How To Choose Lighting
The way colours, forms and textures appear to the eye depends upon light. Used imaginatively, lighting can make a significant contribution to the look of your home. Bad lighting can make a beautifully furnished home dull and grey, but good lighting can add excitement, drama and warmth to even an ordinary interior. Our Lighting Buying Guide is designed to give you an overview of how to choose the best lighting for your space and to help you feel confident in your choices.
Lighting By Room
It is a good idea to have adaptable lighting in the living room, as it is used for a variety of different functions. Good hardwired light with a dimmable function allows you to vary the amount of background light, and then adding a task lamp next to armchairs, or hanging pendant lights over a coffee table can give you more directed light. The living room is also a great place for decorative touches, which is where a unique lamp can really stand out.
One pendant light may suffice for lighting the hall, but if this is dreary, you can loop a second flex across the ceiling and hang a second light from a ceiling hook. Subsidiary lights are a good idea near coat racks and mirrors.
Pendant lights with a large shade can provide a good source of general light for the kitchen. Depending on the placement of your counter-tops, you could use a directional pendant light or a series of pendants to illuminate individual areas, such as a kitchen island. To add warmth and friendliness, conceal strip lights with warm-hued bulbs beneath cabinet overhangs to light your workspace.
A dimmer switch goes a long way in a dining room, as it enables you to vary the mood of the room for dinner parties or to use candles. Background lighting is important, as without it the strong contrasts can strain the eyes.
For family and social gatherings, the main light should be concentrated on the table. Pendant lights are perfect for this. Make sure they are fitted in such a way as to throw light on the table, rather than into the eyes of the diners, and that they don’t obscure the view across the table. For a rectangular dining table, more than one pendant light will be necessary. Cluster lights are fabulous over dining tables.
Lighting for the bedside table can add a comforting glow to the room, as well as a touch of style. A table or floor lamp should be high enough to illuminate the page of your book, ideally with the switch within reach of the bed. Flexibility is important in the bedroom so that you can have a warm, relaxing light before bed, but bright light during the day to reveal any creases in the clothes you are putting on. If you are short on bedside space, wall light with an adjustable arm can free up space.
A small bathroom may need only one general light. Diffused light in the bathroom will reduce glare from reflections on tiles, enamel finish and mirrors. Lights on either side of the mirror (rather than above it), positioned to shine outwards, will help you avoid unflattering shadows under the eyes when shaving or doing your make-up. Special safety regulations apply to all fittings and switches in bathrooms, and you must check the IP rating of any lights before purchasing. Have a look at the below Lighting Glossary under IP rating for more information.
The type of lighting you purchase will depend on your electric fittings and the number, position and availability of sockets in the room. Make sure that you are buying a light that will have an available power source or socket. Most pendant and surface-mounted lights, unless they have a plug fitting, will need to be installed professionally by an electrician.
The beauty of using a pendant light is that you can use it as either a primary, accent or task light source, and they offer a full range of design options. Many pendant fixtures will throw light up as well as down, which creates a less dramatic contrast of light and shadow. Hang them over a coffee table or desk for task lighting.
Suspend from ceilings to desired height
Hang them over a dining table, or in a stairwell
Draw attention to a specific area of the room
Great for high ceilings
A grouping of several single pendant lights
Striking design possibilities
Several lights using just one central fixture
Dispels and diffuses light evenly
Wall lights are great for brightening corners, conserving space on the bedside table, highlighting artworks, fireplaces or cornices.
Similar to a pendant, but less versatile. Best used as general or background lighting.
Outdoor lights are great for entertaining, lighting a driveway or walkway, accentuating a design feature and for added security. Please make sure that any lights you will be installing outdoors have the required IP rating - see the below Lighting Glossary for more.
Lamps can add striking design features to any room, as well as offering a more targeted light source for precision work such as reading, writing or computer work. Lamps are particularly important for computer work as they help you to reduce eye strain.
Targeted light focuses attention and reduces eye strain
Wide range of base and shade options
Use a taller lamp for a diffused light and a more contemporary look
A wide array of unique colour, shape and height options
Many table lamps come with dimmer options
Great for living rooms and bedside accents
Freestanding source of light
Brighten up corners
Offer sculptural accents
“The many technical terms used by the lighting industry have been known to confuse even designers and architects, let alone the layman.”
