Light up your life with a well-designed lighting scheme

Forward planning is the key to creating a lighting scheme that will enhance your home and the way you live in it

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When you are planning a room makeover, you need a lightbulb moment – literally. Good lighting can help can make a room scheme, and there are many smart ways it can be used not just to enhance the look of the space, but also to make it work better for you.

It is important to start work on your lighting scheme early – at what is known as first-fix stage – when deciding what you’ll want and where. The way you can plan in the routes for all the necessary cables, sockets and switches before you bring the plasterers in. 

For example: if you plan to move internal walls, will ceiling lights need to be relocated to the new centre of the room and light switches repositioned? Do you want concealed lighting behind shelving or units in alcoves? Will you need sockets handy for bedside light plugs or are you planning to build in reading lights? Where can you put sockets so they won’t be inaccessible beneath beds or a desk?

Do you have a beloved piece of art that you want to make a focal point with spotlighting? Is a spare room going to be used as a study and need good reading lights and plenty of power points?

A striking metal pendant acts as ambient lighting, but also acts as task when preparing meals at the kitchen island

A striking metal pendant acts as ambient lighting, but also serves as task when preparing meals at the kitchen island. Symbol petrol copper 6-light pendant, £445, SocketStore

(Image: © socketstore)

Functions of lighting

Lighting can be divided into three categories:

Ambient – Which provides overall light in a room.
Accent – To bring focus to a particular point.
Task – A concentrated, brighter light for performing jobs that can range from homework to applying makeup.

But the lines between these definitions can blur. Lamps might be considered accent lights, however, if you are opting for a hotel-chic feel in the bedroom, they might also be ambient. Pendant lights in a row above a dining table could be ambient or accent, and if they are above an island, task. A run of lights beneath kitchen units can act as task lighting, but also provide ambience in a kitchen-diner setting.

There is also a new type of lighting, which could be considered part of task lighting, or deserving of a category all of its own: convenience lighting. This can be found in unexpected but useful places, such as cupboards and wardrobes, lighting up the contents and revealing what is tucked away in the recesses. 

Drawer lighting is perfect for illuminating even the deepest pull-out storage, so you don’t have to rummage around in semi-darkness trying to find the utensils you need. Wall unit lighting doesn’t only reveal contents but can also show off your glassware. Shelf lighting – as in a shelf that is also a light – can be used for storage and to create atmosphere, highlighting your favourite ceramics or artful arrangements of ingredients in the kitchen or toiletries in the bathroom.

Pendant light above bed and matching wall light

Softer lighting works well in the bedroom. For reading lights, if you decide on wall lights you'll have to chase the cables behind the plastered surface, but if you chose lamps, you'll need a conveniently placed socket. Kennedy wall light with taupe silk shade, £79.50; Ronda 3-light pendant light with ecru faux silk drum shade, £135, SocketStore

(Image: © socketstore)

Power points

And what of sockets and switches? Well these can also play an important part in your decorating scheme. Gone are the days when there was a choice of white plastic or a burnished metallic, like chrome, copper, steel or brass. These are still readily available, but so too are coloured switches, ones made from wood (yes, real wood), black or graphite switches, and shabby-chic rustic effects in slate or verdigris – ideal for an industrial/loft look (though the distress is only surface deep and will certainly not apply to the cables). If your heart and personal style belong in the past, you could even choose Bakelite switches for an Art Deco or 1920s-1940s aesthetic.

The opposite of that would be the modern sockets and switches that are designed to embrace the rapid advances in technology. Sockets now come with ports where you can charge your mobile devices. Consider these for the home office, bedroom or in the kitchen-diner-living room that is the hub of the home. And if you aren’t within touching distance of your switches, you can get ones that can be controlled remotely or via an app, so you need never walk into a dark house or room again.

SocketStore is an online store offering a huge variety of lighting, LED lamps, sockets, switches and bulbs. The website also has advice on products and instructional videos on fitting and using them.