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By Laurence and Carolyn James

Traditionally, spring is the time when many of us think about redecorating or remodelling a room in our home and we begin skimming through glossy magazines, or visiting showrooms for ideas. The results always look stunning, but how do you replicate ‘that’ look in your own home when your rooms are probably a fraction of the size of those featured in home interior publications? Even if you had the time, energy and resources to purchase exactly the same products that appear in a beautifully prepared photograph or showroom, somehow they never seem to look the same in your own home.

So why is this?

The answer may be in your lighting or more accurately your light levels and lighting schemes. Every home will have a unique light level that is dependant upon many things; the way the rooms and windows face, the size and type of windows, the colour of the decoration and the density of furniture in the rooms. It is an eclectic mix, but these factors can make a huge difference. Natural light plays an important part in the mix, since it can create an infinite array of atmospheres and moods in any room through the course of the day, from bright and invigorating to subdued and tranquil.

Colours, Textures and Fabrics

The many forms created by natural light are something that we probably notice occasionally, but perhaps don’t fully appreciate. Before spending vast sums of money on elaborate interior design schemes, just carry out your own survey over a few days. Move furniture and accessories around to see the effects the changes can make. Create new features and try different window treatments, like Venetian blinds or layers of fabric such as fine muslin. It is relatively simple to experiment with these solutions, but you may wish to make fundamental changes to the lighting characteristics in your home by carrying out some structural alterations, such as fitting a roof light or dormer window. These solutions are naturally more involved, but can produce dramatic results.

If your budget only enables you to redecorate rather than refurbish, then bear in mind the effects different colours and textures can have on the level of light in a room. Pale colours are reflective, while dark colours and materials absorb light. White ceilings reflect light as do cream carpets but dark wooden floors and dark coloured walls absorb light and make rooms feel more claustrophobic. The mood and atmosphere that you are trying to create will determine the colours and materials that you use.

Choosing The Right Type of Lighting

So far, we have only addressed the natural light issue and how to understand and make best use of the level of light that you have. Aspects of lighting should be an integral part of your thinking. It is not something that should be deferred until you have decorated and are putting the finishing touches to a room. The type of lighting that you use should be thought about at the planning stage, as you may need to install some new electrical wiring or fittings. It’s too late when the walls have been painted or wallpapered and the flooring has been laid!

How do you choose the type of lighting you need? Are you going to just replace the lampshade in the centre of the ceiling, or are you going to be more ambitious and create different levels of lighting that can be adjusted to reflect the mood and atmosphere you want to create? If you wish to emulate the image in the glossy magazine, then you are going to have to give your lighting some thought, but the guidelines are straightforward. There three basic types of light:

  • General lighting or ambient light. A pendant light in the centre of the room typically provides this type of lighting and it provides a good level of brightness for everyday use
  • Feature or accent lighting creates highlights and can be used to focus on particular architectural features you have in your home, such as fireplaces or alcoves
  • Task lighting, which as its name suggests, is specifically designed to provide strong localised light for specific tasks, such as cooking, reading and close work

A blend of all these types of lighting should be considered in any lighting scheme you are planning. Naturally, the combination you use is your personal choice and will determine the eventual look and feel that is achieved. Balance is the key

Light Fittings

Having identified the basic types of light that are used, you need to understand the different kinds of fittings that are at your disposal. For simplicity these can be categorised as follows:

  • Downlighters: These are usually recessed in the ceiling, but can also be wall mounted. The light is direct and focused and will cast shadows. When used in quantity, these lights can provide a good level of ambient light
  • Uplighters: These wash ceilings with light, which is then reflected back into a room in an even manner. They can be free standing or wall mounted and therefore provide great flexibility. Some pendants also provide uplighting properties
  • Wall washers: When surface mounted, these provide an even light across and down a wall. Different effects can be achieved by varying the fitting and its position on a vertical surface
  • Decorative Lighting: This can be used to add visual focus in a room and provide general lighting properties to specific areas. Decorative lighting is often used as an integral feature of an overall room set

Reflecting Your Personality

By experimenting with the categories of light that have been described above, you should be able to create the atmosphere and mood you desire. There are numerous solutions and the process may involve a degree of trial and error. If you are seeking the ultimate in flexibility and refinement, then dimmer or control systems should be used. At their simplest they can be controlled manually, or at their most complex they can be varied electronically to provide an infinite number of individual light settings.

Whatever you choose to do, you will stand a better chance of emulating that advertisement in a glossy magazine. Lighting plays such an important part in everyone’s home. The type of lighting scheme you adopt will not only satisfy your functional needs, but it could play a large part in creating atmospheres and moods that influence your own attitudes and behaviours.

About The Author

Laurence and Carolyn James own The Light Company Direct Ltd, an independent, family run business, based in the heart of the Cotswolds. The company offers a superb range of distinctive and stylish lighting for homes and commercial establishments via mail order and the Internet. Laurence and Carolyn have selected lighting that represents the very best in design and craftsmanship. They have developed close links with key manufacturers throughout Europe and are able to offer customers many designs that are rarely seen in the UK.

Decorating Studio, LLC or is not affiliated with the authors nor responsible for the actions or content of the articles, or any 3rd party information within or linked to or from Decorating Studio or Decorating Studio's website.
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