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12 Interior Design Lighting Mistakes

12 Interior Design Lighting Mistakes


12 Interior Design Lighting Mistakes

And How to Avoid Them

This page may contain affiliate links which means I’ll earn a small commission in the event of a sale – at no extra cost to you

1. Dimming

Being able to dim your lights is absolutely crucial as you’ll then be able to modulate the atmosphere at different times of the day.

Think of an open plan kitchen/living room – rainy Monday morning, getting the children ready for school. Breakfast, homework, sports gear, go! That same space will be used on a Saturday evening, entertaining friends, when you’ll want a subtle, relaxing atmosphere and a totally different mood.

Of all the mistakes with lighting I believe this is the most crucial and it’s pretty easy to replace your switches, even if you’re not doing any other work to your home.

There are some beautiful dimmers out now. This new innovative toggle dimmer from Soho Lighting combines the look of a classical toggle switch with a dimming function. Comes in a wide range of high quality finishes although I particularly like the vintage brass shown here:


Ceiling lights can also be a source of glare – see more about pendant lights below.

Lighting Tip: When buying any feature lights double check the details. Some pendant lights look stunning on the internet, but have integral LEDs that are not dimmable.

2. Not Enough Circuits

There’s no getting away from it. If you want to full control of your lighting scheme then you’ll need enough circuits.

For example, the open plan room mentioned above is basically three living areas in one, and each area will serve its own function. You won’t want the kitchen highlighted when you’re just sitting watching TV and you won’t the dirty dishes under a spotlight when you’re eating at the dining table.

Circuits are important in bedrooms and bathrooms too. Think through how you would use the space during the day as well as the evening, and the different scenarios in between.

You may be tempted to hold back on the number of circuits when you’re planning your interior design lighting, but you may well regret it. Always better to get it right in the beginning.

3. Glare

One of the top lighting mistakes is glare. Downlights are one of the worst culprits for this, mainly due to low quality fittings that have the source of light close to the surface. So, when you’re looking from one end of a room, say a kitchen, all you see is spots of glare in the ceiling.

Remedy: Make sure the light source is set back, ideally with a dark baffle. Think of walking down the corridor of a smart hotel. You shouldn’t be aware of the source of light, but just have the soft lighting illuminating your way.

These downlights are my favourites for absorbing glare due to the dark baffle. There’s the fixed version or the adjustable version which is useful for washing walls. They are both fire rated and take GU10 LED lamps.

pinhole-downlight-fixed pinhole-downlight-adjustable

4. Flat Lighting

If you have all the lighting coming from one direction, namely the ceiling, the effect will be flat and dull. The secret to good lighting is layering, and this can be done with the use of additional wall lights and lamps. Here are some of my go-to wall lights.

If you think about daylight, it doesn’t come from just one direction, apart from when the sun is really low, and shadows are cast. And there’s nothing softer than a hazy day – one of those beautiful summer mornings when the light is almost ethereal.

Flat light can be harsh and unflattering. You need to be cognizant of this when planning your bathroom lighting – wall lights (not glary) either side of a mirror will give the best light for shaving and putting make up on. And you certainly wouldn’t want to be lazing in a relaxing bath with downlights blazing – see Dimming, above.

5. No Lamp Points

Lamps make a room warmer and cosier, and help with zoning areas in the space. But it can be a bit of a bore turning several lamps on and off every time you enter and exit the room. That’s where 5 amp lamp points come in so you can control everything from one light switch.

If you’ve got a large open plan living area you definitely need zoning – and the last thing you want is long cables running across the floor to a seating area that’s away from the walls. If you fit some 5 amp lamp point sockets in the floor near the seating area you’ll be grateful you did.

These in-floor lamp sockets are excellent. They have flaps so everything is neat when not using the 5 amp point, and come in a wide range of finishes.

6. Cold Light Temperature

High on my list of lighting mistakes is having lighting that’s too cold.

Many manufacturers will quote 3000°K light temperature as being warm white but ideally you should opt for 2700°K in living areas. And don’t forget about the colour rendering.

What is colour rendering? If you’re buying an item of clothing, you may want to take it into the daylight to check the true colour. Why? Because daylight will give a true, pure colour and is classed as 100 on the Colour Rendering Index.

Having lighting with a good CRI will mean that your fabric colours pop, your food looks amazing and the tones of natural wood will be enhanced. Good for our own appearance too. What’s not to like?                                                                                          !

So check the CRI of your light bulbs – ideally go for 90 CRI but you can even get up to 97 which is par excellence.

7. Wrong Pendant Lights

Although these could be classed as feature lighting, it’s more than just the shape that’s a consideration. The type of light these give out will have a big effect on the overall feel of the interior.

A large metal pendant light may look lovely but remember that all the light will be coming downwards. They can work but will need other lighting in the room to assist – otherwise you’ll end up feeling like you’re being interrogated in some 1960s spy movie when you’re sitting at the kitchen table.

Get the hanging height right. Too low and you’ll feel like you’ve walked onto the set of some Nordic noir film. Too high and it will give the impression of a skirt being hitched up.

8. Positioning

It’s not just what light fittings you choose but it’s where you put them.

Don’t leave it to the electrician. You should get involved and ideally go through all the positions and heights with the electrician during first fix. This is important during refurbishments as well as I’ve seen some dire decisions being made by the sparky to overcome structural obstacles.

My advice is to place wall lights at approximately eye level, in most cases.

Inground LED uplights are usually designed to skim the walls but if they’re placed too far away, the effect is lost. Generally I recommend placing the centre of the fitting 100mm away from the wall to get the impact.

Floor washing LEDs will create a sharper cut of light and tighter splay when placed lower down, closer to the floor – there are some excellent skirtings that make this easy. Higher up the wall, they will give a softer effect.

9. Balancing Light

If you’ve got a lot of natural light coming from one direction, you’ll need to balance this incoming daylight with some additional lighting towards the back of the room.

In the early stages of planning your lighting it’s worth analysing where the rooms are facing and how this will affect the light in the room at different times of the day.

If you’ve got a bright room but will be walking into a dark hall, try and soften the jolt of this transition by ensuring you have enough illumination in this darker area.

Try and avoid dark holes. So, for example, when you’re lighting a corridor and there are offshoots leading to say, the cloakroom, or a study, make sure there’s some soft lighting in these areas also.

10. Overdoing PIRs

PIRs – sensors to turn on lights automatically – are great in certain areas but be careful of overdoing them.

Having a PIR in a utility room is useful as you’re often carrying things when you enter and leave. PIRs are also useful in bathrooms for low level lighting during the night, as well as along corridors – especially useful when young children are in the house

It’s tempting to have motion sensors all over the house. I’ve heard parents groan that their children keep leaving lights on and have asked to have PIRs in their bedrooms. But many of us will have experienced being in a public convenience where we’re plunged into darkness and have to wave our hands madly to jolt the lighting back into gear. Not so pleasant for a child reading their bedtime story!

11. Task Lighting

Every area needs to have some task lighting built in, and the facility to dim this element down, or turn it off separately from the rest of the circuits.

This covers reading, cooking and food preparation, as well as cleaning. Even in a bedroom you’ll need to have the option of turning up the lighting so that you can clean thoroughly or look for a lost earing. This can often be covered by a pendant light that can turned up to full power, but you’re stuck if you decided you just wanted it soft and moody during the planning.

12. Dismissing Home Automation

Another interior design lighting mistake I’ve seen is not considering an automated lighting system. I’ve known client dismiss it, saying it’s too complicated. In fact, it’s the opposite.

If you think about how we live these days, so much of our time is spent is large open plan areas where, in effect, you combine three rooms: the kitchen, dining room, and living room. To create enough variation in the zones and moods, you need at least six different circuits, often more. That’s a lot of switches. That’s a lot of brain power remembering which switch controls which lighting circuit, and a lot of twiddling to get it right.

So, if you want to make your life easy, I would recommend installing some form of automated lighting system. It doesn’t need to be complicated – the technician deals with that part – but it does mean that you can set the ‘scenes’ and will only need to press one button to create a whole setting for various times of the day and different activities. Whilst you’re at it, you may like to include automated blinds which many of my clients find is a bonus.

But there’s a happy medium.

If you’re very techie, you may want to go as far as being able to control the exterior lighting from your phone when you’re lying in bed or set the lighting to automatically come on when you’re overseas, but bear in mind that costs will start mounting up. The most important area is the main living space.

And Finally… It’s not just about the lighting

It’s easy to compartmentalise design without thinking about how all the other elements will dovetail together.

Wall textures, interior design colour schemes, and existing imperfections will all have a bearing on the final lighting effects.

For example, dark walls, dark fabrics and dark woods can literally eat any natural light coming into the room. At night you can make it atmospheric but during the day it can be a bit gloomy unless you plan lighting to counteract it.

The Abigail Ahern look is great in magazines, and undoubtedly very stylish when entertaining in the evening, but how would it feel on a hot, bright summer’s day? Worth thinking about.

It all comes down to planning. If you analyse the existing, or future space, and think through various scenarios for when you’re using the area, you’ll cut down on lighting mistakes and hopefully

Claire-PendarvesClaire Pendarves originally qualified as an interior designer and is now a lighting consultant with over 20 years’ experience

Meet the Designer

Glass Globe Pendant Chandelier Lights – Designer Picks

Glass Globe Pendant Chandelier Lights – Designer Picks

This page may contain affiliate links which means I’ll earn a small commission in the event of a sale – at no extra cost to you

Glass Globe Pendant Chandelier Lights – Designer Picks

Are you searching for a statement pendant light that looks lovely, gives out a good amount of light when needed and isn’t glary? Then glass globe pendant chandeliers can be the answer. Here I’ve concentrated on chandelier style lights with globes that are frosted or opaque so the light fitting is even softer on the eye.

