Perfect Room Lighting

So what are the secrets to perfect room lighting?

Good lighting can improve and enhance a room’s look and feel. Choosing the right table lamps and overhead lighting is critical to the style of your room. Depending on the use of the room your choice of lighting and placement should change.

Lighting is one of the most important elements in any interior. Not used effectively you may be disappointed with your look, irrespective of how great your furniture, furnishings and paint scheme.

So what is light and why is it so important?

All light sources, whether natural or artificial, are made up of colour light waves – the colours of the light spectrum. These combine to produce white light.

The varying amount of these waves affects the colour of the light and the way you see the colour. When you are planning your interior lighting scheme, it is important to consider sources of light and the impact these have on your space.

When planning your interior lighting scheme you need to consider surface colours. The paint colours, the material colours for both furniture and furnishings, and the sources of natural light all have an impact. Don't ignore any of them.

Lighter, more reflective, colours will increase the light on surfaces and the level of light in a room. Less reflective, darker, surfaces will absorb light. Loss of light through absorption will reduce the brightness of the space compared to spaces with lighter, more reflective, colour schemes. You’ll need higher lamp wattage for your lamps and ceiling lights to achieve the same perceived ‘lightness’ for dark colour schemes versus light colour schemes.


Types of Lamps

The term ‘lamp’ doesn’t technically mean a lamp. It doesn’t refer to a table lamp or free standing floor lamp. In layman terms, it means ‘light’.

And ‘lights’ we think of as light bulbs. Light bulbs come in many different shapes and sizes and each type has different characteristics.

Incandescent bulbs – these produce light when electricity causes the filament to heat up and glow (incandesce). That’s why they get so hot. They also produce a warm colour light, even though you probably just think of them as a source of light. Incandescent lamps are the best choice of artificial lighting if rendering of colour is important. A couple of big pitfalls for these bulbs are that they have a relatively short life and are inefficient. They use more electricity than alternatives, although modern filament bulbs are much more efficient than they have been historically. The modern version of these is usually referred to as Edison bulbs.

Fluorescent bulbs – fluorescent bulbs produce light when electricity causes the phosphor coating on the bulb to ‘fluoresce’. The type and amount of phosphor used to coat the bulb affects the colour that they bulb produces. The bulbs are more efficient than incandescent bulbs. And used carefully can add an added dimension to your lighting scheme. Think highlighting and accent lighting, which doesn’t just have to be under your kitchen cupboards. Bedrooms and bathrooms lend themselves to clever use of hidden fluorescent lighting to lift the room’s look at night.

Halogen bulbs – halogen lamps are also a type of incandescent light. The inclusion of iodine or bromide within the bulb helps delay the decay of the filament and extends the bulb’s life. The addition of iodine or bromide also helps the bulb burn brighter. That’s one of the reasons that you can get halogen bulbs for a 12-volt lighting system as well as for 240 volts.

High-Intensity Discharge (HID) bulbs - these bulbs do not rely on a filament. They produce light by having electric current pass through gases enclosed within the bulb. With no filament, high-intensity bulbs have a longer lifespan and are energy efficient. They produce the same light level with less electricity than other light bulbs. The type of the gas and the pressure of the gas within the bulb alters the type of light produced. Sodium under low pressure produces a yellow light; think street lamps. Mercury under high pressure produces a white light.

So what’s this lux thing? Lux is a measure of light, and to be frank, for you and us it’s not particularly helpful. The best way to find out what level of light you need is to experiment. Before you go out and buy table lamps, floor lamps, and expensive ceiling light fittings try things out. Bring in some old lamps and see how they illuminate the room. But don’t forget, items such as lampshades will impact light levels. So if your end scheme relies on dark coloured lamp shades, then use dark ones when experimenting.


Use lighting to be flexible

Don’t forget the use of rooms can differ through times of the day, especially evenings. So assess each room individually and think about how it will be used during different periods. Use dimmers, different light circuits, and different colour bulbs to allow the lighting scheme to be changed to suit the desired mood and feel.

If you are looking for inspiration, take note of how hotels and top notch restaurant’s use their lighting. And notice how they change it different times.

And don’t forget, free standing flooring lamps, table lamps, light bulbs, and light shades can all be changed easily. So if it doesn’t work the first time around you aren’t stuck with it forever.