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How to hang a pendant light

Heli Annola

Don't hang your pendant light too high in a dining room. Mock up a table before you hang it - even if you just bring a fold-up table and chair - place them in the correct position and sit in place at the table. You want the light to be as low as possible without it obstructing your view.

A good guide is to have the bottom of the pendant no lower than eye level. But if it's a large drum shade, a little bit higher is best as it can be quite obstructing. 

Planning Lighting Scheme

Heli Annola

A successful, innovative lighting scheme can bring a house to life. It will enhance the space, provide a sense of drama and create pools of focus around furniture, architectural features and walls and floors. Too often lighting comes bottom of the list when it comes to designing a house. IT is only when the decoration of a room is almost finished that it becomes obvious that the lights are not in the right place - whether for reading, lighting a painting or showing off the internal architecture. The ideal time to plan a lighting scheme is right at the start of a home-renovation scheme or new build. It is vital that your lighting design should be considered at the earliest stages, around the same time as the plumbing.

For this reason, before you begin to plan the lighting, it is essential that you make decisions about the layout of furniture and pictures. Sometimes there is more than one possible furniture arrangement; in which case, they key is to design the lighting to suit different configurations. This may mean only that a couple of extra sockets or supplies for picture lights are needed, but it is better and less expensive in the long run to provide for this early on than trying to put it right once the scheme is complete. A few spare supplies in the ceiling, for example, adds hardly anything to the cost, but allows greater flexibility for the location of a table. Always provide enough sockets in the corners of living rooms, because additional lighting is very often required in the centre of the room; these can be recessed in the floor and hidden underneath sofas or other pieces of furniture.

When planning a lighting scheme, it is invaluable to have an appreciation of what be achieved with light through careful direction and control, together with a considered balance of different light sources used at various intensities for maximum flexibility. All of these elements come into play when creating a variety of effects.

Variety is important for creating interest, so try to employ several lighting effects, just as you would when choosing a mix of textures and colours for a decoration scheme. Mix uplights with downlights for task, background and accent lighting, then connect them to different circuits to allow for changes in mood. In living room it is more useful to create background and task lighting with freestanding lamps. The creative possibilities are endless, using frontlighting or backlighting, downlighting, pendant lighting, or edge-lighting. Introduce drama by highlighting a room's architectural features, such as a large open fireplace, an arched doorway or a column.

Lighting a less-obvious space can add unexpected drama. If you light a half-landing leading off an entrance hall, for example, your eye will be drawn to the brightest point, creating a sense of flow between the areas and increasing the feeling of space. In the same way, if the garden or space beyond window is lit, the external lighting will draw the eye outside, effectively making it feel like an extension of the interior. This also prevents the window from acting like a mirror at night and reflecting everything in the room.

Pendant lights

Heli Annola

In the past, a central pendant light was often the only source of lighting within a room, but it is now widely acknowledged that the quality of light from a single source is insufficient and results in an all-over general light that is flat and uninteresting. In addition, light from a single central source can also be glaring, leaving everything it does not reach in darkness. This means that too much work is done by one light source alone.

Modern pendant lights are rarely the only light source in a room and come in any number of guises in metal, wood, plastic, paper or fabric. Much like a chandelier, a statement pendant not only contributes to the build-up of lighting effects within a room, but also plays an important part in creating the mood of the interior - it is part of the decoration and reinforces the look of the room. Often, while the same discreet lighting effects can be applied to any style of interior, it is the choice of decorative light that sets the mood and tone. For example, by whatever means the general light is produced in a room, the addition of a modern or industrial pendant light will create a completely different feel to that of the same interior with a traditional chandelier. A pendant light creates a statement, so it often gives the impression that it is doing all the work - yet it is the architectural or concealed solutions that are producing the general light.

While a pendant light can literally be the decorative centrepiece in a room, these days it is not limited to being used in this way. It can be dramatically suspended in a corner or dropped low over a table or kitchen island to provide task lighting. Pendant lights can also replace conventional bedside lamps or wall lights, with the light source suspended low down, at the level of a table lamp, thereby freeing up space on the bedside table. Or using other decorative objects such as a ladder next to a bed - see the VALO industrial wire cage pendant light as an example.

