How to plan your lighting scheme

Whether you’re planning a whole-house renovation or rewiring a room, time spent designing your new scheme is vital. Here’s how to get it right…

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Lighting design is a huge part of an interiors overhaul and while it will add to your budget, it will make a big difference to the final result,’ says Sharon Elalouf, interior designer at Ash Design London. ‘There are few limits when it comes to lighting schemes; for example, you can have recess lighting, lit cornices, under-curtain LEDs and spectacular ceilings with stars.

Planning for bigger projects

‘The benefit of renovating your whole house at once is that it allows you to design specifically to suit the way you intend to use the space,’ says Luke Thomas, associate at John Cullen Lighting. ‘Having different layers of light, controlled on separate dimmable circuits, will give you the flexibility to alter the mood of the room easily. This is so important, particularly when creating a scheme for a multipurpose open-plan area, such as a kitchen-diner.’

There are three main different types of lighting to consider in any room: task – focused lighting, such as a desk lamp; ambient – which creates the mood and feeling of a room; and accent – for highlighting certain areas or features in a room, such as paintings. When designing your scheme, bear in mind that all these different types of lighting should be on separate circuits.

‘When planning a whole-house renovation, you should use graph paper to draw out a detailed scaled plan of your rooms – this will enable you to work out the best place for your lights,’ says Malcolm Stewart, owner of specialist installer Kensington AV. ‘Getting a second opinion from an interior designer or architect is essential if you have little previous experience. Your plan should detail immovable fixtures, such as televisions and fireplaces, and take note of which direction people are likely to be facing in a room according to those fixtures. This is also the time to consider the position of light switches and large items of furniture.’

Starting with the walls

According to Simon Wallis-Smith, lighting consultant and co-owner of Fritz Fryer Lighting Specialists, one of the areas of lighting that is most often overlooked is wall lights. ‘During a build, installing an electrical supply for wall lights is a simple process. Post-build, it’s a different matter,’ he explains. ‘Who wants to gouge a channel in a smooth plastered wall to spread a little light?’

Diane Simpson, lighting buyer at John Lewis, adds: ‘The starting point in my own home is always the walls. I see these fixtures as part of the architecture of the house; they provide a second layer and support for table and floor lamps. Spotlights are also important for illuminating specific areas, such as the kitchen worktops, or a sofa or chair in which you read.’

Choosing positions

As well as wall lights, it’s also important to decide on room layouts before starting the planning process. Luke Thomas at John Cullen Lighting says: ‘You should constantly ask yourself, “what is this light going to do?” If you don’t really know then it shouldn’t be there.’

You should also position your lights to highlight the features you want people to notice and provide enough light for whatever jobs the room will be used for. Try to avoid grids of downlights in the ceiling. Instead, use a select quantity to highlight specific points of interest, and combine this with accent and ambient lighting to create depth and texture.

Shown in image: (left to right) Giant curved floor lamp in a satin nickel-plated finish with glass shade and marble base, H220x W185cm, £199, DwellFiji pendant, made from iron, glass and brass, H20xDia.30cm, £49.50, Marks & SpencerMoxley bamboo pendant shade, H11x W26.5xD36.5cm, £28, Habitat