All these ceiling lights can be dimmed, depending on the bulbs you use with them – not always possible with all ceiling lights, especially when they come with integral LEDs. They work well in modern or classical settings and they’re not stupid money.

These are all in brass or gold finishes but some of them are available in variations as well.

Please note that prices are correct at the time of publishing this article but they may have changed. No particular order and you’ll find some of the cheaper ones near the bottom. Very random but I like them all.

12 Glorious Glass Globe Pendant Chandelier Lights

1. Indra Opal Glass Ceiling Light


Indra Opal Glass Ceiling Light

This is an impressive chandelier with a total of 9 glass globes which take small screw in bulbs. The fitting gives out a really good amount of light and is dimmable with the correct bulbs.

Height 69 cms Diameter 80 cms

£504 from John Lewis

2. Bombazine Multi Armed Ceiling Light


Bombazine 7 Arm Glass Globe Chandelier

A stylish seven armed globe ceiling light that takes small screw in bulbs (SES) so will give out a good amount of light. Dimmable provided you buy the right bulbs.

Height 36 cms Diameter 94 cms

£510 from John Lewis

3. Lindo 6 Glass Globe Pendant Light


Lindo 6 Arm Glass Globe Pendant Light

This graceful chandelier doesn’t make quite so much of a statement as the ones above but would look lovely as a bedroom ceiling light, in a living room or over a dining table. It takes little 2-3 watt LED G9 capsule bulbs so will give out good light but not so much as light fittings using SES bulbs. Best to buy dimmable bulbs.

Height 32 cms Diameter 68 cms

£295 from John Lewis

4. Grosseto 6 Glass Globe Ceiling Light


Grosseto 6 Glass Globe Ceiling Light

An excellent ceiling light if you don’t have very high ceilings but still impressive as has a good diameter. A good price. It takes small G9 lamps so won’t be super-bright but with 6 globes, it will give out adequate light and is dimmable provided you buy dimmable bulbs.

Minimum Height 30 cms Diameter 59.5 cms

£201 Merano Lighting

5. Bombazine 6 Arm Globe Light Chandelier


Bombazine 6 Arm Globe Light Chandelier

A lovely design with 6 glass globes that accommodate small screw in globe bulbs (SES) that will give out more light than the capsule lamps of some of the other fittings. Recommend buying dimmable bulbs.

Height 30 cms Diameter 67 cms

£450 from John Lewis

6. Cape Town 12 Arm Globe Pendant Light Chandelier


Cape Town 12 Arm Globe Ceiling Light

This light reminds me of mistletoe with its cluster of small frosted glass globes. It also works well as a semi flush ceiling light as the stem can be shortened. Takes small G9 LED capsules and is dimmable provided you buy the correct bulbs.

Minimum height 50 cms Diameter 90 cms

£360.95 Cosmo Lighting

7. Oscar Globe Pendant Light


Oscar Globe Pendant Light

This small chandelier looks wonderful in a hallway or over a stairwell. I has 11 arms and frosted glass globes which take small G9 capsule lamps. These can be dimmable provided you buy the correct bulbs.

Minimum height 52 cms Diameter 56 cms

£244.87 Endon Collection Lighting

8. Maytoni Dallas 25 Light Chandelier


Maytoni Dallas 25 Light Chandelier

This is such a fun light, almost frothy! Makes a fabulous statement piece but, as it’s relatively shallow, would suit a room with a moderate ceiling height. Great as a pendant light for a living room or a bedroom chandelier.

Shown here in a gold metal but also comes in black, chrome and brass, as well as having the option of smoky glass globes if you prefer.

Minimum height 22.5 cms Diameter 69 cms

£464 Maytoni Lighting

9. Modern Hanging Pendant Golden 6 Light


Modern Hanging Pendant Golden 6 Light

The most economical of the selection on this page, this 6 globe light has a maximum drop of 98 cms and, like all the pendant lights listed here, gives a good amount of light out, down as well as upwards.

Dimmable provided you buy the correct G9 bulbs tht it takes.

Minimum height 28 cms Diameter 55 cms

£195 Italux Lighting

10. Grosseto 10 Globe Pendant Ceiling Light


Grosseto 10 Globe Pendant Ceiling Light

An elegant, large glass globe pendant chandelier that would still look good in a room with a relatively low ceiling. It takes small G9 capsule bulbs but, as long as you buy dimmable ones, you’ll be able to adapt the mood by whacking up the light on gloomy days and dimming down to soften the look in the evening.

Minimum height 30 cms Diameter 91.7 cms

£441 Merano Lighting

11. Industrial and Retro Hanging Pendant Light


Industrial and Retro Hanging Pendant Light

This 6 glass globe pendant chandelier looks great in a hallway or over a stairwell, even in a living room if the ceiling is high enough. It takes small G9 bulbs but you can get dimmable versions of these which I would highly recommend – that way you can adapt the mood.

Height 79 cms Diameter 56 cms

£228.38 Italux Lighting

12. Apollo 5 Light Globe Pendant


Apollo 5 Light Globe Pendant

A beautifully balanced glass globe pendant chandelier with 5 glass orbs that take G9 capsule lamps. Dimmable provided you buy the correct dimmable bulbs.

Height 61 cms Diameter 81 cms

£550 Elstead Lighting

Lighting Design Plan: Questions and Answers

Lighting Design Plan: Questions and Answers

Lighting Design Plan Q & As

One of the first questions a client will ask is How much will a lighting plan cost? But of course it depends. There are reams of other questions as well, so here I’ve tried to pre-empt some and answer them below.

When should I plan my lighting?

Try not to leave the design of your lighting plan until the last minute – start tackling it at the same time as other details such as flooring, heat pumps and kitchen design. It’s up there with the rest.

The earlier you decide on your lighting layout, the more you can weave in modern techniques such as hidden LED lighting profiles and inground LED uplights. And it will help with your budgeting as well. Your electrical contractor can’t really give you a quote until they know what’s required.

Do you need to visit the site to design a lighting plan?

I offer an online service so don’t need to visit provided I’m given detailed architectural plans. Even with local lighting design work I’ll usually work on the plans before the build has even started so distance isn’t an issue.

Will you do a lighting design plan for only part of my house?

I’m happy to design whatever areas you wish although I do have a minimum fee of £250 which will usually cover a large open plan area, such as a kitchen/dining room/family room. This will include one phone call or zoom meeting prior to starting the design.


Here you will see a lighting plan I carried out for a large living room with a high ceiling and two seating areas. I also incorporated a coffered ceiling and some further linear LED lighting. The clients didn’t want any wall lights.

Alternatively, why not check out my article How to Light Open Plan Spaces

How long does a lighting design plan take?

It usually takes 10-14 days but I would let you know beforehand if the lead time is longer.

Do you supply the lighting?

No, I only do the lighting design plan and specify the lights I would recommend. In the past I’ve supplied a huge number of lights and know from experience, which products are worth investing in. I also use my interior design skills to recommend feature lights that I believe will enhance the interior.

What should I supply for a lighting design plan?

I need to have architectural plans and, ideally, cross-sections, especially if there are sloping ceilings or complicated levels. Also kitchen layouts as well as bathrooms and, if you’ve given it some thought, it helps to know how you plan to place any furniture in the living areas and bedrooms.


The above bathroom lighting design plan shows how areas can be integrated without lighting up the whole area when not in use.

It’s always good to have a zoom meeting or phone call to learn about your style preferences and vision for the project.

How will my electrician understand the design?

I mark up the lighting design plan with clear symbols and a legend showing what each glyph refers to. I also supply a section illustrating all the proposed light fittings as well as a spreadsheet detailing each circuit, product reference, and the supplier so everything is clear.


This is a lighting design plan for a hallway and stairs in a traditional house. Every design is different, and the lighting layout here was in line with what my client liked and the limitations of the existing building.

You might like to look at my article on hallway lighting tips

Do you include a switching plan?

No, your lighting design plan won’t include the switching plan. This is for three reasons.

  1. The plan starts to look messy and confused.
  2. When home automation is used the switching plan is not really required – only circuits.
  3. It takes time and is often subject to many changes, dimming positions etc.

Please state from the outset if you would like a detailed switching plan and I quote for this in addition.

Do you plan Home Automation?

I don’t get involved in home automation per se, but I mark up the circuits so this can be incorporated into a smart home set up with ease.

Do you mark up electrical sockets?

No, I don’t include other electrical elements of the project.

Will you work out the lighting design plan for my kitchen?

It’s always best to have the kitchen plans from the kitchen designer but I appreciate that this isn’t always possible in the early stages. If the architectural plans show the correct positions of the kitchen furniture, I can work with those or alternatively, if you sketch the design, I can transcribe this (as best I can) onto the plan and work from there.


This plan shows the early stages of a kitchen lighting design. It was tweaked slightly later when the client decided to incorporate an antique dresser.

Will you do a lighting design plan for a barn conversion?

Yes, I design lighting for a wide range of projects including renovations of traditional houses, cottages and barn conversions.

Will you do a garden lighting design plan?

