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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.