Lighting & Interior Design: A Beginner's Guide

Sight is our dominant sense and fundamental to our survival. As a species, we are also sensitive to the amount of light we get. Recent scientific studies have proven the impact of lighting on our health and mood. Lighting affects our perception of colours and textures, but more importantly, it is closely connected to our emotions. Primitively speaking, gloomy spaces make us uncomfortable. While well-lit spaces have the opposite effect and make us feel safer. In other words, lighting is more than just about illumination. Poor lighting can cause headaches, eyestrain, poor sleep and vision, as well as lower productivity. While it also contributes to a range of other health issues. What compounds this is how little light we get. Humans spend more time indoors than ever before. It is therefore important to choose the right lighting for your home. This post will describe the basic elements of lighting in interior design, and how it can be used to create desirable functional spaces.

It is easy to think of bulbs, switches and electricity when we first think about lighting. But it is much more. Lighting can instantly transform a space. It can mean the difference between functional and ambient. The difference between light and atmospheric, or calm and vibrant. There is however no light like natural light. It’s good for our health, wallet and the environment. Good architects and designers therefore rely on their understanding of natural light to enrich spaces. Luckily, compared to Victorian style homes in Europe, Australians don’t face as big a challenge utilising natural light. Some of the ways to make the most of natural light include (some of these steps will require the help of a professional):

Large Windows
Customers can often opt for minimal framing and larger glass areas when purchasing new windows. Windows in old buildings can sometimes be “expanded” to allow for more natural light.  

Colour Palette
Consider colours when choosing fixtures, fittings and paints. Some colours absorb light while others reflect it. Darker shades can therefore have a dull, cramped effect. While the correct use of colours or shinier paints can illuminate a room and give the illusion of space.

Skylights
Sometimes referred to as “rooflights”, skylights are essentially windows in the ceiling. This is an effective way to illuminate spaces that are “architecturally deprived” of light. Used tastefully, skylights can transform the look and feel of any space.

Flooring
Not often discussed when considering lighting, but polished flooring or ceramic finish can impact illumination. Lighter and brighter coloured floors and carpets are recommended when trying to utilise natural lighting.

Light Shelves
While windows are a big source of natural light, they can focus on a specific area rather than spreading the light. A light shelf solves this as well as reduce glare. They are simply horizontal shelf-life structures installed adjacent to the window. They cause light to bounce towards the ceiling, which then reflects it down to the living area.

Colour Temperature

You have probably heard of “Warm White”, “Cool White” or even “Lumens” when lighting is discussed. Advancement in technology, particularly the introduction of LED has meant a couple of new things to look for when choosing the right lighting for your home. Simply speaking, colour temperature refers to how “warm” or “cool” the light colour is. Or how yellow or white it is. Many of us may associate the “warm” yellow colour with the traditional incandescent bulbs. While the “Cool White” is often associated with fluorescent tubes. Colour Temperature is expressed in kelvins. The lower this number, the closer it is to the yellow colour. While a higher colour temperature means the emitted light is closer to the whiter colour.

Introduction of LED

The introduction of LED technology has meant two things. Firstly, wattage is no longer a good indication of a bulb’s brightness or “illuminance”. Secondly, there is a wider range of light colours that LEDs can emit. This means you have more choice when selecting the right lighting for your home, and greater control over the resulting effect or mood.

The Colour Temperature of the new bulb can be found on the label. The right colour temperature depends on the type of space you want to use it in. Lights in the 2700k-3000k range are best suited to living areas, providing a warm cosy atmosphere. 4700k bulbs are generally recommended for spaces like kitchens and garages, providing a more vibrant energetic feel. Bulbs of 5000k and higher are usually used in commercial spaces, and those where adequate lighting and contrast is important. This includes study rooms and other areas where illumination of details is important.

Lumens is another useful term when choosing the right lighting for your home. Simply speaking, this refers to the brightness of the light. So while we use wattage to express the amount of energy used, lumens refers to the overall light output of a bulb. Packaging labels of new bulbs include its corresponding lumens.

If you haven’t thought much about the lighting in your home before, it is useful to know that big sweeping changes aren’t always necessary. Good lighting addresses the specific needs of each space. So starting with a floor plan of your home and considering the functionality of each room is a great approach. The kitchen for example will have different lighting needs compared to the living room. 

Layering

Layering in Interior Design refers to the coming together of different colours, materials and textures to achieve a certain style. Layering can also be applied to lighting to create the right atmosphere. Simply speaking, layering is combining different light sources to achieve the right look and feel. Before considering the type of globes or lamps to purchase, it is useful to categorise lighting based on their functionality. Designers often refer to three types of lighting when discussing layering:

Ambient Lighting
This refers to the primary lighting in a room, and a foundation for the other types of lights. While it isn’t necessarily a single source of light, it can dictate the overall lighting plan for a space. Natural light, central ceiling lights including downlights can form the ambient lighting of a space.  The LED a-globes used by YESS are suited to general ambient lighting:

save on energy costs

Emerald Planet LED a-globes

  • High efficacy 133-139lm/W
  • High power factor
  • Shadow-free frosted diffuser
  • Traditional globe aesthetics
  • Broad 160° beam angle

Accent Lighting
This type of lighting is used for decorative purposes designed to highlight a feature like a fireplace or painting. While ambient lighting illuminates the whole room, accent lighting can mark the specific areas you want to draw attention to. Chandeliers are a common source of accent lighting. YESS offer customers energy efficient LED candlestick globes suited to accent lighting and chandeliers:

Emerald Planet Candle Series

  • High efficacy 136lm/W
  • High power factor
  • Shadow-free frosted diffuser
  • Traditional globe aesthetics
  • Broad 160° beam angle.
  • Dimmable with trailing edge and leading edge dimmers
  • 5W available in Candle (dimmable)
FREE energy efficient globes

Task Lighting
This refers to the practical lighting in areas where you perform activities needing attention to detail. This includes desk lamps for your bedroom allowing you to read, or pendant lights illuminating areas used for cooking.

So taking the above three types of lighting into consideration is a good place to start when upgrading the lighting in your home. The idea is to tastefully and functionally mix and match different light sources to create the overall effect you desire.

Summary

As a species, we spend more time indoors than ever before and it is affecting our health. It is therefore important to choose right lighting for your home. While there is no light like natural light, advances in lighting technology has meant greater choice and control. Lighting can therefore be used as a tool to bring a room to life or create a serene calming mood. It can be used to create a restful, calming atmosphere in the bedroom, or a vibrant energetic feel in the living room. Good lighting also addresses the specific needs of each space. Layering is a technique used to achieve all of this and you can utilise it to upgrade the lighting in your home.

References:

Fact Sheet: a consumer’s guide to buying quality LEDs – Australian Government

Lighting – Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources

Updated on 6 March, 2020

Related Articles

The Victorian Government has been encouraging Victorians to reduce their energy bills and greenhouse gas emissions. This has come in the form of a state-wide initiative called the Victorian Energy Upgrade Program (VEU). Find out if your home is eligible for FREE or discounted energy saving products. Read More

You may have heard about FREE or subsidised energy saving products for your home. YESS has helped more than 80,000 SA homes save on energy costs. Find out if your home is eligible for FREE LED globes, water efficient showers heads or Standby Power Controllers! Read More