Yes I will, and it’s an area I really enjoy doing. Again, I will need a detailed landscape plan to work on. Please let me know, when you ask for a quote, if you would like the garden included – usually the quote will just include exterior lighting attached to the house.

I’m also happy to do a landscape lighting scheme separately if required.

What if I don’t like the lights you specify?

This may happen more with the light fixtures rather than the architectural lighting as choosing light fittings is very personal – rather like selecting clothes. I try to gauge your style preferences during the initial discussion (by phone or zoom) but it’s very subjective.

The lights can easily be replaced with fittings that you prefer later but it helps to know the type of fitting and position, so you can select something later. I don’t propose alternative luminaires but I do supply a list of websites to help you source the perfect lights for yourself.

Can I make changes to the lighting design?

Nothing’s set in stone and I won’t charge for one set of changes within two weeks of presenting the design, provided the project layout remains the same. Otherwise, for further alterations a charge will be made based upon an hourly rate.

Claire-PendarvesClaire Pendarves originally qualified as an interior designer and is now a lighting consultant with over 20 years’ experience

Meet the Designer

Hallway Lighting Tips by a Lighting Designer

Hallway Lighting Tips by a Lighting Designer

This page may contain affiliate links which means I’ll earn a small commission if you make a purchase – at no extra cost to you.


The Importance of Hallway Lighting

They say it takes just 7 seconds for us to make judgements about the people we meet. The same goes for your hallway. It’s the first area visitors see and within seconds the tone of your home is set.

It’s also the place that greets you every day you come home so you want it to be welcoming and to lift your mood at the end of hard day’s work.

Of course, the décor will have a big impact but it’s the lighting that makes the biggest difference, especially in the evening.

Lighting is a Journey

When I design a light plan I literally visualise walking through the front door and assessing how it would feel. How it looks you may say. Yes, but I maintain that lighting is more than the look. Lighting is emotion. You want your home to look beautiful but most of all you want it to make you feel good.

So, open your front door and assess the bare bones of your entrance hall. Of course, hallways can range from a grand vestibule with a sweeping staircase to a dingy corridor with a multitude of doors. Each space will need its own treatment, but general rules apply.

The Atmospheric Circuit

These days we can weave in small LED uplights and floor washers, as well as some discreet wall lights that barely use half the amount of electricity of an old incandescent light bulb. Creating a circuit with these light fittings can warm the area and help connect your living spaces.

These Borgo floor washers create a great effect.

If your stairs are running up from the hallway lighting the treads with tiny LEDs set into the stringers is effective. Not only will these enhance the look of the hallway but, on a practical level, they’re useful when you want to nip upstairs without the need to turn on the overhead lights.

When there are children in the house, it’s a huge benefit to have this low-level lighting running up to the landing outside their bedrooms. This helps them, and you, feel connected on a practical and psychological level.


We all, at a primal level, feel good when we’re near a fire, candles or light reflecting off water. It helps to ‘lift’ us. The same goes with uplights. They make the area feel lighter – and I use this term in sense of weight here. They also help to lead us through an area, as well as adding to the layering of light, which is a crucial element of good lighting design. More about that later.

Placed at the end of a long hallway, uplights have the effect of enticing us on our journey. Placed either side of the entrance door, they can even enhance the approach to the house, when viewed from outside.

Lighting tip no.1 : Go for low glare fittings so they don’t shine in your eyes as you walk past.

Lighting tip no.2:  Narrow beam output will be punchier and, will reflect off the ceiling for a lovely effect.

Floor washing

You need to mix it up in terms of effects, and combining some floor washers with LED uplights works well, especially down a long corridor. It also helps to bring some gentle light into small areas running off the hallway so that you don’t have dark voids.

Lighting tip no. 3: Try and get a rhythm with the placement of these. Sometimes this can be tricky if there are a lot of doors leading off the hallway.

Layering Light

Lighting coming from only one direction can be flat and lifeless so it’s good to mix it up. Usually, you’ll want two or three circuits, depending on the size of your hallway. This can be done with the LED Atmospheric circuit, then wall lights, downlights or a feature pendant light.


Not all downlights are created equal. The worst can be glary and emit a cold, almost bluey light. Choose downlights where the light source is set back. For the least amount of glare select ones with dark baffles – these work particularly well in traditional settings and where the ceiling is low. For contemporary interiors, or where ceilings are higher, you may prefer the ones with white baffles but you still want the source of light set back.

Go for a warm light, preferably 2700°K. You can even get downlights and retrofit bulbs where the temperature will warm as they dim. More about those in my piece on choosing downlights.

Lighting Tip no. 4: Always use a dimmer on overhead lighting so you can adapt the mood.

Wall lights

These work well in hallways to help with the layering of light and this is where you can blend the interior design with lighting effects using some statement pieces.

Choose shallow fittings if the space is tight. Not only will they work better visually but they’re in less danger of getting damaged.

These are my 12 Go-Too Astro wall lights

Glass wall lights can work well but beware of glare. Frosted and prismatic ribbed glass help soften the light and holophane glass fits in well with classical hallway lighting.


They come in all shapes and sizes but if you get it right, they can look stunning and give a luxurious air to the space. Consider where you’re placing the fitting for maximum impact. Sometimes it’s better to position a chandelier further down the hall where it can be appreciated from more angles, or occasionally you can marry a small and larger one together in a more spacious hallway.

Large drop chandeliers can look luxurious when fixed to the upper level, cascading down through a stairwell. If you’ve splashed out on one of these you may not need much else in the way of feature pendants otherwise it will detract from the impact.

Beautiful Hallways are Not Just the Lighting

As I trained originally as an interior designer, I don’t just view the lighting element in isolation. There are other things you can do to weave interior design techniques with your hallway lighting.

A Welcome Lamp

In most hallways you’ll want a table, either a slim console table where you can put your keys, letters etc. or a round table in the centre of a wide expanse where you can also place a beautiful vase of flowers.

And it’s always nice to have a mirror where you can check the slant of your cap as you leave the house. This is the perfect spot for a lamp, or even a pair, depending on the size of your hall.

If your hallway is very tight for space, a floating shelf with a mirror above can work well, and a pair of slim wall lights either side can set the scene.


Well placed mirrors can help to widen tight spaces, but you need to think this out carefully. If you’ve got a lot of doors running down a corridor you don’t want to reflect yet another door.

Beware of putting a mirror at the end of a long corridor as it will only make it look even longer.


Incorporating niches can create pockets of interest and help to widen tight spaces. If the layout of the hall takes you towards a blank end, then incorporating a niche with a small sculpture or work of art works brilliantly when lit with a simple mini LED. This is a clever technique – you’re bringing in light yet at the same time creating a feature.


Washing artwork with light helps to create interest and also bounces reflected light back into the space. This can work well at the blank end, or dog leg of a corridor.

One of the first questions I ask clients when I take on a project is if they have any specific pictures or items they want to highlight. This is not just for hallway lighting but other areas as well.

Paint and Wallcoverings

Many hallways will have a multitude of doors running off them and it can all look a bit busy. Painting the walls and woodwork the same colour can soften this all down and is very much the look nowadays.

Bad proportions

Some corridors are long with disproportionately high ceilings. You’ll see this in old mansion flats and the effect is not good, especially where there are several doors. It can all look very utilitarian.

Consider mounting coving housing LED tape, above the line of the doors and washing light up gently onto the ceiling. This shouldn’t be strong light, and ideally should be offset with wall lights to bring some of the light down. Layering again!

Alternatively use pendant lights to bring the level of light down. Globes work really well in this instance as they cast light all around and give the space an airy feel. The worst sort of pendant light you could choose would be something heavy and metallic, although you could get away with it if offset by other lighting effects, such as described above.

See my piece on Best pendant lights for hallways

In conclusion

Everyone will be at different stages of their building or renovation project, and many will just want to enhance their existing hallway lighting without spending a fortune on fittings or visits from an electrician.

If you want to keep it simple, my three top tips would be:

  • Use a table lamp. If your hall is small check out my piece on 10 beautiful slim table lamps for tight spaces.
  • Add a dimmer switch so you can vary the mood.
  • Change your downlights so the light source is set back. This will make them less glary.

Good luck and good lighting!

Claire-PendarvesClaire Pendarves originally qualified as an interior designer and is now a lighting consultant with over 20 years’ experience

Meet the Designer



Vaulted Ceiling Lighting: Consultant Advice

Vaulted Ceiling Lighting: Consultant Advice

Vaulted ceiling lighting can present challenges but, when you do it properly, the effect can be wonderful. Ultimately what you want is the feeling of airy space. The height of a high sloped ceiling can create this, even with a relatively small footprint, but you also want to be able to adapt the mood so you can feel cosy.

Here’s some lighting consultant advice:

Rip Up the Lighting Rule Book

We’re told that there are four main forms of lighting an interior. These are Task, Decorative, Ambient and Accent lighting. I suggest you rip up this outdated rule book and start afresh!

Nowadays, with modern lighting techniques, lights aren’t so single faceted. Task lighting morphs into accent lighting – take low floor washes illuminating steps, for example. Decorative lighting can serve as ambient light and who wants just functional task lighting when it can be pretty as well?

So start from the beginning, forget labels, and think what you need.

  • The space should be bright and lively when necessary – such as on a gloomy day, or when you’re cleaning the area.
  • You want to emphasise the height of the vaulted ceiling without unbalancing the room. More about that later.
  • You want to be able to focus more light on certain areas, such as reading, eating, preparing food etc, without compromising the atmosphere of the entire space.
  • You don’t want all the light to be coming from the same direction – this will give a flat feeling. The key to perfect lighting is layering.

