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13 Top Tips for Planning Lighting [2022]

13 Top Tips for Planning Lighting [2022]

interior-lighting

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

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 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

Lighting Tips to Cheer Up Winter

Lighting Tips to Cheer Up Winter

cheer-up-winter

It seems that with every passing day we are tunnelling further down into the depths of winter!  If you’re like me – a lover of light and warmth – the whole season can be a bit depressing.

These tips may help to lighten the winter gloom

Candles any Time

The Scandinavians know how to cheer themselves up in the winter and the whole concept of Hygge is embraced whole-heartedly in the Northern Hemisphere.  It seems that in the UK many of us save our candles for special occasions or, at least, until the evenings. But why?  During deepest darkest winter some days can seem like perpetual dusk, so why not light a couple of candles or tea lights during the day, even when working. There is, on a primeval level, something enormously comforting about a flickering flame that makes me think we’re not so far removed from our cave dwelling ancestors

Scented Candles

Personally I find some scented candles overpowering. One sniff in a shop can’t quite display how the scent will actually be after a couple of hours’ burning at home and some can become quite nauseous. I usually burn unscented  church candles and my favourites are from the St Eval Candle Company made locally in Cornwall although they also do a very subtle festive range which I really enjoy.

Wax Crystals

If you like the effect of light reflecting on snow then you will love these wax crystals that bring a magical quality to any interior. Alexander Interiors sells bags of the crystal and the wicks separately, along with containers although you don’t necessarily need to buy these as you can set these crystals up in any container provided it’s not flammable. I use a large glass bowl and pour a good amount of crystals in and add about 5 wicks. They burn for hours and it all works out very economical as the next day you just dispose of the old wicks and clumps of melted wax, top up slightly, insert fresh wicks and start again

Free Standing Uplight

I will often incorporate integral LED uplights when I do a lighting design as it adds another dimension to the lighting but if we’re doing a quick fix a free standing uplight can work wonders. If you have a dark corner which just needs some soft light why not try something like the Marasino by Astro Lighting. This is made of paintable plaster so you can paint it to blend with the room if you prefer. The shape of it means that it can be positioned so you don’t get any glare

Soft Table Lamps

Opaque globes give out a soft light and as they have become very fashionable nowadays there’s a huge range of light fittings on the market.  A quick fix is to incorporate a globe table lamp and the Castore by Artemide has been a favourite of mine for years.  Available in various sizes from a lovely small one, that I had in my daughter’s bedroom when she was little, to the largest version that I put in my showroom Christmas window many moons ago

I’m also mad about the Rituals range by Foscarini and love the textured light that these emit. Check out their website for more details here: www.foscarini.com

Firelight

I know that so many new-build houses are so well insulated these days that they don’t really need a fireplace or wood burning stove.  Personally I think it’s a pity to miss out on the sparkle of a fire even if, technically, it may not be required. A flickering flame can always lift the soul.

Check Your Existing Light Bulbs

LED lamps (bulbs) give out less light as they get older and can lose their crispness. Try putting some fresh bulbs in where required and ensure that they are a warm white – 2700K is what I generally recommend.

SAD Lamps

High lumen output lamps can be very helpful and I’ve just ordered a small portable Beurer LED Daylight SAD Light for a very reasonable price. I’ll be testing it out over the next couple of weeks and will report back when I write my next blog on how our health is affected by light.

Claire-Pendarves

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

Lighting Bedrooms for Children

Lighting Bedrooms for Children

children's bedrooms

Many years ago when our son was young there was a huge Pokemon craze and Charlie and his friends were obsessed.  Not so for many parents – my husband and I would draw straws as to who would have the task of accompanying the kids to the cinema.  Normally we loved taking the children to the cinema but we both disliked Pokemon.  In fact it was the only time that I was almost pleased if our son misbehaved as I would have no alternative but to carry out my threat: “If you misbehave you WON’T go to the Pokemon movie!’ But as we parents know these phases come and go.

To get to the point – one of Charlie’s best friends was treated to a bespoke hand painted bedroom by a local artist. The walls were covered in Pokemon action scenes.  All his friends were green with envy, his parents were happy and proud despite their lighter pockets – and the room was repainted a couple of years later.

