Home Front: How the right light can change a room
Cate Burren of Cambridge's Angel and Blume Interior Design discusses the beauty and usefulness of lamps in our homes
I was completely seduced by a table lamp this week. It was displayed in the ‘new in’ section on one of my favourite lighting company’s websites and as soon as I saw its beautiful emerald green ribbed base and the wicker shade it was paired with, I knew without even considering where I would put it that I had to have both it and its shade. It arrived the next day (yes, really) and immediately made itself comfortable on a side table next to an armchair in the kitchen.
I am delighted with it, but much more than that, it has transformed the corner of the room. The pool of light it throws onto the table and chair really does change the feel of the whole kitchen and makes the chair more inviting to sit in, not to mention being able to actually see what you are reading, even if you are using a back lit device. I should be more embarrassed that I didn’t identify the need for a light there before, but I am so pleased with the result that I think we need say no more about that.
Lighting is one of the most powerful elements of an interior scheme and has the ability to completely alter the functionality and the feel of a space. When planning a lighting scheme, it is crucial to have a pretty good idea of how the space will be used because the best lighting lights things – artwork, furniture, decorative features, a dining table, a desk and so on – rather than just randomly providing light. That is why when you see a really well-lit space, there tends to be pools of light that draw your eye and provide contrast with other less-well-lit spaces.
If you are at the stage of planning your lighting scheme from scratch, you will have the luxury of using different types of light – ceiling lights, wall lights, concealed lighting and so on. But if you are not, lamps are your best friend because they can provide a lot of these effects if used cleverly.
Depending on the type of lamp you use, they can provide very focused light directed onto a piece of furniture or an accessory for example, but they can also provide quite widespread up-lighting if your room is lacking light higher up in a space. The height of the floor or table lamp makes a difference but more important is the direction that the lamp projects the light. You can get some lights that really do only throw the light upwards onto a ceiling, with very little light, if any, falling down onto the space below.
If you are planning a brand new lighting scheme, or willing to make adjustments to location of sockets in a room, think about where you would want your lamps in relation to furniture you have and allow for sockets accordingly. Better still, think about installing a 5 amp lamp circuit which all your lamps can be plugged in to, allowing you to control them from one (dimmable) switch on the wall.
If you have a particularly big room, you might also want to think about floor sockets so that you can place a lamp next to a chair or sofa without having a wire trailing across the floor from the wall. (A word to the wise here, just to avoid confusion with your contractor: when you discuss lamps with your electrician, (s)he will assume you are talking about bulbs which they call lamps – bulbs apparently are for planting in the ground.)
The style of your lamp depends on your own interior taste and there are plenty to choose from. Not all your lamps need to make a statement; some of them can just provide light in the background, but some lamps are so beautiful that they are artwork pieces in themselves. Consider where you want to make a statement and where you just need light and pick your fittings accordingly.
As well as there being a huge selection of new lamps ranging from the very traditional to the ultra modern, there are also some fantastic antique lights available with iconic collector’s pieces being in very high demand. 1000 Lights published by Taschen is a great guide and contains something for every taste.
Some lamps are there just to bring joy. There is a lovely lamp originally from Porta Romana that has a highly feathered shade with a base made in the style of a long pair of bird's legs and webbed feet which really never fails to get a smile. It has been copied by others but not executed quite as well or humorously as this version.
It sounds a very obvious thing to say, but you need to see a lamp when it is lit, as well as when it is not, as they are often sold both online and in the flesh without the ability to see the lamp illuminated. A shade also makes a big difference to this effect – a colourful shade will affect the colour of the light that is emitted, as indeed a very dense shade will reduce the amount of light given off. My new wicker shade gives a lovely broken-up light, and from most angles you can see the bulb so an attractive bulb also had to be acquired.
The amount of light that you want in a room will change during the day, at dusk and at night so it is worth thinking this through when you are selecting the position and style of your lighting. During the day you may need no lights on, or just a couple to light darker spaces. You will probably want a few more lit when it is dusk or during the winter months of gloomy weather. At night, all lamps might be on, but it will depend on what you are using the room for at the time. Also, I am sad to say, having experienced this first hand, you do tend to want and need more light as you get older.
The number of lamps that you have in a room, and their positioning, will affect the amount of light in a room, but also the bulb that you use will too. Selecting a good bulb does make a difference and at the very least, think about the amount of light that a bulb emits and the colour of light (warm, cool, daylight etc.) when selecting your fitting.
The good news is that huge changes can be made to the feel of a room and the way that it works for you just by changing some light fittings. An overlit room is as bad as an underlit room, and a poorly thought-out arrangement of lamps and light fittings will also mean that you are not doing justice to your interior. I have quite literally had a light bulb moment this week and I can highly recommend it.
The brand new Boster light with wicker shade from pooky.com
An elegant tripod lamp from Chaplins is a stylish statement and provides useful task lighting
Read moreHomes and Gardens
More by this authorAlice Ryan