One light on the ceiling simply isn’t enough anymore. Nowadays, if you want to create a flattering aesthetic for your home that’s easy on the eyes, you need a lighting concept. Here are all the dos and don’ts of lighting.
It wasn’t so long ago that lighting didn’t involve any big decisions. A few candles, some gas lamps. Sorted! Even around 1900, the light bulb was still considered a total luxury. Now, we’ve entered a whole new age of lighting. These days, it’s no longer just about the light itself, it’s about – wait for it – finding the right lighting concept. A few lights hanging from the ceiling? That’s a thing of the past. Lighting experts go as far as to say that if you don’t have a lighting concept, you’re better off just hanging up some ‘naked’ light bulbs until you think of one.
Lighting concepts – combining different kinds of lighting
There are many factors to consider when devising a lighting concept. What is each room used for? Are any natural light sources available? How large are the rooms and how high are the ceilings? Experts also differentiate between direct and indirect light and try to create ‘light islands’. You don’t need to flood every corner with light. So it gets quite complicated. Or does it?
Basically, if you’re thinking of trying to achieve perfect room lighting with just one pleasant light source, you can forget it. Depending on the space, you need a) general lighting, b) task lighting, c) accent lighting and d) mood lighting.
General lighting provides all the brightness you need in the room. Spotlights and wall lights are good sources of general lighting. Ideally, this lighting should be dimmable and indirect. Task lighting should provide light wherever there’s a job to do. Fancy reading documents, changing nappies or chopping onions in semi-darkness? Precisely.
Warm mood lighting should – as the name suggests – help to create a pleasant and comfortable mood, perhaps in the dining area or around the sofa. And now for accent lighting… this is where you can get creative. In short, when it comes to accent lighting, you can let your inner interior designer go wild – even if that means tending towards practically no light. Wondering what to do with that copy of a Gallé lamp you bought at a flea market? Or that light-up pink cloud made for a kid’s bedroom? Now’s the time for them to shine!
Experiment with lighting in the living room, stick to natural white in the kitchen
The living room is the perfect space to experiment with combining different light sources, as there’s plenty of room for lighting options besides general lighting: a floor lamp by the armchair here, an accent light by the south-east Asian sculpture there. This is where you can go a bit over the top with your lighting, if that’s what you want. A giant, home-made floor lamp? A light installation made from fluorescent tubes that you bought on a trip to the US? Go for it!
For the dining area, one hanging light positioned above the table is plenty, but a kitchen cries out for good lighting and natural white light. It goes without saying that work spaces in particular should be well lit.
Reading lamps in the bedroom and study, spotlights in the bathroom
Things work differently in the bedroom. Here, less is often more: a floor lamp or a hanging light will generally provide all the light you need. If you like to read in bed, it’s a good idea to set up a spotlight or a desk lamp there. Alternatively, you could create indirect lighting using uplighters and then add a couple of reading lamps.
You read a lot in the study too – and not just for fun. That’s why you definitely need a desk lamp in here to provide some focused light. There should also be some general lighting in here to give your eyes a rest, perhaps provided by the uplighters mentioned above. Rotatable clip-on spotlights attached directly to shelves are a great way to light up your books.
For bathrooms and toilets, one source of general lighting is often enough. This is best achieved by small, adjustable spotlights embedded in the ceiling. Another popular option is attaching lights to mirrored bathroom cabinets. In small bathrooms, this would provide all the general lighting you need. But make sure you install them on the sides of the cabinet so that your reflected face is lit evenly. Mood and accent lighting can add to the ambience.
The right colour temperature for your lighting concept – what are Kelvins and lumens?
A lighting concept should not only take into account what kind of lighting is needed when and where, but also the light that makes us feel most comfortable. The colour temperature is a key factor here.
Colour temperature, generally expressed in Kelvin ratings, describes the colour of the light provided by a particular light source. These colours range from warm yellow to cool blue. Neutral white light has a Kelvin rating of between 3,300 and 5,300. We perceive everything below this rating to be warmer light and everything above it to be cooler.
While Kelvins tell us what colour light is, lumens measure the quantity of light emitted by a particular light source. Until recently, it was common to see light specifications presented in watts only, but nowadays, lumens are also used as units of brightness. You can calculate the lumen value by multiplying the wattage by 10.
The quantity and colour of light are essential factors to consider when devising a lighting concept. For cosy, comfortable spaces, choose light sources with low Kelvin and lumen ratings. For workspaces, you are better off going with a cooler light colours, as they have a stimulating effect.
How to create a lighting concept
To start creating your perfect lighting concept, take a walk through all of your rooms (including stairs and hallways) one by one with the people you live with. It’s worth thinking about what you use each space for and the kind of light sources and atmosphere you might want there.
As you walk around, keep your eyes wide open and your mind alert. In rented homes in particular, there are often plenty of outlets provided. However, that doesn’t mean you absolutely have to use the hanging light positioned in the middle of the living room.
How far you take your lighting concept is completely up to you. Do you really need an intelligent lighting system that enables you to activate the task lighting in the kitchen from your parked car? Programmed ‘lighting scenes’? A touchscreen in the hallway where you can enter lighting commands? These options are all perfectly possible nowadays, but it’s a matter of taste and budget. Or you could always just light a candle…