George Clarke talks home lighting

The star of Restoration Man and George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces speaks exclusively to Real Homes about the evolution of home lighting

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How has the way we use home lighting changed?

I think there’s been a massive evolution in the way we use lighting in our homes. When I look back to when I was a kid, all my mum had were those pendant lights coming out of the centre of the room.

From an eco point of view, we’ve moved on massively. Those bulbs were energy inefficient, to say the least. I remember reading that they gave off 90% of their energy as heat, rather than light, which isn’t much use to anybody! Now we have highly efficient LED bulbs, which last for years and years, rather than a few months. From a design angle, people are also now realising that the architectural potential of lighting is unbelievable.

How can we get our home lighting right?

I’d say think about how you use your space and choose lighting that you can adjust to suit. You want the flexibility to be able to change it. You also need to think about the atmosphere you want to create I recently went for dinner at a friend’s house and the dining room had one pendant light that had been set just off the centre of the table. When I sat down and realised I was casting a shadow across my own meal I had to ask to move as it made me feel really uncomfortable. It just goes to show how good lighting can completely change the experience you have in your home.

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What else should we consider when planning a home lighting scheme?

Architects and designers always talk about maximising natural light in our homes. That’s really important, but in the part of the world where we live, the reality is that our experience of our homes is mostly darkness between October and March. During the winter I go to work and it’s dark, and I get home and it’s dark. So it’s key to get artificial lighting just right.

Nowadays, we have ambient lighting, task lighting, accent light… the list goes on. It gives us flexibility way beyond the dimmer switch, which used to be the height of lighting tech – years ago you used to think a house was really posh if it had a dimmer!

What kind of lighting do you prefer in your home?

I’m not a fan of pendant lights; I much prefer soft task lighting. When I come in from work I like to have just a few lamps switched on as it feels a bit calmer. My girlfriend, on the other hand, comes straight in and turns all the ceiling lights right up, and with the kids it’s good to have the flexibility to adjust the lighting when we need to. Basically, the whole family has different lighting needs. Personally, I absolutely love feature lighting. I have a favourite piece of artwork in my hallway and it’s lit to show it off beautifully.

How do you use home lighting technology?

Four of five years ago, I invested in an all-singing, all-dancing home lighting system but the complexity of it and the amount of wiring is mind-boggling. I really don’t need 450 billion variations of lighting, so I just use Philips Hue now, which is just brilliant. There’s no need for rewiring, you just pop the smart bulbs in and use Wi-Fi to control them from your smartphone. You can check your bank account, order a takeaway and book a taxi using your phone now, so it makes sense to be able to control your lighting, too.

The kids love playing with the controls and even my mum can use it, so it must be simple! It allows me to adjust the lighting levels in each space at the touch of my smartphone and even choose different colours.

Philips Hue light bulbs

What do you think is the future of home lighting?

I think we’ll have fewer switches and be able to control our lighting remotely. I’ve got five dimmers in my kitchen at the moment and it’s absolutely ridiculous. I think the future of all of our homes will be to have fewer cables and extension leads as everything we will be powered by Wi-Fi. Under my desk at home is like Spaghetti Junction at the moment, but in a few years the wireless devices we use won’t even need to be plugged in to charge.

I also think systems like Philips Hue will allow us to have more creative lighting in our homes without the need to completely rewire. I’m genuinely excited about what the future of home lighting technology holds.

What are you working on at the moment?

The latest series of Amazing Spaces is just coming to an end on Channel 4 and we’re currently making the next series of Restoration Man. I’m also really excited about new my series, Ugly House, which should be on before Christmas. I’ve teamed up with some amazing architects to completely reimagine unattractive post-war houses.

George Clarke on Restoration Man

George Clarke is currently promoting the Philips Hue, an innovative wireless lighting system, which uses smart low-energy bulbs and a ‘bridge’ hub, to allow you to control your home lighting via your mobile device. It means you can remotely operate your lighting when you’re away from home; put the smart bulbs on timers to suit your routine; and alter the brightness and the colour of the light for different effects.