How to pick the best lights for your home

Lighting can make a huge difference to a room, affecting how we use a space and whether it feels roomy or cosy. Here’s how to get it right…

Before installing or updating lights, think about how you use each room during the day. A lounge may double-up as an office, the children might need to do their homework on the dining table in the evening or you might use the guest bedroom as a hobby space at night.

“Multi-functional rooms need to offer ambient as well as task lighting, while open plan living areas may even use pools of light as ‘zones’ in the absence of walls,” says Sally Storey, design director of John Cullen.

“A flexible scheme where the focus and light levels can be adjusted throughout the day is key - dimmers are ideal as they create mood and allow the room to work from day to night.”
How to pick the best light for you kitchen © John Cullen
Kitchen lighting


While a central pendant will provide general lighting, a kitchen requires good task lighting in work areas, especially where you’ll be chopping vegetables. Task lighting should be positioned to the side or behind where you’re working – not in front.

Many modern kitchen cabinets and cooker hoods come with built-in lights but adding them to existing ones is relatively easy and needn’t be expensive.

Mini fluorescent lights can be picked up at most DIY stores (an eight-watt bulb in warm white should work well) and look great when fitted underneath wall units.

Clip-on lights, such as this industrial style one, £75, from MyDeco, can be clamped on wherever you need it.

If you have a central pendant over a dining table, choose one with a flexible cord, like the Zodiac pendant light, £49.98 from B&Q, which can be pulled down for task lighting when required.

To avoid re-wiring, consider fitting a track system with directional lights to highlight the work surface and the sink. While they might take more work to install, ceiling downlights can be placed where needed and because they recessed won’t get covered in grease and dirt.

Use feature lighting to create atmosphere inside your bathroom © John Cullen

Bathroom

“In a bathroom, task lighting is important where you need to see clearly, but think about adding feature lighting to create atmosphere,” says Sally.

“Consider adding recessed LED 1w Lucca spotlights into alcoves or back-lighting an opaque bath panel. Light behind the bath with waterproof LED 1w Lucca Exterior uplights or use an LED Contour strip under a basin so that it appears to float or use it to backlight shelves.”

Just take care that any fittings used are completely encased and never be tempted to use a conventional light fitting that's not intended for bathroom use.

With a little imagination, the right lighting really can transform every room in the house.

Living room lighting

Background or ambient lighting plays the part of daylight and is most often provided by a central pendant light – but if used alone, can create a very flat effect.

“Think about layering the light,” says Chrissy Halton of Innerspace Interior Design. “One ceiling light will cast shadows, whereas having lamps dotted around will highlight all areas and make the room more welcoming.”

How to make a hallway warm and welcoming © John CullenThe lounge is where we’re most likely to use accent lighting - to show off an artwork, ornaments, or even a plant.

Think carefully when positioning lights - don’t place downlighters at either end of a sofa if you may change the room layout. Similarly, wall lights are best positioned either side of a fixed feature, like a fireplace.

A standing lamp can look good behind the sofa or next to an armchair. For reading, the light should be placed to one side, behind and above the chair and take a 60 watt bulb at least – remembering that a 60-year-old requires 15 times more light for reading than a teenager.

Watching TV in total darkness can cause eye strain, so place a light behind or beside the television, avoiding anything too bright which could cause glare on the screen.

“To make a room appear larger, light all four corners with spotlights or table lamps, in addition to a main pendant light,” suggests Chrissy. “Wall washers, which flood light on to the wall and ceiling, will make the room seem taller. To make a room feel longer place lights at one end, to attract the eye along it.”

Hallway

Halls are often dark and lighting can be used to make a warm and welcoming entrance, as well as ensuring safety on the stairs.

“Create drama by overscaling a decorative pendant and dimming this for mood, used in conjunction with Polespring LED downlights,” suggests Sally.

Try lighting the stairs themselves using recessed spotlights and ensure the main overhead light is at the top of the stairs rather than the bottom to reduce the risk of accidents.


Bedroom lighting

Most people like bedrooms to be bright in the morning and atmospheric in the evening. 

“Use a High CRI Contour Strip to uplight above a wardrobe for a fresh bright effect that can be dimmed in the evening or use a run of Polespring LEDs to light the front of wardrobes or highlight the headboard” says Sally.

“Don’t forget to have downlights on a separate control so you can turn them off from bed.”

Bedside table or wall lights are ideal for reading – choose shades that are white on the inside and a warm colour outside, and fit with a clear bulb to provide a warm glow.