I’ll break it down and make it simple.

Vaulted Ceiling Lighting Methods

Every space is individual and you can’t have a one-size-fits-all solution. So you should start by assessing the space. Stand back (if you are in the space) or analyse the plans, elevations and cross-sections.

  • Are there any beams? Are they metal or wood, functional or feature? Can you fix any lighting to them? Would you want to?
  • How does the sloping ceiling look? What’s the construction? Tongue and groove, simple plasterboard? Are you wanting rustic, country, or sophisticated feel?
  • How many skylights will there be and where will they be located?
  • Where’s the furniture going to be situated? This is easier to work out for a kitchen but for a large multi-functional open plan area situated under a vaulted ceiling, it needs some forethought. It’s not always vital to know for living room areas in the early stage but the more you plan, the better the effect.

Note: It’s not unusual for kitchen islands to be situated directly under roof lights, This can be lovely during the day but can present challenges for lighting in the evenings, especially if it’s a working area. Worth considering if you’re in the early architectural planning phase.

Downlights in Vaulted Ceilings

As a lighting consultant, I’m often sent plans for my design work, where the initial lighting has been marked up, and I’m surprised at how often downlights are marked into a vaulted ceiling lighting plan. I would generally avoid this for the following reasons:

  1. Putting downlights into the pitched ceiling can compromise the insulation in the roof (depending on the construction). LED downlights don’t like having insulation packed around them, otherwise they’ll overheat and won’t last. Consequently, you’ll need to move the insulation away from the fitting which will affect the insulating properties in the roof above.
  2. Most downlights have limited tilt (20-30 degrees) compared to the degree of a pitched roof. If you’re putting downlights in the underside of a sloped ceiling you want to ensure that the light points downwards, and doesn’t shoot across to the other side of the room. This is pointless and creates glare.
  3. If the vaulted ceiling is high, you would need to ensure that the downlights emit a powerful punch of light to travel the distance. Check the lumens.

Lighting Tip: The way around using downlights is by using surface mounted spots but use these with discretion. Preferably use spotlights with dark baffles and where the light source is set back. This will help reduce glare.

Vaulted Ceiling Pendant Lights

Well selected pendant lights can look great in a vaulted ceiling but it’s worth bearing the following in mind.

Size matters. Feature pendant lights need to be large. What looked big in the showroom, or when you saw it online, can look the size of a pea compared to the large space once it’s installed. And then it’s too late!

Lighting Tip: There’s a lot to be said for a large piece (or pieces) of cardboard and a pair of scissors. If you cut out the approximate shape of the pendant light and hang it, or hold it up, it will give you a sense of proportion before you commit to buying a hanging light.

Large feature pendant lights can be heavy so make sure you’ve allowed for reinforcement in the ceiling during the building stage.

For a lightweight, impressive light fitting in a contemporary space the Norm 69 Lamp XX Large (78 cms) by Normann Copenhagen creates a powerful punch without a huge price tag. Smaller ones are available but you will need to put it together, or get someone to do it for you.

There are all sorts of rules (again!) about the height you should hang a pendant light in a given space. Forget them. Each location is different, each occupant of the building is a different height. Ensure you’re on site when the electrician’s hanging the lights. If you can’t quite decide on the height, opt for lower. You can always shorten the lead later, but it can jar if a feature pendant light is set too high. Rather than bringing the source of light down towards the living zone, the light can hang around in the ether.

Lighting Tip: If you want to have a better idea of the height you would like to hang the light, draw an elevation to scale, with the height of a person (personalised if appropriate) and an outline of the size of the luminaire. That should give you an idea of where you would like the bottom of the light fitting to hang.

Make sure you choose a pendant light with a long enough flex. Many chandeliers and hanging lights come with 2 metre length cords, or sometimes even shorter than that. Depending on the height of your vaulted ceiling, this wouldn’t allow the full drop that you really need. Many designer lighting companies will supply a longer flex on request so worth checking out.

As well as checking the specification in terms of length of cord, you should also make sure that the luminaire is dimmable. Some chandeliers or feature lights look wonderful, but they come with built-in LEDs and will often state that they are not dimmable, or require a specific dimming protocol. I would always advise that you’re able to dim hanging lights.

Don’t forget the space above a feature light. If you choose say, a metal luminaire, there won’t be any light transmitted to the space directly above it. This will create a heavy feeling whereas ideally the space should feel light and airy.

Lighting Tip: A feature pendant light that emanates light down, as well as outwards and upwards will have a softening effect on the whole space.

Creating Atmosphere with Vaulted Ceiling Lighting

Accentuating the height of a cathedral ceiling or pitched roof can look impressive but it needs to be done delicately. If you over-light the height, the balance of the room will be affected, and it can make the room feel cold. The best solution is to factor in soft lighting to wash upwards, and ideally be able to manipulate this by using dimmers.

This can be done in various ways

  1. 1.Use linear lighting set into coving around the room, or just beneath the sloping ceiling. Take it down slightly so that the source of light isn’t too tight to the slope, in other words so the light can breathe and has room to travel further up the slopes of the vaulted ceiling. I like the lighting coving supplied by Orac Décor.
  2. Linear light can also work when fitted to the top side of the cross beams running across the room or set above kitchen units or shelving to give a soft glow upwards.
  3. Use surface spots that can tilt upwards to highlight the height of the room, as well as some being angled down to focus light onto specific areas below. These can either be fixed to the ceiling, or cross beams which will mean that the light source will be nearer the surfaces to be lit.
  4. Wall lights, especially up/down architectural wall lights, can chuck light up onto the sloped ceiling which can be very effective.
  5. Punchy inground LED uplights can be set into the floor and therefore wash up onto part of the ceiling. This can look particularly impressive if there’s texture on the walls. They will need to be punchy though and generally, the narrower the beam, the more distance the light will travel.
  6. I’ll sometimes use a series of floor washers, placed high, upside-down to wash onto a sloped ceiling. It’s a simple but effective technique.
  7. And if budget is an issue but you would still like to emphasise the height in some way, you could use a simple wall uplight such as the economical Parma 200 by Astro Lighting.


What to consider with Vaulted Ceiling Lighting

Location of Rooflights

If you have a rooflight situated over a kitchen island or dining table, you’ll need to light this at night, or even on a gloomy day. If you choose a bulky light or lights located under this skylight, you’ll find that on a sunny day a shadow will be cast on the surface below. You may find this irritating.

Fixing a Pendant Light to a Vaulted Ceiling

As I warned above, if you want to hang a bulky, heavy chandelier or pendant light to the sloped part of a vaulted ceiling, or the apex of the vault, you’ll need to warn your builders so that they can reinforce the point where it will hang. They should also be able to construct boxing for the light to hang from the apex, and fixings to go behind the ceiling rose of any pendants hanging from the slope, so that they sit straight. This will look neater.

Lighting Circuits and Dimmers

By allowing for various circuits with vaulted ceiling lighting you’ll be able to manipulate the atmosphere with the use of dimmers.

Consider Noise

It’s wonderful having a lofty space but when I’ve visited clients after everything is finished, they often remark on the noise quality. With hard surfaces, everything can reverberate to the extent that scraping a chair can grate on the nerves. Luckily there are several pendant lights on the market that can help soften the noise, and when they also come with built in style they serve a dual purpose. I’ll put an article together on the best of these lights but meanwhile you can’t go wrong with these fabulous Nur Lights by Artemide. They’re big and bold and will help absorb the sound. A win-win on both sides.

Maintenance of Pendant Lights

It’s always worth thinking about how you’re going to clean the fittings or change the lamps (bulbs) when needed. Even if a fitting takes long-lasting LED bulbs, you’ll still need to change them from time to time. Not so bad when the vaulted ceiling is accessible by a ladder, but more of a consideration for super-high areas such a high vaulted area over a stairwell where you would need to set up scaffolding.


Now with modern insulation techniques, vaulted ceilings are featuring more and more in modern homes. There are also the existing classical buildings and barn conversions that cry out for clever lighting. Even bedrooms in new builds are often set into, what would have been the attic in previous eras. These can present challenges, not only with lighting, but also storage and bathroom design. But here I’ve only covered the lighting. More articles to come.

Claire-PendarvesClaire Pendarves originally qualified as an interior designer and is now a lighting consultant with over 20 years’ experience

Meet the Designer




13 Crucial Lighting Lessons by a Lighting Designer

13 Crucial Lighting Lessons by a Lighting Designer


Planning lighting takes forethought, and it can help to know of possible pitfalls before they happen. I hope these crucial lighting lessons will help when planning your next lighting project.

Avoid Lighting Grids

Downlights have their place, but their placing is important. Positions of downlights should be dictated by where the light needs to fall and not planned in uniform grids. In addition, you don’t want all the light coming from overhead. Mix it up with layering of lighting.

Focus on Light Quality

The quality of light emitted from your downlights or bulbs is dependent on three main factors – output, tone and colour rendering.