The moral of this story: your child’s life is a progression.  What your child needs today in terms of decoration or lighting in their room may change in the years to come.  That’s why I will always try and be flexible when lighting a child’s room.

Here are a few recommendations.

Ceiling Light

My favourite ceiling fitting is the Ethel Lampshade by One Foot Taller.  This merely fits to a ceiling fitting (either a pendant or flush light fitting) and gives a lovely soft light out.  It’s one of my favourite lighting products.  I’ve used it in a dental surgery in an old converted warehouse where the ceilings were low and I’ve put it in countless bedrooms and living rooms.  One client recently praised it saying it’s a light that’s there but not there.  It’s also practically indestructible and will withstand numerous pillow fights.  Also you can literally take if off the light fitting and wash it in the bath with a shower hose.  Easy.

Wall Lights

Over the course of the following years the furniture may vary from cot to single bed to bunk bed to double bed so the room has to be flexible to accommodate the future changes.  My favourite method of incorporating this is to use plug in wall lights.  The Scandinavians use these far more than we do in the UK and their lights often will come in with a lead but can be hard wired if preferred.

I love the Radon wall light by Fritz Hansen.  A wonderfully flexible fitting that can be flipped up for reading or can be tucked in to give a soft ambient light so very useful if your child needs a light on before going to sleep.

Original BTC also do several wall lights that can come with a plug in flex, available in fun funky colours.  Also, if necessary you can order additional length lead and different variations but this would need to be done by phone rather than via the website.

If you’re on a budget it’s worth looking in Ikea as they have quite a few plug in wall lights.

Fibre Optic Starlight Ceiling

One magical addition you can make to your child’s bedroom is creating a twinkling star ceiling – this will be enjoyed for many years, right up to adulthood.  But… before you get too enthusiastic about the idea you need to assess the access to the ceiling of the room.  If there’s a loft about the ceiling, or you’re in the early stages of a new build then this is a feasible option; if there’s no access from above you should drop it like a hot potato.  I use Starscape fibre optic kits.  Your child will love them but your electrician will curse you – they are time consuming to install and there’s quite a bit of thought that needs to go into creating random perforations that are random in a balanced way.  I know – I’ve spent many hours at the top of a ladder!

If you have any questions about your ceiling do give them a ring as they are incredibly helpful. 

Lamps

The final tweak you can make is by adding colourful lamps.  Don’t like the colour of the lamp base?  Why not paint it with an Annie Sloan paint?

Want a unique lampshade?  Why not make your own shade with a kit from Dannells.

All the above leave a flexible room for the future when your children grow up and come back to stay as fully fledged adults.  And not a Pokemon in sight!

Claire-Pendarves

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 Stop LEDs from Flickering

How to Stop LEDs from Flickering

LED-bulb

If only life were simple! If only we could buy an LED fitting, or retro-fit LED lamp, wire it in, connect it to a dimmer and hey presto – a perfectly dimming light.  Unfortunately, as so many of you will have experienced, this is not always the case and lamentably, the answer is not always crystal clear.  So how to stop LEDs from flickering? The following explanation in layman’s terms may help you resolve any problems you may have or, even better, avoid them in the first place.

Speak the Same Language

All LEDs have electrical control gear known as Drivers – even retro-fit LED lamps have tiny drivers in the base of them. These need to speak the same language as the dimming module.  When using a simple Mains dimming switch there are two methods of dimming – one is Trailing Edge and the other is Leading Edge.  Trailing Edge tends to be better; the dimmers are slightly more expensive but they are less prone to buzz and are generally more compatible with a wider range of fittings.  The manufacturers of the LED driver or lamp should stipulate the dimming method recommended (some will say either) so then you can ensure that the correct dimmer is installed. Do check that the LED retro fit lamps are dimmable – not all of them are!

