Interior Lighting Design 101

100% of my clients request guidance with lighting when we start on their project. It hadn’t occurred to me before I started working for myself that this was something people didn’t really know about.

Lighting is one of those things you definitely need to consider at the earliest stages of your design, this is because how you visualise the end result plays a vital role in what elements you actually see, and the ambience you create, but also because lighting control and automation and the technical requirements to fit specific types of lighting, need a lot of thought and design, “behind the scenes”.

So if you love DIY or want to give your home a lighting makeover here is the information you need to start:

Detail & Continuity

Think of each room separately but the whole house as a whole idea. For example, you know that you want a lit up wall behind the TV as a feature in the evening to create a mood in the living room, but if you walk out of the living room to the hall or into another room, how does that idea carry through? Perhaps just having the option of dimmers in the other rooms means that during the times where you like to have some mood, you have the choice to dim some of the other lights around the create an ambience in the entertaining areas of your home.

Wired Or Wireless Control

Most of the lighting you see is invisible, so consider how your lighting will function. I wish I could say that every electrician my clients have used got the lighting design right 100% of the time (first time). Currently, my stats are way below that. LED technology has changed a lot in the last few years and things like the specific type of drivers and or loadings can confuse the average sparky if they aren’t used to doing more than old-school wiring. Even the best electricians that I have worked with have gotten things terribly wrong and have had to come back to fix up the lighting on a job. This doesn’t really come down to complexity or your design either, it comes down to specific products and the availability of information to install the products correctly. If your electrician has priced your job on supply and installation, remind your electrician that it is his responsibility to purchase the correct drivers and pay for any work associated with re-doing parts of the project (including removing a whole ceiling and re-plastering once he has re-wired) and make sure you have that in your contract (especially for larger jobs). I’m talking 100% get something wrong…


Luminosity & Brightness

Understandably this is a little harder (only for now) as we change over from WATTS to Lumens. My rule of thumb, for now, is to stick with the WATTAGE for the old school Tungsten bulbs, mainly because we all understood the language of a 25 WATT and a 100 WATT bulb. So my rule of thumb with LED is that anything under 500 will be relatively dark and anything over 500 will give you the amount of light you were used to with anything above a 60WATT bulb and aim for over 1000 Lumens if you want something as bright as a 100WATT. (That is just my rule of thumb if that doesn’t make sense to you the helpful chart below from might be better for you):

And this helpful chart from

Size & Scale of Your Light Fitting & Lighting Direction / Effect

This is where newbies get it really wrong. Usually, the complexities of associating or imagining the scale and or space mean that things look wrong when they are installed or don’t look or work the way you had hoped. This is where good old-fashioned facts come in and they help you get it right every time. Just measure the space, measure the light fitting and understand how the light emits from a chosen fitting. A lampshade has different shapes and diffusers to soften and adjust the light, so play around with the specific effects and variations.

Bulb Type & Colour

There are lots of different light fittings and bulbs and the type you choose will depend not only on the application but also on the mood you wanted to create when you designed the space.

The height of your ceilings will affect how much light you see at the human level and different light types have different colours of light. I have had lighting manufacturers and even lighting designers change the lighting specification behind my back (or throw in another colour because they ran out of the one we needed on an order). Get your builder to check every single bulb and light fitting that you buy (especially if they are LED) and ensure they match your specification. You WILL notice that one light or two lights are different, if not straight away, further down the line when its too late to ask about it.

My rule of thumb for now is use a 3000Kelvin colour bulb for the most natural looking LED light. Its whiter than the yellow bulbs we were used to, but the colour rendering (the correctness of the colour you are seeing under the artificial light, is more accurate and less yellow) and we are starting to get used to the light not being so yellow these days (and even though I was hatin’ at first, I have smoothly transitioned into the less yellow world myself).