  1. Output: This is gauged by lumens (or lux). Brighter is not necessarily better. You don’t want the highest output lights if you can’t dim them, especially if the light source is exposed. This will end up glary.
  1. Tone: Some lamps/bulbs will specify ‘warm white’ as 3000K but in fact this is a bit cool. They can work okay in kitchens and bathrooms, but ideally you should go for 2700K in main living areas. There are even some bulbs you can buy now where the tone will warm as they dim which is lovely for a cosy atmosphere in the evenings.
  1. Colour Rendering: If you’re buying an item of clothing in a store and you want to see the true colour, you’ll often take it to the window so you can see it in natural sunlight. This is pure natural sunlight – a CRI of 100. Check the colour rendering of the lights or bulbs you buy. The closer you can get to 100, the better. This will give you a purer light.

Check out my earlier article: LED Downlights and Spotlights – Did You Know

Designer Dimming

There are some beautiful feature lights on the market but many of them are dedicated LED lights. In other words they don’t take changeable lamps (bulbs) but come with integral LEDs that are fed via a ‘driver’ which is often built in to the product. Always check that the fitting is dimmable. Many are not. Some will dim but will need special wiring in place to do so. Always check before ordering. Don’t kid yourself that dimming doesn’t matter and you can live with it. Dimming is one of the most important elements of lighting design.

Pay for Quality

There’s a saying ‘buy cheap, pay twice’ and I’ve seen several examples of this. Lighting products have become more and more technical over the years. Be sure that, when you order several dozen LED downlights for your new build, you won’t need to replace them within a few years. This will not only be irritating but costly as you’ll need to buy the replacements and bring the electrician in to change the fittings.

Always Check Building Regulations

Rules and regulations for lighting efficiency and safety can change so make sure you see the most up to date building regs. Check when planning and double check before ordering the products.

Order in Time

Manufacturers may indicate a certain lead time on their specifications or websites but this is often ‘best case scenario’. There’s nothing worse than the work being held up because a few elements of the design haven’t arrived. Be particularly wary when ordering lighting from the continent during the summer months – some factories close in July and some in August. And then there’s the backlog in September…

Double Check Stair Positions

I’ve designed lighting for countless newbuilds and, in my experience, the key areas where clients have problems are with their windows, doors and staircases. Often the stairs will need to be tweaked on site and this can impact the positions of stair lighting. Double check the positioning of the treads before marking up the step lights.

Lighting Controls

I’ve had clients who have dismissed any form of smart lighting control systems because they thought it was too complicated. While I do agree that it’s not necessary throughout an entire building, it can be invaluable in open plan living areas. It’s not complicated for the user – it makes life easier. There are some simple solutions available that won’t break the bank and you’ll be grateful you installed it once you’re living in the property.

Plan Early

Lighting is becoming more integrated into the fabric of buildings, and this is particularly true of linear LED lighting. This means that the build may need to incorporate recesses to house hidden lighting profiles, or shadow gaps to weave in smart slots of light. This can have a big impact on the ultimate design of the property so it’s a shame to miss this trick by designing the lighting at the last minute.

Plan for Feature Lights

Some pendant lights are large and heavy. Always ensure you create a solid fixing that will take the weight of the chandelier or lantern – you definitely don’t want it to come crashing down on your heads and it’s been known to happen.


Make sure your dimmers are compatible with your light fitting or bulbs. You can’t always assume that you can replace a light fitting and use the original dimmer. Always check before placing an order.

Hidden Lighting

There are all sorts of ways you can weave in lighting without it actually being in the form of a light fitting – such as lighting in shelving, reflecting lighting back off a painting or recessed lighting profiles. Allow for lighting in media units and niches. Not only do they help give depth and interest but this technique can work well for balancing natural light when it’s coming in from only one direction.

Night Lighting

It’s a luxury to be able to find your way to the bathroom at night without disturbing your partner, or waking you up too much. Allow for low level lighting in the bathroom and a very small marker light to guide you to the bathroom door. A tiny red LED can work well as this doesn’t disturb sleep.


This is only a selection of pitfalls you need to watch out for but I hope it helps!



How I Work with Interior Designers

How I Work with Interior Designers


How I Work with Interior Designers: A Summary

Often, when working on larger projects, interior designers will be brought in, and I’ll be asked by my clients to liaise with them to come up with the best design all round.

This is often easier for clients who prefer not to be bothered with the nitty gritty of design but just want to finish with a beautiful home without much hassle. In other words: “You get on with it; come up with the best design and present the final design at the end.”

I enjoy working with interior designers as it can lead to a more focused approach from the outset and makes for a smoother lighting design process for several reasons.

Design Vision

Firstly, the design vision of the project is more tapered, even when I’m brought in during the initial conceptual design phase. It’s at this point that it’s good to have, what I call an ‘umbrella meeting’.  As most of my work is remote, this can be done via a phone call or Zoom to talk through some initial ideas that spring to mind after seeing the concept design.

For example, take a curved wall leading into an open plan living space.

Me: How about incorporating some curved recessed lighting tucked up within the ceiling, washing down to accentuate the curve of this wall.

Interior Designer: That sounds good and may work even better if we create some texture, perhaps in the form of the wall covering. Will give this some thought.

Or a blank wall at the end of a corridor.

Me: It would be good to focus some light on a painting, here, or perhaps incorporate a niche to highlight some sort of sculpture.

Interior Designer: That’s a point. My client has a collection of antique vases. We could create some recessed shelving here and light those, creating both a feature and helping the flow of the space.

And so it goes on. The interior designer aften has more of an idea of the design aspirations of the client and should also know about placement of furniture and any other feature pieces that are going to be incorporated into the scheme.

Feature Lighting

As an architectural lighting designer, my focus is the built-in lighting. However, in many cases the client hasn’t employed the services of an interior designer so it’s up to me to make the initial suggestions for feature lights. After all, I did originally train and work as an interior designer, and I appreciate that getting the feature lighting right helps to pull the whole scheme together.

When interior designers are involved, they may well have a vision of the feature lights required. Alternatively, they may want me to put a selection together so they can ultimately hone down the choice. It’s important that I know, at this stage, the scope of work so that I can gauge how much time will be expended to enable me to quote for this element of my service.

How You Can Help A Smooth Design Process

Plan the design as early as possible to ensure no last-minute compromises need to be made.

Create a system so that all parties are copied in on decisions made, no matter how trivial, as decisions can affect other elements of the design.

Let everyone know what stage the design is at and advise of any hold-ups in the building schedule or delivery of products.

Ideally employ the services of a good project manager.

For further information on combining design disciplines check out my previous article on Lighting Design and Interior Design Integration

Claire-PendarvesClaire Pendarves originally qualified as an interior designer and is now a lighting consultant with over 20 years’ experience

Meet the Designer

Lighting Design and Interior Design: Integration

Lighting Design and Interior Design: Integration


Lighting design and interior design are not the same thing and require different skills. Complementary yes, but different.

People often think that lighting design is just a part of interior design but it’s not. I came to this realisation many years ago when I was working as an interior designer and witnessed the transformative effects created by a lighting designer brought in on the project. I never looked back.

So let’s look at the contributors to a building design project

Lighting Design and Architects

Architects can design fabulous structures and will aim to incorporate natural light to full advantage, but many architects will confess that lighting is not their forte. Even those who appreciate the importance of good lighting design are aware that their talents lie in the building structure itself and the effects on the inhabitants and surrounds.

Lighting Design and Interior Designers

Although lighting is incorporated in interior design training, the focus of most interior designers will be spacial design, furniture, fabrics and finishes. There’s a huge range of products and details that they need to keep abreast of, and unless lighting design is one of their big loves, the chances are they won’t know of the latest products and techniques.

See how I co-ordinate my design with interior designers here: https://www.luxplan.co.uk/how-i-work-with-interior-designers/

Lighting Design and Electricians

Electricians will concentrate on the execution of the work and, when asked to map out a lighting scheme will often calculate the lumens needed and go from there. This will work in an office perhaps, but just focusing on the light output can leave spaces looking flat and lifeless. The last thing you want in a living room is a grid of downlights. This is not meant to be disparaging to electricians as they can be brilliant at what they do. But then that’s the point.

Which leads to the question…

Is Lighting Design a Science or an Art?

I believe it’s really a mixture of the two. To me, most of all, light is emotion. Good lighting design creates good feelings – an uplift as you walk through the door. A sense of comfort and calm. It shouldn’t shout out to a new visitor. In fact, beautiful lighting design should hardly be noticed to the untrained eye. It should just give the impression of a lovely space, even if your guest can’t quite put their finger on it.

Along with the emotion of the design comes knowledge of the products. Lighting is changing all the time. During the years that I’ve been a lighting designer, we’ve moved from incandescent lighting to LEDs with a dodgy time in between of having to specify fluorescent lighting as the primary energy efficient solution. Integrated linear lighting has become very popular and allows for reflected light and technology is coming on leaps and bounds.


In large prestigious projects each design discipline will dovetail with others on the project. This frees them up to do what they do best.

First comes the architectural design, then the initial interior design concept phase. At this point, the lighting designer is brought in and there should be a flow of communication all round.

The main point to remember is that beautiful lighting design will enhance the entire look of the interior design. Colours will be emphasised; focal points will be hightlighted, and the flow of the interior will be woven in by accenting different areas with lighting. Similarly, a well thought out and uniquely designed interior will make designing the lighting a joy. Everyone can enhance each other’s work so it’s win-win all round.

Especially for the client.

Claire-PendarvesClaire Pendarves originally qualified as an interior designer and is now a lighting consultant with over 20 years’ experience

Meet the Designer



Architectural Lighting Design Process

Architectural Lighting Design Process


When you’re taking on the services of any architectural lighting designer, you’ll want to know details of the lighting design process. And how does our remote lighting design service works? Here I’ll take you through the steps.