For large projects always check that the dimmers are compatible with the LED fixtures or lamps that will be used; I usually combine Philips MasterLED lamps with Varilight V-pro intelligent dimmers which currently work well together – please note the word ‘currently’ as specifications can change and  manufacturers will always state that testing should be carried out to ensure compatibility.  Forbes and Lomax combine beautifully styled fittings incorporating Varilight dimming modules but it always advisable to state that the dimmer will be used for LEDs when ordering

Don’t Overload the Circuit

A common mistake is to look at the maximum wattage on the dimmer, say 250 watts (in old money) and decide that, as the LED lamps are only 5 watts for example, you would be able to dim a multitude of fittings on that circuit. Wrong.  Ideally you should downrate by 6-10 times so in this case you would be best running  5 – 8 max fittings of 5 watts each.  It is possible to get larger load dimmers so it is best to check the number of fittings on each circuit before installation.

Don’t Underload the Circuit

Some dimmers, especially Leading Edge dimmers, need a minimum load in order to work, some as much as 40 watts before they will kick in. The more modern Trailing Edge dimmers will generally work from a lower load set point but be wary of trying to dim one or two LED fittings on one dimmer or you may need to incorporate a ‘dummy load’ to enable the dimmer to work.

Keep it Simple

Try to avoid using MR16 equivalent LEDs where possible when dimming as you then have three factors to bear in mind – the dimming module, the driver and the transformer which involves more ‘communication’ and more chances of incompatibility.  GU10 retro fit LED lamps or GLS replacement lamps are much simpler altogether.  However, on a positive note I have had success with using Philips MasterLED MR16 lamps with low voltage fittings on a Hamilton Mercury system but this was several years ago so may not be true today.  Always best to check.

Phase Adaptive Dimmers

If you don’t know whether you are going to use Leading Edge or Trailing Edge drivers then go for a Phase Adaptive dimmer; more high spec but flexible. Try Lutron for the latest in cutting edge dimming technology.  And if you’re wiring a new-build or self-build property it is worth considering a digital method of dimming such as DALI.

Favour Constant Current

Constant current LED drivers general work much better than constant voltage ones. The LED fittings for constant current drivers should be wired in series and your electrician should always check what products are specified before any wiring is done.

Dig Deeper

If you are still having problems with flickering lights and you have assessed all of the above then it may be time to check out the wiring in the property. Loose or faulty wiring or spikes and troughs in the electrical supply reaching the circuits in question could be having a knock-on effect so it is always advisable to check this out as well

Goodbye to Grey Light

Goodbye to Grey Light

It’s not unusual, in general conversation, to hear people moan about the terrible light that energy efficient lamps give out but luckily the days of having to wait several minutes for the lamps to warm up and actually give out some form of decent light are rapidly passing.

Lighting technology has come on leaps and bounds since the original compact fluorescent came on the market with it’s grey undertones, and the every-day bulb is now being replaced with LEDs and making our lives clear again!

So how about a revamp? Given that the compact fluorescent lasts for such a long time, many of us will be still using lamps that were purchased several years ago and just think how things have progressed since then.  Remember to dispose of your CFLs carefully (see Recolight) as these lamps contain hazardous materials so cannot be just thrown out with the general waste.  Then how about investing in some quality LED lamps that have good colour rendering properties and a sharp crisp light.

There were some excellent examples on display at LuxLive in November, amongst them the new Philips Master LEDbulb; the clear 40 watt equivalent version seemed to give out the crispest light but at the moment only comes in an E27 fitting (large screw-in base) and may not be quite bright enough for every situation.  Other, more powerful ones are available with bayonet fittings and greater output although not quite the same sparkle.  Instant light though and well worth the investment.

Controls

Ideally there should never be less than two control circuits, three being the optimum and a fourth giving prime flexibility. The first will be atmospheric lighting close to the house, the second will be security and facility lighting (this will often be on a PIR with a timer and over-ride facility), and the third will generally be for landscaping beyond the immediate vicinity of the house, such as driveways and additional features. The luxury of the fourth can allow for an entertaining circuit such as illuminating a barbeque and dining area, swimming pool or hot tub if such indulgences exist.

Lighting a garden can be a functional exercise or an exciting adventure which will add a totally new dimension to a property. There’s no quick fix solution to creating it but with careful consideration and measured planning the effect can be a work of art. It’s a matter of choice.