Lighting is such a vast and diverse subject. When considering your lighting scheme you should think of ‘layers’ – high level, mid level and low level.

Each of these layers play a part in the use and function of a room and each layer has its own type of lights and fittings.

High level can also be considered as architectural lighting... down lighters, spot lights (either surface mounted or recessed), track lighting or stretch wire systems. High level lighting is built into the fabric of the building or space and is usually subtle and unseen. One of the most popular high level lights for domestic interiors are pendant lights: those long dangly ones that often sit above a table or worktop or in the centre of the room. These lights are brilliant for task specific lighting where light is directed onto a worktop.

Where general ambient lighting is required larger fittings such as chandeliers will give a more even spread of light. Pendant lights can also be focal points in rooms. This light by Sharon Marston Lighting is a beautiful example.

Left: Feature light from Sharon Marston
Right: Ceiling spots washing the wall with light

Mid level is decorative lighting: wall-mounted uplighting and downlighting, pendants (again), and table lamps. This lighting is meant to be seen and should enhance a room. There is also scene lighting which can be a combination of architectural and decorative – concealed lighting on shelves, behind glass, edge on to glass shelves, linear lighting sources such as LED light stripes. Slot and niche lighting gives pools of light in small spaces good for focal points at eye level.

To provide ambient light there are many different styles of table lamps: classic, contemporary, traditional, desk lamp. They are an excellent source of warm light and are usually positioned in your line of sight to make a big visual impact. It’s worth considering both the light source and how much ambient light (through the shade sideways) as well as direct light (up and down) it sheds. The different style and types of shade will affect this. Card shades direct the light more up and down than a silk shade which will have more ambient light.

Task lighting is mid level lighting and is important in any well designed room. A light positioned well for the purpose for which it is required is essential to provide specific and sufficient light to work/read/apply makeup, etc.

Wall lights and picture lights should be considered as part of mid level ambient lighting and are usually selected to match the style of the room. If you are thinking of your lighting in layers – then this layer is the most important. Table lamps and wall lights give atmosphere and essential warm light to a room.

Left: Decorative wall lights
Right: Picture light

Low level – usually set into the skirting, lower wall or into the floor. This architectural style lighting is usually used to draw the eye further into the space and is normally used in halls and stairways but can also be used to good effect around the base of kitchen units and built-in libraries. This lighting often highlights architectural features. There are many other details to consider in any lighting scheme. The colour tone of the bulbs you use: the options are infinite – colour changing LED’s, warm/cold tone fluorescents, tungsten replacement bulbs. These bulbs have a colour rendering index (CRI) which affects how you perceive colours in the room. Some of these new bulbs are better than others for dimming. The new Part L Building Regulations relating to the installation of new light fittings in a home - 75% of which should be energy efficient -should also be borne in mind when choosing and selecting fittings.

A well executed lighting scheme can bring warmth, interest and drama to a very ordinary room.

Left: Low lights washing the wall with light to emphasize the height of the space
Right: Stair detail to highlight the width of the steps.