Local or remote lighting design process

When I start a lighting design project, in effect I will generally follow the same process whether the building is local or remote. Usually the lighting design will be done at the planning stage and there have been times when I’ve planned the lighting even before the previous property on the site has been knocked down to make way for the new build.

Benefits of planning architectural lighting design early

Firstly, you will want to have an idea of costs for the electrical work and architectural light fittings before starting the build or renovation work. Your electrical contractor won’t be able to quote correctly until he has the information to hand. If you have this planned early the process will be much smoother.

The process of talking through the lighting design means that you need to think through how you’re going to use the space which is a useful exercise in itself. Focusing your mind on aspects of the interior may throw light on other areas of the architectural planning that you need to address before the work starts.

My architectural lighting design process

  1. Initially it’s good to have a chat on the phone to get an idea of the extent of lighting advice and design you require, and for you to decide if you’re happy to take it further. I offer a flexible service so if you only want to have part of your property designed that’s fine; I’ll quote accordingly.
  2. After our discussion and, on sight of the plans, I’ll quote for the design work and then you can decide if you would like to proceed.
  3. If you wish to take things further, a time will be set for the design work to be carried out with a prior meeting arranged via Zoom or phone to go through your vision for the property, lifestyle etc and any elements of the build that might vary from the plan. An invoice for 50% of the design fee will be sent at this point.
  4. Turnaround is usually 7-10 days provided I have all the information to hand.
  5. The full design, including marked up plans with full details of circuits, schedule of proposed lighting and lighting design specification will be sent to you together with the balance invoice for the design work.
  6. At this stage it’s good to mull over the design for a few days and then decide on any changes you would like to make. Any alterations that are made within two weeks of submission are included in the design fee.

Please note: If you would like some general advice on how to enhance the lighting in your existing property, I offer a lighting consultancy service where I will visit to go through your options and give you details of products that could suit the project.

Fee: £150 for 1.5 hour consultation. No mileage is charged if within 20 miles of Truro. Travel charges will be advised for visits beyond this perimeter.


Try and collect as much information on the property as possible, especially for renovations where certain elements of the building aren’t apparent on the plans.

It’s worth looking through Houzz and Pinterest to get ideas that will inspire your design process. If I know the broad style you are aiming to achieve it will help me to align the lighting design with your vision.

NB It’s easy to get carried away and like and save a wide range of design styles. They can all look so gorgeous! Try and focus on this particular project and what you envision for now.

If you’re smitten by one particular light fitting, then please let me know. The chances are I will recognise it or, if not, will know of a similar luminaire.

Even in the early stages it’s good to know the kitchen and bathroom layouts. These may not have been completely designed at this stage, but it helps me to know the layout and style predicted. I certainly need to have these before I start the lighting design.

If you’re bringing furniture that you already own into the property, it helps me to know where these special pieces are going to go before I start the design. This may well affect the positioning of the lighting.

Also, if you have artwork, or envisage collecting some pieces, it’s good to indicate where these will go. For example, lighting can be incorporated into joinery or reflected off walls of paintings. The more I know, the more streamlined the effect will be.

Did you know?

  • Colour Temperature and Colour Rendering will have an enormous effect on how your fabrics, wall and floor finishes will look. Get it wrong and the effect can be flat and dull.
  • Having lights too bright in the evening can impact the quality of your sleep. That’s why factoring in low mood and navigational lighting is so beneficial.
  • Lighting doesn’t need to be expensive. A single, narrow-beam downlight placed in the right place can have dramatic effects. The devil is in the detail.

To discuss my architectural lighting design process why not call me to chat further on 07796691435


Claire Pendarves is a lighting designer with over 20 years’ experience

Luxplan offers an online lighting design service ranging from one hour zoom consultancy – ‘Ask me Anything’ to full lighting design and specification. I design and spec; you buy independently

Meet the lighting designer

LED Downlights and Spotlights: Did You Know?

LED Downlights and Spotlights: Did You Know?



Did you know this about LED Spotlights and Downlights?

Some LED downlights can have a sharp edge to the beam of light which means, if you don’t overlap the spread, the result won’t be smooth. By choosing ‘soft edge’ LED downlights you’ll avoid this jarring effect.

LED Colour Temperature

You need to choose the Colour Temperature of the light emitted. Some manufacturers will class Warm White as 3000K but this is on the cool side. Although they can work well in bathrooms and kitchens, it’s better to go for 2700K in living areas.

The light given out from the luminaire or lamp is also given a CRI index which indicates how true colours are under their light. For example, from 1 which is monochrome, going up to 100 which is sunlight. Fabrics, paint colours, food and even your face will look much better the closer to 100 you go.

Dimming LEDs

How the downlights dim will be affected by a) the driver if they are dedicated downlights and b) the lamp used if they take retrofit bulbs. And then there’s the dimmer module itself. They need to be compatible to ensure smooth, silent dimming.

You can now select LEDs that will ‘dim to warm’ which will not only enhance your experience in the evenings but could also benefit your sleep. (See my article on How Lighting Affects Sleep).

Tips when using LED Downlights

Try and avoid glare from downlights. This is best achieved by ensuring that the light source is set up from the surface. A dark baffle will absorb the glare even more. A golden baffle will make the light warmer.

Don’t place downlights in grids when designing home lighting. This should be left to offices and commercial situations where a blanket level of light is required. In homes the downlights should only be placed where they are needed for the greatest effect.

If you select downlights that don’t blend into the ceiling your eye will automatically go upwards. You don’t want people to notice the finish of your downlights so try and avoid contrasting colour trims to your ceiling.

Even though some downlights can angle well, sometimes you’ll need a wider spread of light to feature a painting, for example. In this case surface mounted spotlights can work better. Again, go for a finish that will blend in with your ceiling.

Choosing the right beam angles of light emitted from the downlights will have an influence on the overall illumination. Wide beams work well for overall illumination whereas narrow beams will punch more lights down onto a kitchen island, for example.

Downlights will need to be fire rated where there’s living accommodation above (if the fire barrier has been perforated). There are fittings out these days that are fire rated without the fire canister and even LED GU10 lamps that are fire rated in their own right.

Downlights come in various sizes and there are some punchy little LEDs on the market that are excellent for including in an atmospheric circuit, for example washing down in front of a fridge in the kitchen or opening up dark areas along a corridor. You don’t always need a large full powered downlight, even dimmed. These micro downlights give a wider band of effects available.

Lighting technology seems to progress in leaps and bounds so it’s always good to keep up with what’s on the market. We do!

Battery Powered Lamps for Winter Blackouts

Battery Powered Lamps for Winter Blackouts


Just because we have the doom-and-gloom warnings of winter blackouts in the UK doesn’t mean we have to skimp on design or comfort. Here are some recommendations for battery powered lamps that will serve you well during this coming winter and also into balmy summer nights. They’re perfect for entertaining as well, if you want to tweak the mood and illumination.

Please note I haven’t put the links to suppliers here as they are easily found on Google and prices will vary from each supplier, and may also increase at different times.

Battery Powered Lamps for Winter Blackouts (Exterior)

Buying an exterior quality battery powered lamp is probably a much better investment as you’ll use it more often. They’re so useful when you’re entertaining in the summer, and you don’t have to worry if it stays outside in the rain. Having said that, I wouldn’t be inclined to leave any of these outside long term as you never know how they’ll stand up to the elements, long term.

Here are a selection of Exterior battery power lamps:

La Donna by Lucide


Easy to carry lamp with a strap at the top. Not very large but castes a good

  • IP rating:  54
  • Light Temperature: 2700K
  • Lumens:  263
  • Dimmable?  Yes
  • Output time:  6.5 hours at full brightness
  • Approximate price £120

Obello LED Portable Table Lamp by Gubi


Designed in the 1970s by Bill Curry this is a design classic. Surprisingly it is IP rated for exterior use but the fact that it’s made of mouth blown glass means that it doesn’t lend itself to a great deal of carrying to and fro.

  • IP rating:  IP44
  • Light Temperature: 2700K
  • Lumens:  250
  • Dimmable?  Yes
  • Output time:  Up to 40 hours
  • Approximate price £200

Hipatia LED Portable Table Lamp by Arturo Alvarez


Arturo Alvarez has a wonderful way of creating ethereal lighting with his own unique method of using coated flexible steel structures. This lamp is small but beautiful

  • IP rating:  64
  • Light Temperature: 3000K
  • Lumens:  247
  • Dimmable?  Yes
  • Output time:  6 hours
  • Approximate price £250

Lucca SC51 LED Portable Lamp by &Tradition


A stylish little portable lamp designed by Space Copenhagen, apparently inspired by the warmth of the Tuscan city’s lights.

  • IP rating:  IP44
  • Light Temperature: 2700K
  • Lumens:  143
  • Dimmable?  Yes
  • Output time:  Up to 12 hours
  • Approximate price £123

Sponge to Go Rechargeable LED Table Lamp by Nordlux


This lamp is easy to carry and seems very resilient to rain. A good price too.

  • IP rating:  65
  • Light Temperature: 2700K
  • Lumens:  300
  • Dimmable?  Yes
  • Output time:  Up to 16 hours
  • Approximate price £54

Battery Powered Portable Lamps (Interior)

Although these are not so useful for all year-round use, these battery charged portable  lamps can still be taken outside although they wouldn’t stand up well to damp or wet, so beware.