The key with any decorative lighting is to know at the planning stage what the light source is. If it is a bare light source, it will need to be dimmable so as not to create glare and distract from the fitting itself (remember, the eye is always drawn to the brightest point). A light source with a soft shade, however, will need to be dimmed less. Many interesting pendant lights have been created by the play of light diffusing through material. If the shade is dark, light is directed almost entirely up and down, but if the shade is diffuse, like a parchment shade, it may show the pattern of the fabric or provide a soft outward light. If more than one type of decorative light is used in the same space, particularly if one has a bare light source and the other does not, then they should be wired on separate circuits and controlled separately. The light produced by a glass chandelier or lantern that will need to be dimmed will be very different compared with a shaded pendant light that gives off a flow of light similar to a table lamp.

Bedroom lighting

Heli Annola

The aim in a bedroom is to achieve a soft background light without glare. In rooms that are large enough to accommodate freestanding furniture, this practical general lighting is often best provided by lamps, and these would always be controlled separately from the bedside lights. Where space is limited an in contemporary interiors, an upligthing solution can be appropriate on one side of the room, perhaps creating a cove. If there are wardrobes, their doors can be wall-washed with recessed downlights. Sometimes low-glare downlights can be used to highlight an extravagant headboard, creating focus in the room. This can work well, but remember to control these on a separate switch so they can be turned off at bedtime to avoid direct glare.

Taking inspiration from five-star hotels, additional low-level light can be introduced in a bedroom, such as recessed floor washers by the entrance to the bathroom or under a bedside table. The wardrobe or the bed itself can have a ropelight below it, to create a floating effect. This type of light is especially effective as a nightlight.

Bedroom task lighting is usually associated with reading in bed. If this is to be achieved with a table lamp or wall light, the bottom of the shade needs to be about shoulder height to provide a spread of light over the page. Any lower and the light will be cast too low; too high and you will get glare from the bulb. A swing-arm wall light follows similar rules in positioning, but can be a more practical option as it can be adjusted as required.

The other form of bedside light that has become fashionable, particularly when used in a restricted area as it avoids the clutter of a lamp on the bedside table, is the pendant light, like this industrial wire cage light by VALO. It is usually more of a decorative effect than an adequate reading light.

Understanding interior lighting

Heli Annola

Lighting is one of the most difficult design concepts to understand. Light is all around us, but we cannot touch or feel it, and yet it is responsible for all that we see; without light we perceive nothing. Interior designers use colour swatches or samples to demonstrate a creative effect and to help make decisions, but it is difficult to prepare a sample board of "lighting effects". The way light is used will, in fact, change the way that we see everything.

The potential of light has long been exploited in the theatre where the powerful combinations of light and shade, tone and colour, are used to create the mood for each set and direct our focus toward important characters or objects around the stage. There is no reason why domestic lighting should not create the same powerful effects as in artistic disciplines.

Light and shade

Good lighting stems from an understanding of the balance between light and shade. In simple terms, lighting is the presentation of space. If used skilfully, it provides the final invisible touches to your design. Artificial light thrown onto the surface of a room from different heights and angles will change its apparent dimensions. It can emphasize height, structure, and materials, and become almost an architectural element itself.

Whether your interior is traditional or contemporary, the lighting will set the mood. For many people, the traditional central pendant light is the main source of light - lighting in all directions but with little focus or direction. This kind of lighting is unexciting and rarely fulfils a room's potential; combined with table lamps and light sources, however, it can be effective.

Light can be manipulated to dim, brighten, obscure, and highlight, and to create plays of shadow and colour; it can transform the atmosphere of a the room just as theatrical lighting transforms a scene. This is the great advantage of lighting over all other design aspects. Good lighting design means flexibility; it enables a family kitchen used for the preparation of food, for example, to be transformed at the flick of a switch from a bright, functional space into an ultimate dining area for a party.