Yes, that 100W bulb hanging from the ceiling will illuminate a room, but it's not very versatile. Nor, perhaps more importantly, is it very flattering to you or any of your guests. Lighting can have a profound effect on our mood, so let's try making that effect a positive one, huh?
- Why to use lamps.
- Which lamps to get for a room.
- Controlling the light level.
- Arranging and setting up your lights.
First consider the lighting option below:
With the overhead lights the room would be bright and airy, and the eye could be drawn to the art on the wall. In the picture shown, a more seductive and intimate mood is created, with the focus being, ahem, lower down. One option is good for first thing in the morning when you're trying to wake up, designed to get you out of bed. The other has the opposite purpose.
The point is that different lighting effects have different functions and applying these carefully is as important as painting your walls the right colour. Some might even argue it's more important, since a white wall can be painted any colour with the right colour of light.
The first thing you need to do is get an alternative to the ceiling lamp. The two main rooms where you're likely to most need to be able to control the lighting are the living room (and, perhaps, dining room if it's separate to the living room) and the bedroom. Every bedroom should at least have bedside lamps; it's really a no-brainer this one. Living and dining rooms are better suited to something like a standard lamp, floor lamp, or floor-standing uplighter. Lighting purists may well argue with me here, but Ikea do a good selection of lamps inexpensively, so it would be a good place for you to start. Don't go crazy at first, just get some simple, clean, understated pieces that won't be a glaring mis-match with the rest of your decor, such as the perennial favourite, the NOT uplighter.
Now, while you're picking up your new lamps, you also need to get some dimmers. No-one wants to be blinded by the brightness of a lamp and different settings allow you to easily change the mood. Again, Ikea sell dimmers that can easily be fitted to any of their free-standing lamps. Of course, fitting a dimmer involves fiddling with wiring. On free-standing lamps it's only a little more complex than fitting a plug, so if you're capable of this basic task then you shouldn't have any trouble following the instructions for fitting the dimmer. If this is beyond you then it's about time you learned, for goodness sake man. Find a friend who owns screwdrivers and wire-strippers and get him or her to teach you how.
Fitting dimmers to wall-switches to control ceiling lights is a little more difficult. Personally, I took electronics at university and I know what I'm doing (and I have the tools to tell whether a wire is live or not). If you're in any doubt then contact someone experienced to help, or an electrician if you have no suitable friends. Please don't attempt this if you don't know what you're doing, since I'd rather none of you were electrocuted or burnt your houses down.
Now you need to try out different combinations of lighting to see what works. Is it too bright in a particular area? Would the lamps better illuminate your PhD certificate/original Picasso/Gutenberg bible if they were moved slightly? How would you set them if your parents visited? How about for a party? A romantic dinner? Tweak what you've got until you're happy.
You can, of course, get more lamps for more versatility, and don't be afraid of colour, though go easy on the red lights (lest your neighbours get the wrong idea) and try to avoid turning your home into Blackpool. In a later article I'll explain advanced effects lighting in more detail.