Lighting Design Tips

Lighting Design Tips

Lighting design is a very complex topic, so here we provide some lighting design tips to provide you with ideas when planning your lighting design. There are so many things to think about, so if you have some questions to ask yourself when planning, it will provide you with the confidence to make decisions.

General considerations when selecting interior lighting for new or existing spaces.

Light in the room needs contrast and/or shadow. If the light source is too even then it will become bland and give little stimulation which leads to a boring and depressed feeling in the room (note this should not be confused with an office or studio or classroom which may require a bright overall ambient light for concentrated work).

Consider texture in the light effect. A strong direct light onto a heavily textured fabric or wall of stone or grooved timber will flatten it, so what is the point in having the texture.

This tip relates directly to features. Features usually have to be given special treatment concerning lighting to bring out the best in the feature and to help others notice it in the overall look of the room.

Remember that the lighting is there as the accent to your interior design. It is not just function, it shows the form.

Lighting design tips - Picture lights highlight pictures

Picture lights obviously highlight pictures, and they add lighting to the perimeter of the room, helping to define the outside dimensions of the room.

Picture lights obviously highlight pictures, and they add lighting to the perimeter of the room, helping to define the outside dimensions of the room.

When deciding on the interior lighting for a room, consider these questions:

What kind of mood should the lighting create?

What different activities take place in the room?

What decorative elements do you want to attract attention to?

In general, to create an inviting atmosphere use five to ten light sources in every room.

To simplify your interior decorating decisions, there are lighting collections available with the same finish and style for pendants, chandeliers, wall-mounted sconces, as well as floor and table lamps. Using fixtures from the same collection within a single room creates a unified look and can save a lot of time searching.

lighting design tips

Light fittings from a collection add design continuity.


To make rooms interesting, vary the height of the light sources in the room. The differing heights add depth and interest by creating separate areas of light and shade.

In most rooms, you should allow for varying intensities of light. Add dimmer switches or use three-way bulbs in lamps for flexibility. In addition, alternate switching patterns between general lighting, task lights, lamps, and accent lighting.

For example, while you are preparing food for a dinner party, you will need task lighting instead of accent lighting, but when the guests arrive, you will want to be able to switch off the task lights and turn on the accent lights.

Remember, because dark colours absorb light, you will need to use more lighting in rooms decorated with dark colors than rooms with light colors.

When lighting a room from the ceiling due to the ceiling’s reflectance the room appears larger.

Conversely when lit from the floor or table lamps the room will feel more intimate.

Wall reflectance in large rooms is usually unimportant because of the rooms very size the walls will always seem distant however in a smaller room wall lighting is significant as it will appear to increase the size of the room, depending on the color, or bring the walls in closer by causing focus on them.

lighting design tips - Candles and Candelabra

Candles and Candelabra provide little light but the naked flame creates warmth and a romantic mood.

Why does directed light create mood more than overall or ambient light? Because it allows focus as well as illumination. With these two tools, features that evoke mood can be enhanced or reduced in their appearance.

Tricks include:

Concealed lighting. E.g. Behind pelmets to shine down drapes, lights fixed under tables eg side tables, lights fixed under permanent furniture eg cabinetry, or lights fixed under a couch, easy chair or coffee table.

Candles and Candelabra

These give little light but the mood is created by the focus on the candle and its holder as well as the warmth of a naked flame. Ideal for creating a romantic feeling in a bedroom or dining room.

To summarize, there are numerous factors to consider when selecting interior lighting. Use these lighting design tips to help with decision making for the interior decoration of a room, the furniture placement, the function and activities to be performed in the space as well as budgetary and aesthetic issues.

As long as you approach the task in a methodical manner, it should all be straightforward. Write down all the influencing factors, needs and wants for each room, use your plan and then set about creating the lighting design for each space.

Written by Chris Brown

Color Consultant course