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17 September 2014
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Laurence Llewellyn Bowen

Laurence Llewelyn Bowen's lighting tips

Before designing a room, you need to consider two types of lighting: natural and electric. Make the right choice and you can turn a dull, soulless room into a vibrant space.

Natural light

To maximise natural light:

  • Let light come through windows without interruptions. Remove secondary glazing, which absorbs light, and objects from window sills. Replace heavy curtains with blinds or muslin drapes.
  • Mirrors amplify light. Place a large mirror opposite the window to reflect light around the room.
  • Choose light and bright paint colours. Shades such as pale green, blue and lilac will make a room look larger whereas red, orange, brown and black absorb will light and make it look smaller and darker. As a rule of thumb, the lighter the paint - the closer to white - the more reflective it is.
  • Colours that work well in bright, hot climates such as Italy look different in grey British daylight. Terracotta, for example, looks much duller.
  • Your choice of flooring will affect how light a room is. Carpets are soft, absorbent and hold the light whereas floorboards with a high-gloss finish reflect it around the room.
  • Keep small, dark rooms bright and fresh, with as little pattern as possible. This will make the space look larger and lighter.

Electric light

You can never light a room as efficiently as the sun so think of electric light as atmospheric background - it can create a cosy environment or a really dramatic one.

  • Choose something more versatile than a single bulb hanging from the centre of the ceiling. Use directional lights on a track, which can be used to highlight your favourite painting or mirror.
  • Layer the lighting throughout the room so you have the right kind for your different needs, such as ceiling lights, table lamps and uplighters.
  • Put a floor socket in the middle of the room, so you don't have trailing leads across the floor.
  • Highlight architectural features, such as ceiling coving, with uplighters.
  • Each lighting type should be controlled separately to prevent the room from looking like Blackpool illuminations.

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