The IrishTimes , Properity Section , Thu September 11.2014

How to choose . . . Lighting

Tips on a lighting strategy for your home.

Ultimately, lighting is about controlling and shaping light and shadows, reflections, refraction’s, and even colour, to supply light where it is needed in an appropriate amount and quality. The lighting should meet the needs of the occupant and highlight the form and shape of the space, using an effective, energy efficient and sustainable approach.

To start by identifying the use of each space, this should be done using the floor plan and elevations and not a ceiling plan. Highlight any physical challenges, opportunities, specific requirements on the features within the space, and matching the light fitting to the space and its function. All this will be driven by the occupants, the budget, the efficiency level desired, any controls or AV and integrating the maximum amount of daylight where necessary.

Some spaces are appropriately lit with no more than a general wash of light for circulation and visibility, like utility rooms, garages and storage spaces. In other instances a task / ambient / accent  approach provides a livelier visual atmosphere where ample light is needed for tasking, accent highlights and identifies specifics which can create sparkle and drama.
Task lighting helps you perform specific tasks, such as reading, grooming, preparing and cooking food, doing homework, working on hobbies, playing games and balancing your check book. It can be provided by recessed and track lighting, pendant lighting and under cabinet lighting, as well as by portable floor and table lamps. Task lighting should be free of distracting glare and shadows and should be bright enough to prevent eye strain.

Ambient lighting provides an area with overall illumination. Also known as general lighting, it radiates a comfortable level of brightness without glare and allows you to see and walk about safely. In some spaces such as laundry rooms, the ambient lighting also serves as the primary source of task lighting. It can be accomplished with chandeliers, ceiling or wall-mounted fittings, recessed or track lights and with lanterns mounted on the outside of the house. Some would say having a central source of ambient light in all rooms is fundamental to a good lighting plan, but I don’t always agree with this.

Accent lighting adds drama to a room by creating visual interest. As part of an interior design scheme, it is used to draw the eye to houseplants, paintings, sculptures and other items of interest. It can also be used to highlight the texture of a brick or stone wall, window treatments or outdoor landscaping. To be effective, accent lighting requires as least three times as much light on the focal point as the general lighting surrounding it. Accent lighting is usually provided by recessed and track lighting or wall-mounted picture lights.

In general for any space you sit in for any length of time should have the combination of all three.


Selecting the right light fitting type needs to meet the requirements of the situation, delivers the correct beam angle, colour of white light (colour temperature), ease of use and appearance. Identifying weather the fittings needs to be fixed, adjustable or portable and is it correct for a task / ambient /accent instance. There is the need to identify what the lamp (bulb) is best suited to that instance, LED, Fluorescent, Compact fluorescent or low voltage.

Selecting the best location to achieve the best out come for the fitting is essential, Recessed, ceiling suspension, floor, table, wall or picture.


  • The use of recessed spot lights should be minimised for their designed use, to high light an object or specific space. The location of a recessed spot to wash a painting on a wall for a given aiming angle is dependent on the ceiling height and the distance from the wall. However a rough rule of tom for a standard ceiling is 400mm off the wall.
  • Ceiling lights, weather flush or suspended can have a number of specification requitements. The fitting needs to provide the correct illumination, very functional. The fitting needs to have a wow factor and there are other light sources in the space to compliment the light levels.
  • Floor lights could be one of two types, in-ground up-lights or standard floor lights. The use of in-ground floor lights can be great for creating interesting siluate in hall ways, arch ways etc. The added bonus is you end up bouncing the light off the ceilings. And the standard floor light is an essential light source for the mix in living spaces. And now there are many designed to be used in the garden which is fun. This would apply to table lights also, which in a living room environment should be switched through a 5amp socket circuit.
  • Wall and Picture lights can be used as a Ambient and Accent source, giving another possible combination within a space to allow various combinations of light to create different moods.



A decision needs to be made on control, switching or dimming, automatic, manual or programmable. This decision will be driven by the use of the space and the budget.

You should allow for the possibility of dimming for all lighting in the areas where you will spend any length of relaxing time, or where you are using accent lighting .

The concept of programmable lighting is great where you might suffer from switch acne, (too many dimmers on the wall), but sometimes for the whole house it becomes an investment. There are systems suitable for single room control which are affordable.

Automated control is very handy for spaces which have no daylight, and for externals it is really practical and inviting if you can control ambient light and not flood lighting when you enter the driveway.

Landscaping lighting in Ireland should be decided primarily on what you see from inside the house. Landscape lighting is a great tool to reduce reflection and the cold radiance you get from a glass wall, your eye is brought through the glass and beyond the reflection. Best to concentrating the light on a small number of quality feathers, light them well and enjoy the night. A hanging pendant in the tree can give great mood lighting and interest when the wind blows.


Be aware with your building design to maximise daylight and reduce the use of artificial light during the day. Daylight is the best source of light and in your design always try to situate your living spaces in the brightest rooms.

Reducing glare reduces discomfort and small changes can make big differences, like siting the light fittings close to the wall and not symmetrical, having a wacky fitting in a small loo, using low levels of light in short corridors, highlight contrast and remember a shadow is free, (a friend told me that).


Try and plan your lighting to be a material you build with and not an application afterwards.

Without light it is all.









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