Sir Terence Conran, The House Book, 1974
A bulb is the rounded glass container with a thin filament inside that produces light when you run an electric current through it. There used to be a range of bulbs to choose from, however only LED bulbs will be available for sale in the EU.
If you are planning to use a dimmer switch, ensure you buy dimmable bulbs with a wattage compatible with that of your dimmer. Using a non-dimmable bulb can damage your electrics or break your lamp, as can using a dimmable bulb with the wrong wattage.
Check your dimmer unit to ensure you choose the right wattage. As long as your bulb’s wattage is higher than the minimum and lower than the maximum wattage of the dimmer, you are good to go. If your dimmer has the capacity for more than one bulb, compare the total wattage of all the bulbs combined with the dimmer wattage.
A dimmer switch provides great versatility, enabling you to change easily from full brightness to more intimate lighting or to drop all the way down to background-level lighting and put candles on the table. If using with hardwired lights, an electrician will need to install this for you. Some table and free-standing lamps come with their own dimmer switches. Please note that if you intend to use a dimmer switch, you will need to accompany it with dimmable bulbs.
Fittings (aka Sockets)
The fitting indicates the type of bulb you are buying and how it fits into your lighting or lamp. With the wrong fitting, you simply won’t be able to use the bulb. The main types of sockets are Edison Screw and Bayonet. Please note that of all the bulbs available, The Conran Shop's range caters largely for Edison (screw and small screw) and G9 fixtures.
A type of incandescent bulb, containing a tungsten filament, the Halogen was banned for import to Europe in September 2018. As such, we no longer cater for Halogen bulbs. Their replacement LED bulbs last roughly two decades longer than their Halogen predecessors, making them much more cost efficient. The even better news is that LED bulbs are incomparably better for the environment.
An IP rating is a term you’ll need to understand if you’re looking to purchase outdoor or bathroom lighting. IP stands for Ingress Protection, and it relates to how resistant the light is to moisture from your bath or shower steam and wet weather. The higher the rating, the more protected it is. You can find the right IP rating by using the image below and deciding on which zone the light is going to go in. IP ratings are included on individual product pages.
Kelvin (K) is a unit that measures the temperature and hue of a bulb. The hotter the bulb, the higher the Kelvin and the brighter the quality of light produced. A lower Kelvin bulb will cast an orange or yellow light whereas light from a higher Kelvin bulb will be bluer.
Warm white: This is the quality of light you will get from a bulb of 2,200-3,000K. Warm white has an orange or yellow hue.
Daylight: A bulb of 5,000-6,000K will produce a hue similar to natural daylight.
Cool Light: A bulb of 7,000-7,500K will produce a light, bright, clear hue, with a blueish tint.
An LED, or Light Emitting Diode, is a type of bulb that uses 90% less energy than other kinds, and are therefore the most energy-efficient bulbs available on the market. An LED bulb can last up to fifteen years. LEDs are the only type of bulbs available on the EU market and come in two categories, dimmable and non-dimmable.
Lumens is the measurement of a bulb’s brightness. The higher the lumens, the brighter the bulb. Choose your LED bulbs according to their lumens, not their watts.
The temperature of a bulb refers to the hue of the light it gives off and is related to its Kelvin. The higher the Kelvin, the more bluish and vibrant the tone of the light. For a warmer, yellow light, which is more comfortable and inviting, look for bulbs of 2,700-3,000 Kelvin. A lower kelvin will give more of an orange hue.
Wattage is a measurement of how much power a bulb consumes. It used to be that a higher wattage meant a brighter bulb. In the shift towards LED bulbs however, it works differently, because of how LEDs use energy. This means that a 10W LED bulb could actually be brighter than a traditional 40W bulb.
In light of this, unless you are still using old Halogen bulbs, it is best to use lumens instead of watts to choose the brightness of your bulbs.
Do however make sure that you double check your lamp or lighting’s maximum wattage capability, as using a higher wattage than called for can cause permanent damage.
“Dark walls and floors provide less reflection and require more light if the same degree of general illumination is required as for light-coloured walls.”