A lighting design scheme could make or break an interior — we asked some of the top lighting experts to answer your most frequently asked questions
WHAT IS THE BEST WAY TO FIX LIGHTS TO SLOPING CEILINGS?
Fitting a light to a sloped ceiling doesn’t have to be complicated. Chandeliers and pendants can be equipped the same way as you would to a flat roof because gravity makes them hang straight, regardless of the angle of the ceiling.
You should, however, opt for lights that are suspended from a single chain or canopy as opposed to those that are suspended from multiple steel wires. The reason for this is that it is challenging to distribute the weight of this type of light fitting evenly when it is adjusted to a sloped ceiling; the light can be unbalanced when suspended from more than one point and is therefore prone to tipping over. If you have inherited the locations in which your lights are fitted, and this does not correspond with where you want them to hang, using pendants with off- centre ceiling plates can be useful as they allow you to use a ceiling hook to reposition where you want your jewellery to drop.
WHAT IS THE SIMPLEST WAY TO INSTALL A SMART LIGHTING SYSTEM INTO MY HOME?
A smart lighting system will not only offer the convenience of remote control, but it can also help create routines that fit in with your lifestyle, making the house look occupied when you’re away, and setting the scene.
For feature lighting, zonal lighting and rooms with many downlights, the best way to manage it would be through a home automation system, with connected switches and sockets, controlled by a mobile app or with a smart speaker, such as Alexa or Google Assistant.
Systems vary in price and ease of installation. Look for one that allows control of all lighting sources, including outdoor, and is retrofittable using existing wiring. Modular systems offer the flexibility of being able to start with one room and then expand to other areas of the home later.
HOW DO I LIGHT A ROOM WITH A LARGE ROOF LANTERN?
One of the most seductive features of a roof lantern is the opportunity to include recessed downlights within the soffits (the underside) of the roof lantern perimeter. You might also want to incorporate directional downlights positioned in the upstand (the base on which the lanterns sits).
Alternatively, the inclusion of an internal cornice fitted to the inside face of the upstand provides the opportunity to house rope lighting or LED lighting tape, which creates a beautiful effect at night.
Consider decorative fittings too. The underside of our timber framed roof lanterns includes a boss detail which can be specified with a base plate designed to accept the fixing of a pendant light fitting. They’re built with hidden conduit channels to hide electrical cabling and can allow pendant was lighting up to 25kg. Our bright aluminium lanterns can take up to 10kg, and in this case, the wiring can be run through the hollow aluminium rafters by a qualified electrician. If you’re hanging a pendant light above a table or island, the general rule of thumb is that the fixture should be attached 30-34 inches above it. For ceilings higher than eight feet, add three inches to the height per foot.
Finally, accent lighting, such as discreetly placed uplights, can also create a very pleasing effect.
WHICH LIGHTS WORK BEST IN ROOMS WITH LOW CEILINGS?
Low ceilings can make space feel smaller and darker, so using lighting to help increase the feeling of height is essential. Uplighting to wash light off the ceiling and back down into space is very useful. It can be difficult to position wall lights in low rooms, so do consider using floor recessed or plug-in uplights or open shaded lamps to help. Keeping lamp shades light in colour can maximise the light output.
Finally, ensure that your surfaces give maximum reflection (matt white is just the best!) to help boost the overall reflectance of the light sources that you use.
THE SMART FAMILY CAN CONTROL THEIR LIGHTS FROM ANYWHERE.
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HOW CAN I LIGHT ROOMS WITH BEAMED CEILINGS?
If your ceilings feature beams running horizontally, it can be worth considering ceiling recessed downlights between the rafters to help boost light levels. If this isn’t possible, think a small number of surface-mounted spotlights to highlight art or focus down to a table, for instance.
If your beams are in a vaulted space, do consider adding lighting on top of the poles to uplight into the void. Without illuminating this area, the room will be dark and potentially oppressive overhead. Hiding long LED tape here is a beautiful solution as it’s small and low maintenance.
WHAT TYPE OF LIGHT WILL WORK OVER MY DINING TABLE?
Chandeliers and pendants are useful as they bring the light closer to the table and create ambience. The bottom of the light fitting should sit approximately 90cm above the table.
A single, centrally positioned chandelier or pendant works well over a small dining table. For larger rectangular dining tables, opt either for a more large light or a series of decorations, either arranged in a cluster or a line. Pendants in a linear formation work best in odd numbers, spaced with an equal gap between each pendant. Always use dimmer switches to control the lighting.
WHICH LIGHTING ENHANCES THE SENSE OF WELLBEING IN A HOME?
There are happiness and wellbeing benefits to be gained from using artificial lighting well.
Danish lighting designer Poul Henningsen devoted much of his career to designing glare-free and uniform illumination, which has been shown to reduce headaches and improve productivity. Studies suggest that emotions are experienced more intensely under bright, harsh lighting, which can harm our moods.
Artificial lighting temperatures range from warm ‘soft whites’ (2,700-3,000K) to ‘bright or cool whites’ (3,500-4,100K) and finally ‘daylight’ (5,000-6,500K). Each temperature range creates a different effect and can impact our mood.
Soft whites create a warm, cozy feeling. These work well in bedrooms and living rooms as they are calming and can help us to relax, which is key to our mental wellbeing.
Bright and cool whites work best in bathrooms and kitchens. They create a more energetic feeling and help to give better contrast between colours.
TYPE OF LIGHTING SHOULD I USE IN THE BATHROOM?
Water and electricity are a dangerous combination, and a bathroom is considered a high-risk location when it comes to regulations in the UK. Additional circuits or alterations to existing circuits are notifiable to your local building control department to ensure it meets requirements. By using a registered electrician with a government- approved scheme, such as NICEIC, the electrician can do this for you.
All wall lights must be installed out of reach of water, or enclosed to keep water out. As such, you’ll need to ensure your lighting has the appropriate IP (Ingress Protection) rating. This means it has adequate protection against water or vapour getting into the mechanism. For instance, if spotlights are being installed above a shower or bath, they’ll need to meet a set IP rating (your electrician will be able to advise if you’re buying the fitting yourself). I would recommend they are fitted with a fire hood for extra protection.
Lighting needs to be functional, but also adaptable for setting a mood. While bright white light is best for practical reasons, softer lighting is more suited to a relaxing soak in the bath. Recessed spotlights on a dimmer switch are a great option. Create layers by using task and feature lighting. Task lighting could be lights around a mirror, while feature lighting could include floor lights. DIYers should rarely attempt electrical work in the bathroom — you run the risk of contravening Building Regs as well as putting yourself and your family in grave danger.
OUR OLD HOUSE HAS VERY SHALLOW CEILING VOIDS — CAN WE STILL HAVE DOWNLIGHTERS?
It is still possible to incorporate recessed downlighters, but you need a product designed for this application. Products such as those from the Aurora Enlite (enlitelighting.com) range are ultra slim at just 25mm thick and are suitable for recess depths of only 40mm. They have a more full diameter than the standard to allow more LED chips to be integrated — so are as bright as regular downlights.