Follow Me by Marset


This cute little lamp is easy to carry and comes in various colours

  • IP rating:  20
  • Light Temperature: 2700K
  • Lumens:  240
  • Dimmable?  Yes
  • Output time:  Up to 20 hours
  • Approximate price £149


Porta LED Portable Table Lamp by Normann Copenhagen


This little portable table lamp doesn’t give out a huge amount of light but it looks nice and doesn’t take up too much space so easy to store. However, it’s not IP rated for exteriors so only use outside when it’s dry.

  • IP rating:  20
  • Light Temperature: 2800K – 3200K
  • Lumens:  51
  • Dimmable?  Yes
  • Output time:  8 – 90 hours depending on light intensity
  • Approximate price £79


Kizu LED Portable Table Lamp by New Works


This battery powered lamp is a beautiful design with a choice of black, white or grey marble base. Again, not IP rated for exterior situations and not terribly easy to transport on a regular basis, but its beauty makes up for that.

  • IP rating:  20
  • Light Temperature: 2700K
  • Lumens:  175
  • Dimmable?  Yes
  • Output time:  10 hours
  • Approximate price £162

Mini Planet Portable LED Table Lamp by Kartell


A great little lamp for entertaining although it’s more for atmosphere than working light – and it has a designer price label. Comes in various crystal colours.

  • IP rating:  20
  • Light Temperature: 2700K
  • Lumens:  210
  • Dimmable?  Yes
  • Approximate price £212

And finally, the most indulgent designer battery powered lamp for the exterior (although you wouldn’t want to break it!)

In Vitro LED Outdoor Unplugged  by Flos  (Designed by Philippe Starck)


This looks like a lantern with a tiny LED source of light. It’s not cheap but then you’re paying for the design and the name of the designer. Approximately 30 cms height.

  • IP rating:  65
  • Light Temperature: 2700K or 3200K
  • Lumens:  200
  • Dimmable?  Yes
  • Output time:  6 hours
  • Approximate price £650
Coffered Ceilings Lighting

Coffered Ceilings Lighting


Coffered ceilings

Coffered ceilings look fantastic – in the right place! But there are certain factors that you should bear in mind when considering installing this type of recessed illumination in your lighting design scheme.

What are Coffered Ceilings?

Coffered ceilings are often referred to as raised ceiling panels or drop ceilings. In reality, the raised ceiling is more of an illusion as it’s the surrounding area that is lowered which gives the impression of the central ceiling panel being higher. Linear lighting is then hidden in the edges of the lowered ceiling to reflect light off the original ceiling height.

Why are they called Coffered Ceilings?

Coffered ceilings date back to the Greek and Roman times and became very popular again during the Renaissance period. They originate from cross beams being used to reinforce ceilings and the panels between the beams would often be intricately decorated. These ranged enormously, from flat to curved; from many panels to only one main one. Recently coffered ceilings have become popular again and are often used in a simple form to house linear lighting to add reflected light to a space. Often they are known as Drop Ceilings and, in their simplest form, this is probably the best term for them.


What’s the benefit of a coffered ceiling?

It’s a clever use of hidden linear lighting and creates a panel of reflected light which, when linked to a dimming circuit, can either be bright and energising or soft and moody. The result will also be affected by the paint colours of the room, and layers of the ceiling.

Coffered Ceiling Planning Tips

The Room Needs to be a Good Size

Coffered ceilings can look impressive and add another dimension to large rooms but be careful to work out the proportions before going ahead.

The very nature of installing a coffered ceiling means that visually, you’re taking a chunk out of the room in order to create the lowered border around the edges. That means that what you’re left with – the area you’re throwing the light up onto – needs to be a good size to make it worth it.

As coffered ceilings are popular at the moment, there’s a tendency to build them in without really considering if they’re suited to the position. I’ve seen enthusiastic designers incorporate them into areas which are too tight, such as small rooms and narrow corridors where they don’t always work well. There are other ways you can mimic the effect which are more delicate and more cost-effective. More about that later.

Heat Sinks and Diffusers

These may sound boring but it’s important information to know when designing a coffered ceiling and using LED linear lighting in general.

The heat sink is basically the channel (profile) in which the LED tape sits. It’s usually made of aluminium to absorb the heat that’s emitted from the rear of the LED tape. Many people assume that LEDs are cool, but they can generate a lot of heat at the back of the fitting which will affect the longevity of the product if it’s not dissipated.

The profile is also used for slotting the diffuser into. The purpose of this is to soften the light so that it’s not so sharp and the little dots from the individual LEDs aren’t reflected onto the ceiling. It also protects the LED tape from dust.

Power Supply and Drivers

You need to consider where you are going to put the drivers so that they can be accessed in case something goes wrong. It’s not advisable to try and put the drivers in the recessed area around the panel as you could end up seeing shadow. You need the light to be seamless.

Sometimes the length of the linear LED is too long to be run off one driver, in which case you may need two, or several drivers serving different runs of the LED profile. This all needs to be planned beforehand.

Ensure you use good quality LED tape

When LED lighting is produced, as with all manufacturing, there will be several batches made at different times. The best lighting manufacturers will ensure that the light emitted is quality controlled and colour temperature is exactly the same. This is known as ‘colour binning.’ So it’s always vital to ensure that the LED comes from the same batch.

Some LED producers can be sloppy with this and you don’t want to reach the point where you’ve spent time and money installing the coffered ceiling, only to find that the lengths of LED emit slightly different colour tones of light

Consider Tuneable White LED tape

If the room is used in the day as well as evening, and if it has a fair amount of daylight coming in, it’s worth considering tuneable LED lighting. This is because the warm LED colour (say 2700K) looks good at night but can look yellow and dim when compared to sunlight outside, even on a dull day. Conversely, if you opt for a cooler temperature, it can look too cold at night.

So, the best option is to use tuneable white LED so that you can change the colour of the light to suit the time of day and mood.

If you have a media room, which doesn’t have much natural light, and you’re only using it mainly in the evenings, you can get away with one colour output, unless of course you would like to go for colour-changing LED (RGB).

Consider the Height of your Windows

It’s worth bearing in mind that, when creating a drop ceiling around the edges of the room, you won’t want to go any lower than the top of the window, so it’s best to start with using this as a guide.

Linear LED Lighting is not Economical

Take a large room, with a coffered area of say, 8 metres by 6 metres. This adds up to around 28 metres of LED profile, tape and diffuser. You also have the labour and material costs to lower the ceiling around the edges of the room which means the cost of supply and install can mount up.

Running costs are also greater than using LED downlights. For example, going by the above example of 28 metres using a high output LED at 19 watts per metre, that adds up to 532 watts expended. This isn’t a huge amount – in fact only the equivalent of five old fashioned 100 watt tungsten bulbs, but it’s just worth bearing in mind.

Is Light from a Coffered Ceiling Enough?

Although it’s a lovely design technique, you will usually need to incorporate more lighting in the room, depending on use of the room and size. In the project shown above I added some high output LED downlights as the room was high. These all need to be on different circuits so you can alter the atmosphere of the interior.

Things to remember:

  • Coffered ceilings work better in large rooms
  • Don’t skimp on the quality of the LEDs
  • Ensure the LED tape is housed in an aluminium heat sink
  • Use a diffuser to avoid reflected spotting on the ceiling
  • It’s advisable to enable dimming
  • Consider tuneable white LEDs or RGB
  • Be realistic about the expenditure – installing and running costs
  • The devil is in the detail

The Next Best Thing to a Coffered Ceiling

Sometimes the room doesn’t warrant the expense of a fully coffered ceiling so I’ll specify some coving to hide linear lighting. This can be run around the edges of the room, or can even help to disguise a structural beam. For a good source of lighting coving see Orac Decor

Check out our lighting design process here.


Claire Pendarves is a lighting designer with over 20 years’ experience

Luxplan offers an online lighting design service ranging from one hour zoom consultancy – ‘Ask me Anything’ to full lighting design and specification. I design and spec; you buy independently

13 Top Tips for Planning Lighting [2022]

13 Top Tips for Planning Lighting [2022]


Some Top Tips for Planning Lighting

Planning the lighting for your new build or renovation takes time and thought. Here are some useful tips to help you create beautiful lighting schemes.

Avoid Glary downlights

Go for downlights where the light source is set back. Black baffles will absorb glare and work well in classical properties and low ceilings. White baffles are crisper in modern properties and kitchens.

Think Colour Temperature

Many standard downlights state ‘warm white’ as 3000°K which is quite cool. 2700°K is better. You can even get high spec downlights where the colour warms as they dim. Perfect for dining rooms.

Brighter is Not Always Better

Linear LEDs are great for reflected light and integration into a building. Recently they’ve become more powerful but sometimes you only want a glow. Going too bright can unbalance a room.

Don’t Light Every Inch

Beware of lighting your home like an office. Not every square foot needs to be lit. In fact, it’s by highlighting certain areas and toning the light coverage that you’ll create ambience and magic.

Avoid Dark Holes

Tiny LED inground uplights and floor washers consume miniscule amounts of electricity. Use them to light corridors and give gentle light to dark recesses. Space will flow better and be more welcoming.

Don’t Dismiss Automation

Even if you don’t want the expense of integrated lighting automation it’s worth considering if you have a large kitchen/dining/family room. This can use up to 8 circuits and you’ll be glad you used it.

