Free Advice

Designers Agree This Is the Most Common Lighting Mistake

Words By Olivia Lidbury
Single widget image

Design by HÁM Interiors; Photo by Alexander James

Good lighting: get it right and you’ll be rewarded with the most welcoming and ambient of spaces.

Get it wrong, and you’ll be calling your electrician back sooner than you can say ‘dimmable LED’. Lighting can be a real head-scratcher, and the panic of installing too many rather than not enough sources often results in the over-use of spotlights, which is the bug-bear of every Expert we spoke to. As Stefani Stein points out: “Nothing kills the mood faster than feeling like you are gathering in a cafeteria rather than a home.”

You can’t moodboard how your plan will work in situ before installing it, but you can arm yourself with our Experts’ best lighting tips. Here, they shed light on how to successfully illuminate a space.

Draw the Eye Up

Single widget image

Design by Garrett Hunter; Photo by Tim Street-Porter

Recessed lights have given overhead lighting a bad rep. But as Kirsten Blazek of A1000xBetter explains: “Ceiling lights can anchor a space and visual interest. A flat ceiling can lack atmosphere, but adding an ornamental fixture will draw the eyes up.” Carley Page Summers  agrees: “the right ceiling light enhances the overall design of a space, and they come in so many different shapes, sizes, and colors that they can truly make a huge impact.”

Tom Cox of HÁM Interiors suggests choosing a style that is “architectural and punchy—like a verdigris lantern—which adds a textural presence to a room and defines the space over a table or seating area.” 

Garrett Hunter thinks a paper pendant is a failsafe bet. “There's something about the way light transfers through the paper that creates the perfect level of warmth.”

The image of an Buttercup Pendant product
Rose TarlowButtercup PendantSHOP NOW
The image of an Bouquet 3 Shade Chandelier product
Le KlintBouquet 3 Shade ChandelierSHOP NOW

Get Layering

Single widget image

Photo courtesy of Alex Adamson

Lights are accessories in their own right, so dress your room as you would yourself. For Kirsten, the perfect combination involves accent lighting, floor, and table lamps. Tom also favors a smorgasbord of sources, with “a variety of different styles from overhead to wall, task, and low-level table and floor lamps.”

Whatever style you go for, Carley says, if in doubt, always add a shade. “Lighting with shades on, gives a softer, more pleasant glow to a room.”

The image of an Del Playa Two Arm Pendant product
Roll & HillDel Playa Two Arm PendantSHOP NOW
The image of an Toggle Sconce product
Evolve Lighting & Co.Toggle SconceSHOP NOW
The image of an Lisa Johansson-Pape Senator Table Lamp product
The Expert VintageLisa Johansson-Pape Senator Table LampSHOP NOW
The image of an Italian Brass Floor Lamp product
PRBItalian Brass Floor LampSHOP NOW

Play Dim

Single widget image

Photo courtesy of And And And Studio

If you’re planning a rewire, get thinking about circuits and dimmers. Experts are unanimous on dimmable sources playing a key role in a well-lit space, while a five-amp socket, which allows you to control every light source at the flick of a switch, is the meaning of convenience. Stefani suggests that at the least, ceiling lights should be installed with a dimmer.

Deck the Walls

Single widget image

Design by Stefani Stein; Photo by Sam Frost

“Sconces are a fun tool because you can place them on almost anything,” says Arianna De Gasperis of And Studio. Kristen rates them for the way they break up large walls: “When you need to use something other than art, sconces will lend that extra dimension.” For Stefani, a plug-in sconce paired with a small-scale painting is a favorite combination for a dining room.

The image of an Aubrey Sconce product
Troy LightingAubrey SconceSHOP NOW
The image of an Eclipse Light product
VerellenEclipse LightSHOP NOW

Bring in the Warmth

Single widget image

Photo courtesy of Alex Adamson

“Supporting characters” is how Arianna affectionately refers to table lamps. Safe to say, she can’t live without them. Nor can Alex: “I love the sculptural element a table or floor lamp adds. A room always feels more lived-in and inviting with lamps and you can’t beat the warm glow they give at night.” Garrett takes it one step further with his love of double lamps: “I place them on kitchen counters away from messy areas.”

The image of an Finnish Organic Three-Armed Floor Lamp product
PRBFinnish Organic Three-Armed Floor LampSHOP NOW
The image of an The Laddi product
Roll & HillThe LaddiSHOP NOW

Color It Happy

Single widget image

Photo courtesy of Carley Page Summers

If you listened in science class, you’ll know that kelvins are the primary unit to measure temperature. In the design world, 2700k is the happy number which gives off a warm glow. “In terms of light temperature, residential and hospitality spaces ideally should never be above 3000k,” warns Garrett. “When lighting becomes too white, spaces end up looking like shopping malls or nail salons.” 

Alex Adamson suggests changing out any overly bright or blue LED bulbs for “a natural warmer white and notice how much more relaxed the space feels.”

Level Up

Single widget image

Photo courtesy of And And And Studio

Alex regularly swaps out lampshades for a custom look. It’s a hack which also gives a new lease of life to something you’ve had for a while. “You can transform the shape and scale of any fixture or add texture and pattern for more personality.”

The image of an Swedish 3-Light Brass Table Lamp product
PRBSwedish 3-Light Brass Table LampSHOP NOW
The image of an Böhlmarks Adjustable Floor Lamp product
PRBBöhlmarks Adjustable Floor LampSHOP NOW

Play With Scale

Single widget image

Design by A1000xbetter; Photo by Alex Zarour

Kirsten reveals that linear or oversize shades can often make a room feel bigger—a great hack for a small space. Meanwhile, Carley favors a dramatic ceiling fixture to instantly transform a space.

The image of an Chinese Ceramic Jar Lamp product
Rose TarlowChinese Ceramic Jar LampSHOP NOW
The image of an Parchment Hide Pendant Lamp product
RuemmlerParchment Hide Pendant LampSHOP NOW

Don’t Be Afraid to Experiment

Single widget image

Photo courtesy of And And And Studio

“Be playful and use lighting in unexpected ways and places,” encourages Arianna. Instead of dropping a pendant over the dining room table, put one in the corner of the living room to create a vignette and use a series of sculptural sconces in the dining room. “Unexpected moves stand out and can transform the character of a space.”

Shop more lighting on Showroom. Want personalized design advice from these Experts? Book a consultation.