light, while backlit plants will add an air of mystery and drama with their strange shadows.


Any fan of Nordic crime drama worth their salt will appreciate the cosy pools of light that have been perfected in Scandinavian homes. This is particularly effective for dinners and small gatherings and involves using a low hanging pendant to cast a pool of light on the table, leaving the area beyond the seating in darkness – cinematic from the outside, welcoming for those within the pool.


There are loads of fun lights on the market for children’s rooms, which can be a playful decorative addition to a bedroom or playroom. The most important thing about a child’s light is that it’s safe for unsupervised use and almost all products specifically marketed for this purpose will be. Night lights are also useful to ward off bedtime monsters.