The Importance of Good Lighting

The Importance of Good Lighting

The Importance of Good Lighting

As the days get shorter and the nights draw in we start to ask ourselves how important good lighting really is for our eyes. So we went to an expert on lighting & all things interior design, Kate Watson-Smyth @mad_about_the_house to give us the low down on lighting.

These days we are all aware of the role good lighting plays in our homes as a way  of decorating the rooms and showing off artwork and objects, but it’s important to remember its primary function as a tool to help us see properly without straining our eyes.As a general rule all rooms should have layers of lights – this means that you should include overhead, floor and task lamps. Wall lights are good for highlighting pictures or creating an ambience by washing light gently up and down the walls but aren’t essential. Dimmer switches, however, are.
But lighting a room doesn’t end there. If you wear glasses – and even if you don’t – you need to make sure that your lighting scheme is fit for purpose. So here is a guide to lighting your home for both practical and decorative purposes.

THE SITTING ROOM
Don’t have spotlights in this room, they will kill the atmosphere. Instead make sure you have a mix of lights on different circuits so you can easily control how you want the room to look.
That way you can flick the pendant on if it’s a dark day and you want to see who you are chatting to, but stick to wall and table lamps if it’s film night. Think of a pendant light as the earrings on an outfit and make sure it looks as pretty when it’s switched off as well as on.
You can keep the general lighting low as long as you make sure that what you want to read, knit or sew is well lit. This means a table lamp by the chair or a floor lamp at the end of the sofa. The light itself can be dim if it’s close to the book you are looking at.
Don’t panic that you must have a super bright 100W bulb but just ensure that a 30W is quite close to what you are doing.
Angled lamps are excellent for this and remember a dark shade will focus the light directly up and down while a pale one will diffuse it gently all round.
THE KITCHEN
This is the one room (along with the bathroom) where spotlights in the ceiling are acceptable as they are mainly there to help you do a job.
You absolutely don’t need them in a grid formation on the ceiling. They should be lighting the places were lighting is needed rather than looking symmetrical. If properly installed you shouldn’t even notice the lights but merely the illumination they provide.
Try to buy spotlights with the bulb recessed back into the ceiling as this will reduce the harsh light from the bulb – which you get if the bulb is flush with the ceiling – and reflect a more gentle light back out.
Position them over the centre of the worktop so you can see what you are doing without creating a shadow.
For more atmosphere consider using LED tape along the back of shelves to create a softer, more ambient light which is especially useful if you have an eat-in kitchen.
If you have space for a table lamp or wall lights near the eating area this is also prettier than spotlights glaring down over the table and since, at this point, you are mostly eating and chatting, a low light is more atmospheric.
THE OFFICE
Lighting is obviously important in every room but perhaps even more so in the home office where you have the glare from the computer screen to contend with as well. If you need glasses then put them on. If you’re not sure about your prescription then get it checked, because wearing the wrong glasses can lead to eye strain, headaches and visual fatigue. An anti-reflective coating also helps to reduce reflections.
Finally when you are sitting at the computer you need to ensure that you are about an arm’s length away from the top of the screen and that it is positioned so you are always looking downwards. Keep the brightness similar to your surroundings to minimise strain.
Now that we have dealt with the health of your eye, we can focus on the décor. Obviously angled task lights are best for this room and, as with the living room, make sure they are shining on what you are doing even if the rest of the room is plunged into a Dickensian type gloom.
If your desk lights are correct then overheads are optional as it’s supposed to be about work not play in here.
Photography by Megan Taylor
Words by Kate Watson-Smyth