It's not as difficult as you might think to light a room in a way that is adaptable, functional and stylish.
How to create practical, flexible lighting
I never seem to get the lighting right in my home. It's either too bright to entertain or too dimly lit to read. How can I fix this?
Besides creating ambience and setting the mood, lighting performs a vital role. Your overall lighting strategy should be a direct response to how you use the space. For example, your living room is where you entertain, watch television and lounge, and these activities all call for individual light settings.
People often hang one pendant light in the centre of the room, but this doesn't provide enough light, and it creates undesirable shadows. A better approach is to suspend pendants in off-centre positions (over side or dining tables) and combine them with decorative lamps. Use table and floor lamps for task lighting when you read or watch television.
Dimmer switches are a good investment for living areas because they give you flexibility, which is the key to lighting, and they're easy to retrofit.
Bedrooms are also multifunctional spaces that call for multifunctional lighting. Sometimes you want a restful atmosphere. Other times, such as when you're doing your hair and make-up, call for brighter, functional illumination. Combine portable lamps with low-wattage ceiling fixture bulbs to give yourself that adaptability.
Equip dressing areas with wardrobe lighting or ceiling-mounted lights on a separate switch. Remember that when you're in bed your eyes are drawn upwards. If you are using pendants or ceiling-mounted fixtures, pick models with diffusers underneath. Adjustable directional bedside lamps are a must if you read in bed.
Toilets and kitchens are functional rooms, but don't neglect the lighting. A single spotlight above a bathroom mirror creates unfavourable shadows on your face. Go for lights that flank the mirrors on either side. If you must have lighting above your mirror, make sure you have more than one bulb to diffuse the glare. A maintenance company can move the position of lights, add additional fixtures and replaster your ceilings if needed.
For kitchens, supplement general diffused lighting with under-cabinet task lighting. General lighting should be at a lower level than task lighting.
Finally, make good use of daylight. It's sustainable, plentiful and costs nothing. You can enhance the effect of daylight by painting your walls and ceiling in pale colours and keeping the windows clear of heavy curtains or furniture pieces.
Pallavi Dean is an award-winning independent design consultant who practises in the UAE. If you have a question for her, email firstname.lastname@example.org