Ensure Your Dimmer Switches Speak to Your Downlights

Buzzing switches and flickering downlights can be very irritating. Check with the manufacturers that the dimming protocol is compatible with your downlights. Do this before you purchase them.

Don’t Create Dead Ends

Lighting should lead you on a gentle journey through your house. Sometimes the structure of the building needs to be softened. Dead end corridor? Add a lovely wall light or illuminate a painting.

Remember that Light is Affected by Its Surroundings

Lighting does not exist on its own. It’s affected by the finish of the walls, floors, and work surfaces. If these are dark less light will be reflected. Textured walls can look lovely grazed with light.

Allow for More Light During the Day

It may seem perverse but on a gloomy day you’ll need more light than during the evenings. Allow for a circuit where you can whack up the light for rainy winter days and when you’re doing the cleaning.

Plan Furniture Positions

Planning where the furniture is going leads to a much sleeker look. It helps determine the aspect of a room and allows for the lighting to be more balanced, e.g. lighting by your seating and over the dining table.

Use Floor Sockets for Lamps

The last thing you want is trailing wires leading from the wall to lamps near your seating area. Planning for lamp sockets in the floor will help with zoning, reading and ambience in a large space.

Think Longevity

Don’t plump for downlights just because your electrician always uses them. Quality of light and longevity are key factors. Some cheaper LEDs don’t last long; replacing them is costly and irritating.


Claire Pendarves is a lighting designer with over 20 years’ experience. Meet the Designer here.

Luxplan offers an online lighting design service ranging from one hour zoom consultancy – ‘Ask me Anything’ to full lighting design and specification. I design and spec; you buy independently

How to Design Energy-Efficient Lighting Plans

How to Design Energy-Efficient Lighting Plans

How to design energy efficient lighting plans

Lighting technology is changing all the time although sometimes, when googling, references to outdated products such as incandescent light bulbs will be made. No one uses these any more. Or fluorescents – not many new lights are designed to take fluorescent tubes.

Everything has now moved towards the LED light source which can be used in a variety of ways.

Accent Lighting

LEDs have brought us all sorts of ways of bringing in energy efficient accent lighting. For example, miniature LEDs placed near a wall can graze up the surface and, if punchy enough, cast soft reflected light onto the ceiling. They look lovely when placed near a stone wall or a surface with texture and can act as marker lights, with each fitting only using around one watt of electricity.

They can look great in niches and shelving. Again, hardly expending any electricity, they create interest and add to the design ‘shape’ of the room.

Linear LEDs

Linear LED profiles are also very popular nowadays and add a contemporary flavour. These can be used in recessed profiles either washing light down walls, or placed in coving to wash light upwards. This effect of indirect light is very soft, working on the principle of reflected light, although bear in mind that the amount of reflection you get will depend on the colour of the wall or ceiling surface.

Coffered ceilings are very popular in large interiors and can bring light into the centre of the room as well as being an attractive design feature. Although the linear LED used in this method of lighting is technically energy efficient, if the run is long, the number of watts can add up. Take a coffered area of 3 metres by 4 metres for example; this is a total of 14 metres of linear lighting. A high output product could take up to 20 watts per metre so this would be the equivalent of 280 watts to run. Not bad in old-fashioned terms but more than using LED downlights.


LEDs are brilliant for overall lighting but there’s a huge range out there. Wattage can be anything from around 4 – 12 watts depending on punch and the quality of the fitting.

Of course, it’s always worth factoring in the cost of the fitting – and that doesn’t mean buying cheap. Often, by cutting corners when you buy the fitting you could end up having to replace it within a couple of years – and then you’ll incur the cost of replacement and the electrician.

Tips for Buying Downlights

Downlights can be glary but if you select a fitting where the light source is set back, you’ll get a softer effect.

Remember that LEDs don’t like getting hot. That’s why the good quality ones will have a fan effect at the back of the fitting to distribute the heat. This means that they don’t like being squashed into tight spaces and certainly don’t like insulation packed around them. So, ensure you follow the fitting instructions and remember that, if you have living accommodation above, you’ll probably need to have fire rated fittings and some of these will be more bulky than standard ones.

Finally, I would normally recommend 2700°K for most areas although the cooler 3000°K can work in kitchens and bathrooms.

The cooler the light temperature, the more light output you’ll get but the difference is miniscule and the experience can be harsh under a 4000°K no matter how energy efficient it appears to be.

Claire Pendarves is a lighting designer with over 20 years’ experience

Luxplan offers an online lighting design service ranging from one hour zoom consultancy – ‘Ask me Anything’ to full lighting design and specification. I design and spec; you buy independently

How to Design Living Room Lighting

How to Design Living Room Lighting

how to design living room lighting

The first thing you need to do when you plan lighting for a living room is ask yourself the following questions:

Which way is living room facing?

This will have an impact on how much light the room gets and at what time of the day. For example, a North facing room will have quite consistent light but will be relatively dark, whereas a room facing West may lack light in the morning but will be brighter in the evenings. This is important as, in the UK especially, we don’t just need to plan our lighting for when it’s dark. We need to think about the quality of light during the days, especially during our long winters.

How much natural light is there?

While the direction the room is facing will have an impact, so will its construction. Does it have high ceilings with big windows? Is there a rooflight? All these factors will have an effect.

Another issue is the balance of light. If the room is large with lovely natural light pouring in from large windows on only one side, how much light will be at the back of the room? This can sometimes make the light unbalanced and the back of the room will seem comparatively dark.

How will you be using the room?

If your room is only really going to be used at night, then the amount of natural light it’s receiving won’t be quite so important. For example, a room that acts more as a snug, where you can curl up in front of the fire and watch the TV won’t be needing quite such bright light, whereas a multi-functional room with, say, a desk in the corner, will need to incorporate more flexible lighting.

Where will you be placing the furniture?

If you’re not sure of the layout at this stage, run through some variables and you’ll probably find that there’s only really a couple of layouts that appeal. Where will you be placing your television, if there is one.

Will you be having shelves or even a media unit? This is a good way of integrating accent lighting.

How to Light a Living Room

Ideally a living room should have three circuits but this will depend on the size and complexity of the room.

1. Accent Lighting/Low Ambient circuit

Having a room in total darkness, when it can be viewed from other areas of the house, can be quite gloomy feeling like a black hole. Whereas incorporating a small amount of light will make the room look inviting and extend the feel of any adjacent living space. This can done using very little electricity -; in fact, with miniature LEDs you can do this using a mere 5-10 watts.

One of the fundamental elements of lighting design is layering light and this circuit can create a magical effect. For example, small inground LEDs uplighting window or door reveals, grazing up fireplaces, giving soft lighting in shelving etc.This may not be particularly picked up on by visitors, but the tranquil feel and ambience of the room will resonate.

It’s comforting to have some low level lighting on when watching television. Dark is too black and having more lights on can affect the movie watching experience.

For more information on incorporating concealed linear lighting within a living room why not visit my article on Coffered Ceiling Lighting

2. General Lighting

This will be the circuit that envelopes you with soft light and will give you light to function, without glare.

Usually this will be in the form of wall lights and lamps. Downlights can work as well, provided they aren’t directly overhead as this can be harsh. Pools of light in front of curtains, or angled onto artwork is a gentle way of bringing light into the room without glare.

Most living rooms benefit hugely from low level lighting in the form of lamps. It makes life much easier if these are plugged into a 5 amp lamp circuit.

Consider what style of lamps you will need. At least one of these should be a task light for reading or sewing. Do you have a favourite chair? If you’re going for table lamps with shades, what colour and opacity will the shades have? For example, a modern frosted glass shade is going to give far more light out into a room than say, a pleated dark fabric one.

Lamp sockets don’t need to be located on the wall – in fact, in a large room it’s really useful to have the sockets in the floor, near the seating areas, otherwise you’ll end up with trailing cords everywhere. Sometimes clients say they can’t have that because of the underfloor heating, but it’s still feasible, provided it’s planned in the early stages.

3. Overhead Lighting

Many people ask how to light a living room with no overhead lighting’ but it’s always useful to factor in an additional circuit for this. You won’t be using it often but there will be times when you’re grateful you incorporated this additional source of light.

If the room doesn’t get much natural daylight you will often want to ramp up the lighting, such as gloomy rainy days, playing card games or some activity that needs a greater spread of task lighting.

Also, living rooms are often multi-functional, with a desk in the corner or an area to exercise before work. You’ll want a different mood then. Then of course, there’s times you’ll want to clean and hoover when a good amount of light is invaluable.

Overhead lighting can be provided by downlights if preferred, or the ceilings are too low for a feature pendant, but beware of glare. The best downlights will have the light source set back and a dark baffle will absorb the glare even more. If the room is large with a high ceiling there are some beautiful pendants which can add to the aesthetics of the room, as well a providing light. Again, beware of glare.

In conclusion, when planning the lighting for a new-build or renovation I would recommend wiring for three circuits although that will depend on the size of the room and budget.

If you’re just trying to revamp a living room, you can’t go wrong with adding some lamps. Mix it up. At least one task lamp, and others that will give light out into the room. One plug-in uplight can look great!

Finally, dimmers are an invaluable way of controlling the mood. Just make sure that your lights and dimming modules are compatible so check beforehand.

Claire Pendarves is a lighting designer with over 20 years’ experience

Luxplan offers an online lighting design service ranging from one hour zoom consultancy – ‘Ask me Anything’ to full lighting design and specification. I design and spec; you buy independently