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How To Get The Best Lighting Out of Your Interiors

Light is the essence of a room’s ambience and mood. Good lighting can completely refresh an interior and improve its atmosphere. But bad lighting can seriously date a space, making it seem unwelcoming. The key to good lighting is to use a mix of light sources and to place lighting at different levels. In this way, you flatter the room and create ambience. [Image above: Living Rooom in Private Home in Panama]

So, when lighting an interior, your first choice is your light fixture. The most critical factor here? Ceiling height. The worst thing you can do is to have a fixture hanging too high or too low. The second, often-disregarded, choice regards light bulbs. But a range of warm and cool hues can be found in bulbs. The type of glow created is obviously a personal choice, but generally, if walls feature cooler tones, a warm glow can really bring the space alive. On the other hand, cooler glows are great for brightening up a dark space.

Finally, it is also crucial that your chosen lighting matches what the space is used for – reading, cooking, or getting dressed, for example.

Here are some top tips for lighting various spaces.

Living room

Typically a living room has many different seating areas. Ideally, all should be lit, creating various reading spaces. Use a mix of table and floor lamps, and direct light both upwards and downwards to create different levels of light. If possible, also install a dimmer on your overhead fixture.

But relying on lamps means lampshades need to harmonise with each other – you don’t want your living room looking like the lighting section of your favourite DIY store! A lampshade must be beautiful. And don’t shy away from colour – a brightly coloured fixture or lamp shade can add fun and interest to an otherwise simple room.

For example, the lighting in a private flat in Panama was recently updated by iGuzzini. A mix of lamps and overhead lighting provides well-lit seating areas, with different lighting levels creating a warm ambience to the room.


The focus in the kitchen should be on overhead lighting, ideally on a dimmer so the space can be brightened when cooking. Mix this overhead lighting with lower level sources – under-cabinet lights are a must! – to ensure all work surfaces are illuminated.

Dining room of Phinda Reserve

In the kitchen of a luxury home in Florida built by two prominent art collectors, pendant lighting not only illuminates the work surfaces, but also acts as a decorative feature within the room – great instead of wall art!

Cord swags can also be a simple and stylish solution if you’re wanting to install a new pendant while avoiding expense and hassle. Drape loosely as below or pull tight for a more industrial look.

Cord swags for pendants


The key to a bedroom is to create a cosy and restful ambience. Reading lamps or sconces on either side of the bed are great, but make sure the light does not point directly at the bed.

This has been cleverly achieved at Casa Hannah by Bo Design, with a display of pendants and soft, warm lighting.

A bedroom in Casa Hannah by Bo Design


Overhead lighting illuminating the whole bathroom is essential for cleaning, for example, but additional lighting is needed for tasks such as applying makeup or shaving. Sidelights are great for this – a pair of sconces either side of a mirror are excellent for illuminating the face. A large bathroom would also benefit from a light directly over the shower.

All of this is achieved to great effect in the calming and elegant bathroom below.


Sidelights flanking the mirror work wonders


Finally, an often-neglected space, the staircase, is an area in which good lighting is not only aesthetically pleasing but essential for safety. Staircases are often built with awkward angles, which spotlights can miss. Instead, directional lights are a great way of creating evenly distributed, but subtle lighting.

Staircase in Brunel’s ‘sinking shaft’ in London

Take Tate Harmer’s transformation of Brunel’s first engineering project in London, for example. In a dark space, directional lighting transforms the stairway, allowing easy access and producing a dramatic focus to the room.

Altlife Bookstore in Ningbo by Kokaistudios

LEGO House by BIG