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Lighting – The Unsung Hero – Apr2016

Lighting - The Unsung Hero - Apr2016

Some things you need to know about illuminating your home.

Lighting, that unsung hero of interior design, can make or break a room. It can turn a dull room into something vibrant and bright, or make it soothing and serene.

We humans are drawn to light and with good reason – it’s really healthy, it allows us to see, and we can’t actually survive without it. Our moods are improved in lighter environments, and conversely we can become depressed in dark ones. In fact, the incidence of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is much higher in Sweden than in South America.

Although proper lighting can be a challenge to achieve, it’s not impossible if you follow some basic design rules. There are two fundamental ways to increase light in your home: make the most of the daylight you have, or add electric light.

Keep window coverings to a minimum to let in natural light.


To maximize the natural light coming through the windows, keep window coverings to a minimum. Replace heavy curtains with blinds or muslin drapes. For bedrooms, you can add blackout curtains behind your drapes.

A big mirror opposite a window helps direct light inside and bounce it around.

Choose light coloured artwork and pieces that make a study of light. It’s almost like having a window to the outdoors.

Choose artwork that plays with light.

Skylights are a great way to bring light into a room, but the light tends to be hard and concentrated and can leave corners dark. What you want is to diffuse that light, either by using blinds or growing large green plants around the perimeter to filter the light.

South facing rooms give the best light, but it’s quite a different quality in Toronto than in the Mediterranean, which is why you have to be careful with paint colours – a lush red in Rio will become muddy in Toronto’s grey winter light. Some colours, like red, orange and brown, are not as good with daylight because they hold colour in and don’t reflect it back into the room. Pale blue, lavender or green, on the other hand, amplifies the light.

Blue walls actually amplify light.

Flooring affects light; carpets absorb light, just like they do sound, while semi-gloss hardwood floors reflect light.


In rooms without a lot of natural light – and even in ones that do – you need a little artificial help. Not only do lamps provide light, they create atmosphere, too, as long as you use the principle of layering. The first layer is general lighting, often one source in the centre of the room. If possible, have the central light on a dimmer so you can reduce its strength.

The second layer, accent lighting, creates pools of light via picture lights, table lamps and candles. The third layer is task lighting, such as a lamp by the chair specifically for reading.

It helps to create a lighting plan by first determining the room’s purpose and use, what’s on display and what tasks will be conducted there.

Sklights can be harsh so it is best to include blinds.

The type of bulb you choose — warm or cool — affects the atmosphere of a room. Low voltage pot lights, for example, give clean working light and they mimic daylight. Warm lights are more inviting and work in a dining or living room.

Consider up-lights to showcase architectural details like cove ceilings, or arches, or detailed bookshelves.

Table lamps on the perimeter of the room will direct light in and make the room feel cosy. Small rooms can appear larger if the wall is washed with light. If you create more light at one end of the room, the room will seem longer. Firelight and candles make a room romantic.

Bedroom lighting is best kept soft and subdued; table lamps on the night tables allow one person to read while the other is sleeping. Choose a shade that’s white inside and a warmer colour outside so you get warm light tones. Don’t use candles in the bedroom in case you fall asleep while they’re burning.

In the kitchen, you want light to be as close to daylight as possible in order to see. If you don’t have enough light, check out clip lights, which are inexpensive and easy to move around. Mini fluorescents can be easily mounted under the cabinets and are a good extra source of task light.

In the bathroom, install a dimmer if possible – you want enough light for shaving and putting on makeup, but not so much that you scare yourself in the middle of the night.

Lisa Rogers is the exclusive interior designer for Dunpar Homes ( Lisa has shared her style and design expertise on popular television programs, such as Canadian Living TV, House & Home TV and The Shopping Channel. Lisa is one of the most familiar faces on CityTV’s Cityline as a regular guest expert for fashion and image, health and wellness and interior design.