Tips for lighting every room in your house

From minimising glare in living rooms to zoning your kitchen, we asked lighting designers for their best pieces of advice for each room in the house
Paul Massey

Even the most ardent of design enthusiasts can find choosing the right lights tricky. After all, wielding a paint chart with aplomb is one thing, but executing an effective lighting scheme is quite another. The temptation is to keep it simple, which is a pity because good lighting elevates, and can even transform a space.

As creative director and co-founder of Porta Romana Andrew Hills explains: ‘Lighting is all about layering. A good lighting scheme is always a blend of architectural lighting, functional lighting and well-positioned decorative lighting that adds character and beauty to the room.’

So be bold! We asked some top lighting designers for their advice for each room in the house, including Luke Thomas, design director at John Cullen Lighting, Jo Mann, founder and design director at Light House Designs, Andrew Molyneux, co-founder of art lighting specialists TM Lighting, and Sally Stephenson, design director at Owl Lighting. Their easy-to-follow tips are the perfect place to start.


Dramatic staircase lighting by John Cullen

  • The lighting in a hallway should be warm, but not overly bright, as guests do not want to feel as if they are under a spotlight. SS
  • Add impact with an overscaled decorative pendant. For drama combine with downlights to spotlight a picture, flowers or other decorative feature. LT
  • To foreshorten a long narrow hallway and add interest, consider lighting the stairs or an object at the far end of your hall. LT
  • For an interesting contrast combine wall lights or recessed downlights that wash light over one wall with floor washers on the opposite wall. LT

Living room

Dean Hearne
  • When lighting living rooms you want a warm, cosy atmosphere. Use directional downlights in the ceiling set around the perimeter of the room to shine light onto walls, paintings or curtains and minimise glare. AM
  • Picture lighting can play a large part in these rooms by introducing a mid-layer of light. ‘LED lights are unquestionably the best option for preserving any piece of art,’ adds Andrew Molyneux. ‘Historically, artworks were lit with halogen and other incandescent light sources, which emit infrared and produce a great deal of heat. This harmful combination is incredibly damaging to oil paintings and works on paper with delicate colour pigments.’
  • Lighting joinery, such as bookshelves, looks lovely and brings a different dimension to a scheme. JM
  • Lamps or floor-standing reading lamps are very important in a living room. Introducing a 5 amp circuit means they can all be switched on and off with a single switch and be dimmable. JM


The design of the kitchen is simple and pure with white walls and cabinets and a pale wood dining table.Paul Massey
  • Thoughtfully positioned recessed downlights are the best place to start. Work out where you need the light to end up, on a worktop say, or over an island, and position the lights overhead. JM
  • Washing the walls with light from a directional downlight immediately softens the room, lights artworks and creates an uplifting feeling. JM
  • Light an overhang with bar stools and add some decorative wall lights or pendants to create an inviting atmosphere. JM
  • Using individual circuits to divide areas provides control over the levels of light rather than a blanket ‘wash’ of light that covers the whole room. JM


  • Bedrooms require minimal lighting: a bright setting for practical purposes and a dim setting for the evening. Make sure there is enough lighting for the cupboards, either set into the joinery or from recessed downlights or spotlights overhead. JM
  • Washing curtains from a directional downlight creates a pleasing, gentle effect. JM
  • Keep circuits to a minimum as you don’t want to spend too long setting ‘scenes’ in a bedroom. JM

Children's room

Paul Massey
  • If you are adding interesting details to a children’s bedroom, for instance a mural or bold curtain fabric, make sure you light it so it becomes a feature at night. The simplest way to achieve this is with downlights. LT
  • To create a night light with a difference consider adding fibre optics above the bed to create your child’s own starry sky. LT
  • Add an element of colour by lighting recesses with colour-changing LED strips. LT
  • Flexibility is key when lighting children’s bedrooms. Joinery with integrated light is a great tool because you can keep the shelving and just replace what’s on it. LT


Owen Gale
  • Uplights always add a touch of magic to a space. Consider highlighting a stone or tiled wall behind a freestanding bath, or set uplights into a windowsill to illuminate shutters. LT
  • Wall lights on either side of a mirror provide the most shadow-free light to the face (add a downlight over the basin if you require additional lumens). There are some very good mirrors with integrated lighting but be careful of the colour temperature, often they are a very cold white that ruins the ambiance. JM
  • Set small LED lights in the skirting boards circuited on a motion sensor, which turn on when someone enters the bathroom in the middle of the night and turn off after a few minutes. This is both energy-saving and effective - a small amount of light goes a long way at night. SS
  • A bathroom should be bright for tasks, but no one wants to have a relaxing evening bath in bright white light so always make sure the bathroom lighting is dimmable. SS
  • Be mindful of safety. IP-rated fixtures should be used in zones 0, 1 and 2 in a bathroom. Zone 0 is inside the bath or shower itself. Any fitting used there must be low voltage (max 12V) and be rated IP67 or IP68 to be immersion proof. Zone 1 is the area above the bath or shower to a height of 2.25m from the floor. An IP65 rating is recommended. Zone 2 is an area stretching 0.6m outside the perimeter of the bath or wash basin and to a height of 2.25m from the floor. In these zones an IP rating of at least IP44 is required. JM