When assessing the decor etc. in your new home it is easy to conclude that the previous owner/tenant, or (if it’s brand new) the builder didn’t have a clue. And that’s as true of the lighting as the furniture. Dark corners here, furiously bright areas there – it’s like a combination of a medieval castle and a floodlit baseball stadium.
But that’s not the sort of thinking that makes the world go round.
Sure, your ideas may be better for your purposes, but you don’t know what they were aiming for – and nor will the people who will take over the property after you. One man’s meat is another man’s poison.
The point is that there are so many things you can do, so many options, that no two people are ever going to do it exactly the same.
So what’s done is done and let’s just concentrate on creating effects that you find both pleasing and practical.
Lighting is a prime example of the need for that balance between the attractive and the functional. It’s a specialized area and if you’re going to design it yourself you’re going to have to become a specialist.
To help you with that I’m going to give you five key points to consider regarding your lighting.
These are things for you to think about, remember. Nobody can tell you exactly what to do unless they spend a few weeks in the space, get to know you for about 10 years and have privileged access to your financial situation. So: things to think about.
People talk blithely about creating a “cosy” atmosphere, as if that is the be-all and end-all. But maybe you’re not a cosy kind of person. Maybe you want certain areas all warm and fluffy and others clear and bright. Because one typical idea of cosy is a blazing log fire in an old farmhouse – and if you’re moving into an old farmhouse, that’s great, but if the space you’re working on is a big loft or a small 1960s apartment, different rules apply.
Confusingly, rule number one is: there are no rules. What there is is advice, and that’s different. And it’s what you hope to get in a good lighting store. You go in there with an idea and see what they’ve got that can help.
Don’t expect them to get the picture immediately, but give them plenty of information. They may have an idea you hadn’t thought of. Maybe you’re asking them about small table lamps to use as bedside lamps. They may show you something that is fixed to the wall, with an arm that swings out so you can have the light directly over you as you read your book and can be swung back against the wall, out of the way, when you don’t need it.
Light is white, more or less. You may have a choice between white white and yellow white when it comes to bulbs, but basically you’re looking for the sort of colorless stuff the sun generates when it is open for business and given sufficient access to your property.
You are also (probably) not looking for a light show like something out of a psychedelic movie when the central character goes to a hip club and gets high while music bludgeons his brain and professional lighting technicians turn the world an ever-changing variety of hues.
However, that doesn’t mean your fittings have to be white. After all, there is color in your furniture, the pictures on the walls and the knick knacks dotted around the place.
You can have a nice classic standard lamp that radiates standard white light while being in itself a thing of beauty, whether it be a smooth ice-blue shape or a multi-colored mosaic. And that applies to the shade too. Shades are there to protect your eyes from the direct glare of a bulb, and generally they let the light out in a certain direction, rather than having it seep through, acquiring color as it goes.
If you’re a stylish, monochrome person who believes the ultimate elegance comes in black and white, that needn’t be too restrictive, either. Check out what you can do with black.
Chrome and brass have their place too, depending on the effect you’re seeking to create. Those metals tend to look quite serious and businesslike, but maybe that’s what you need in an area that’s used as an office or a study.
While using lamps as things of beauty may be appropriate in some cases, in others you may want all the light and none of the source. That’s what the sun gives you, after all.
On an infinitely smaller scale you can do this with small lamps or even very small striplights in bookshelves and cabinets. They do the job but demand no attention and take no credit.
Much the same can be said for the sometimes-maligned recessed spots in the ceiling. They bathe the room in light without standing out at all, and modern advances that have made the traditional “light bulbs” an endangered species have gotten progressively smaller, so that now they really can twinkle like little stars.
And on the subject of twinkling, those little Christmas lights, particularly the white ones, are increasingly staying up outside the holidays, so they are now legitimate options. Entwined around a pillar, for instance, they create an effect like nothing else.
- Intrusive? Or just big?
Chandelier-style hanging lights can be great in big rooms, but even with a more compact place they can do a job. Just get one that fits flush to the ceiling, so it can provide illumination without without threatening your uncle’s toupee. And if you’re living somewhere hot, there is always the option of a fan up there too. Very colonial, very stylish – if that’s what you want.
- Clean is beautiful
Having fitted your place out with good-looking light fittings, don’t forget they attract dust and insects. Nothing spoils the effect of a bowl of light more than a crusting of crud sitting at the bottom of it. And the conventional sloping shades soon lose their pristine attractiveness if they’re coated with microscopic particles of dead skin, which is what most interior dust is.
Remember, you’re not just the interior designer. You’re also the head of the housekeeping department, so make sure you or someone else keeps the light fittings in good condition too.
So, with these five key factors to think about, it’s time to buy some stuff. But before you do, it would be advisable to get a crash course on lighting.
The more you know about the options, the better your chances of making a success of this. So supplement your flair with some quick knowledge, make a few notes if you like and off you go: the world is your oyster.
Never mind what was there before, your tenure should be the golden age of lighting in your property.
To read more on topics like this, check out the lifestyle category.