Lighting design is one of the secrets of the success of the very best homes — but professional lighting designers can be expensive and those tied to lighting suppliers, of course, tend to recommend their products. A good lighting design should not be beyond the capabilities of an experienced electrician and homeowner working together — but be careful.

The most common mistake is to puncture the ceiling with too many downlights — for an average-size room (4m x 4m) six downlighters is adequate. More than 10 can be excessive and not energy-efficient. I have seen obscene amounts of downlights in kitchens, living rooms and bedrooms. It’s tempting at the lighting design stage to overcompensate and worry about the lack of working light, particularly in kitchens.

I design the layout of downlights in a room to give a maximum flood of light to cover the floor area. Let’s look at a bedroom of 4x3m. I see amateur lighting designers measure the room and put the lights equally spaced apart, but they do not take into account that the line of lights look better closer to the wall. For instance, I tend to measure approximately 700mm to 800mm out from the wall for my first line of lights and measure the same for the other side of lights. In kitchens and bathrooms another good option now is to use LED strip lighting under cupboards, above cupboards and along the plinths or mirrors.

Taking into account objects that might take up space in the room, such as fitted wardrobes or cabinets, you don’t really want lights above them, but you may want them close so it sheds some light inside the wardrobe when you open it.

Good places to use downlights are in bathrooms, toilets and kitchens. They give a look of a flat ceiling and good spread of ‘work’ light.

If you’re thinking of adding 5-amp sockets so you can plug in table lamps, I would place them in corners of the room and next to the bed in bedrooms. I would also have them switched from the wall switch via a dimmer — that way you get full control.


Most conventional dimmer switches have maximum loads of 250W-400W (check the data of the switch) and this is for halogen/resistive bulbs. For example, let’s use a 400W dimmer with 50W GU10 bulbs. That means we can only use a maximum of eight 50W halogen GU10 bulbs. Be aware that if you want to dim any more than eight lights you will need two dimmers.

With LED bulbs/lights you need to know what bulbs you are using. Not all dimmer switches work well with dimming LED bulbs and LED light fittings. Again, you really need to stick to the rule — eight LED bulbs to a dimmer. If you are using LED bulbs with a home automation system, then this will differ and you will need to speak to the home automation designer.

‘White’ Lamps

As with paint, ‘white’ is a broad spectrum.

  • Warm white has an orange/yellow tinge and is not too harsh on the eye — it gives off a warm feeling. Best used in living rooms and bedrooms.
  • Cool white has a blue tinge and is quite harsh on the eye, it gives a cold feeling. Best used in white contemporary kitchens.
  • Natural white is somewhere between warm white and cool white but is also a ‘cold’ feeling light.

Our Sponsors