The 3 Deadly Sins of Interior Lighting

Photo by Etienne Girardet on Unsplash

I cannot overstate just how important lighting is to achieve a designer interior look. Lighting changes the way we perceive space, how we feel within it, and it changes how colours appear and interact. Lighting doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive but it’s very important it doesn’t become an afterthought in your design. Here are my three top errors Sins that I see people making regularly.

1. Mixing Colour Temperatures

Nothing says I haven’t given a single thought to my lighting more than mixing lighting colour temperatures in a space. It is the greatest of the lighting sins, it is also the least excusable because all you have to do is make sure you match your Kelvins. Lighting colour temperature (how “warm/yellow” or “cool/blue” the light is) is measured in Kelvins (k). For residential settings, I always aim for 3000k. You might go to 4000k in a bathroom or even 5000k in a garage workshop but you should never mix colour temperatures in the same space. If I can see two lighting sources from where I’m standing that don’t match then you have committed a lighting sin.

The solution: read the specifications on the lights, bulbs or fittings before you purchase. If a light bulb or fixture only specifies “warm white”, “cool white” or some variation on that, chances are that it’s a lower quality fitting and you might have some variations in temperature. For example, a “warm white” could be anything from 2700-3200k. Instead of risking it try and choose lights that give you an exact Kelvin rating.

2. Relying on "the big light"

Picture it; you come home after dark, it’s pitch black, you put your key in the front door and you’re stumbling for a light switch. What’s the first thing you turn on? The ceiling light (aka the “Big light”)? Ok well, I can forgive you when you’re desperate for some light, however, what I can’t forgive is someone who settles down to watch an episode of Jeopardy! with the big ceiling light on as the single source of illumination in their space. That might sound harsh but Mariah Carey knows the secret, I know the secret and you too can know the secret; overhead lighting is uncomfortable and unflattering. It creates a flat and hard light that covers the room indiscriminately and keeps you on alert. It doesn’t allow you to relax and it doesn’t contribute to a soothing or elevated atmosphere. Don’t believe me? Try it for yourself; watch some TV with your ceiling lights going full tilt for a while, then try it with just a lamp or two or even some candles and see which feels cosier and more intimate.

The solution: use multiple sources of lighting and light what you need to light. For living spaces and bedrooms introduce lamps or indirect lighting (LED strips can be a great solution). Even in bathrooms and home offices use other sources of lighting that aren’t directly over your head and WHAM! your space is now elevated and well designed. 

3. Not layering types of lights

This point flows on from sin number 2. If you are relying on just one type of light then you’re not building and creating dimension in your space. There are four types of lighting;

  1. General/ambient Lighting (the big light)
  2. Task lighting (a desk lamp)
  3. Accent lighting (a spotlight on a piece of art)
  4. Joy light (a light that is just there for the joy it brings)

Let’s take a kitchen for example; a non-elevated design would have just a single oyster style or (heaven help me) fluro batten in the middle of the space. Does it get the job done, yeah sure, why not, you can see the spaghetti boiling but it doesn’t feel like it’s been given more than a 10-second thought by a builder who really wants to get to the pub. Instead, let’s apply those four types of lighting to your kitchen.

  1. General Light – slimline timber-clad light bar pendant over your island to help you see the countertop. This could also be your undercabinet lights.
  2. Task Light – automatic lighting that turns on when you open your pantry to help you find what you need in there.
  3. Accent Light – this could be kick lighting under your lower cabinets, indirect light behind an island or even backlit stone.
  4. Joy Light – could be as simple as your favourite candle that you have burning as you fold in the cheese. Or maybe you have a quirky lamp that makes you smile in a focal point with a cookbook for decoration. 
Flat vs layered

All silliness and loving jibes aside; lighting that is considered will take your home to new heights, no questions about it. Lighting also doesn’t have to be an exorbitant investment there are no many affordable ways to achieve a designer look on almost any budget. All it takes is a little bit of planning and forethought. Using a designer to help you create a lighting plan can be a very sound investment to ensure you it right the first time (wink wink, nudge nudge).

Shine bright and turn OFF THE DAMN BIG LIGHT