With the days growing shorter, it's time to talk about lights. This key element in any home improvement project strikes terror into many of us. For proof, look no further than those bare light bulbs still hanging from the ceiling several years after you've moved house… The famous Danish designer Poul Henningsen was already mocking us about this a century ago: "Furniture, style carpets, everything in a home is secondary to the importance of lighting. The correct illumination of a room does not require money, but insight." So, prepare for your very own "Fiat Lux" moment…
Let's start with the key to any successful lighting project – light sources that highlight spaces, objects, knick-knacks, etc. the full length of the room, basically telling a story… Why not try this fun exercise: change the position of a lamp and see how it alters the whole atmosphere of the room.
Ideally, one or two main sources of ceiling lighting should be combined with several small sources in the corners of the room. Ceiling lights should be positioned above tables or in the middle of rooms that require them (they are not strictly necessary for bedrooms, but essential in dressing rooms!). A ceiling light in an entrance hall sets the tone for the entire flat. You must therefore ensure that the ceiling is sufficiently high to achieve the required drop. In a child's bedroom, forget about excessively frivolous lighting solutions and treat your little cherub to a nice, timeless model that will be with them for many years to come, while also adding character to the room (it's also a good way of kindling your offspring's interest in design…). When it comes to positioning wall lights, these always look better slightly lower on the wall, a move that will make your lighting all the warmer.
Photo credit : Kari Shua - The mellow ambience of indirect lighting
By the way, spotlights are a no-no as they make your house look like a shop and give any space a common look regardless of how tastefully it is decorated! Light bulbs of different intensities are essential in a room as they allow you to change the atmosphere based on your mood and the time of day. For example, on an evening you may wish to create a cosy atmosphere by switching on one light – that one that helps you relax. You'll no doubt all also be aware that you should always prepare your biological clock before going to bed by creating a semi-nocturnal atmosphere similar to candlelight.
In the accessories department
Given the range of lights currently available on the market, there is a growing trend for people to take a DIY approach and arrange their own lighting. Take those gorgeous cables sheathed in coloured fabric for example. You can buy them by the metre giving you the freedom to wander wherever you wish rather than sticking slavishly to a single existing electrical outlet when renovating your house. A whole host of switches are also available (I have a soft spot for Bakelite models as they instantly add character to any room).
Modern LED bulbs capture the spirit of old-fashioned lamps, with the same quality of light, vintage glass shapes, and semiconductor filaments echoing the look of incandescent bulbs, while consuming much less energy and not generating heat making them unpleasant to touch. Speaking of heat, the other key factor in choosing your LED bulbs is colour, which is also inaccurately referred to as … temperature! This variable expressed in kelvins (K) determines the colour appearance of the light, in other words how "cool" or "warm" it looks. Paradoxically, the lower the value, the "warmer" and therefore more yellow/orange the light is! In contrast, a high level of kelvins indicates white/blue light like the stars that shine in the heavens…
Here's a quick tip for creating the most omnidirectional possible lighting – opt for a standard pear-shaped light bulb encircled by a globe (with the bulb left visible for a decorative touch). In contrast, a conical bulb will highlight a specific area or object.
Just as great orators are able to thrill their audiences with long pauses, don't be afraid of leaving some areas in your spaces unlit, as they create a mellow and even sexy atmosphere in the room. You can also have fun overcoming the smallness of a space by introducing an XXL lamp (the opposite doesn't work quite so well – you'll be disappointed with a small lamp in a large room).
Attractive lighting is a comforting, soothing addition to everyday life, interacting subtly with occupants' moods. Let's think back to those cold, pale, so-called "neon " tubes we remember attached to our grandmothers' drab kitchen walls and the feelings we surreptitiously associate with them. Those are the same fluorescent tubes that provide light without any dazzling glare, and warm our hearts when they enable us to appreciate the work of artists and designers at work in their industrial workshops…
You therefore have to rack your brains for ideas for that perfect lamp! And for heaven's sake don't follow the crowd and buy one of those lamps from Mr and Mrs Average. Nowadays, there are plenty of craftsmen out there selling their work online at affordable prices, so be curious!
Photo credit : Louis Poulsen PH 3 ½ - 2 ½ lamp
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