Matt Shelley

May 29, 2014


Basic tips for good apartment lighting

Give texture and shade to all general lighting

By Matt Shelley


Most people do not think about lighting when they start decorating their apartment. They spend all their time poring over paint charts and magazines but it is actually the light that shows off a space to its full advantage. Good lighting will make your home feel spacious, clean and welcoming.

Natural light, electric light and colour are all connected. When decorating your apartment, these are all things you should think of and coordinate before starting your project.

If your windows are small, you could use light blinds or muslin drapes instead of curtains. This will allow the natural light to come through without any interruptions.

Types of lighting

A successful lighting plan should be made up of several layers of lighting. In this article we will go through the different types of lighting that can enhance your living space.

Lighting for occasions

Lighting is very important for creating the right ambiance when hosting a party. The mood of the room can change from calm and romantic to energizing and vibrant by experimenting with different types of lighting. A mirror can be used to bounce candlelight around the room. And crystals, diamonds and other reflective surfaces are ideal for an extra festive sparkle.

If your room is large and has a high ceiling and you want to make it appear cozier, you should introduce several types of small lamps to create low pools of light. Think about how you arrange your lights as these can create unusual patterns on your walls and ceiling.

Highlight certain areas of the room such as the fireplace or willow stems with fairy lights to create a shimmering glow. Change the speed of the flicker to create the right party mood.

If your are lucky enough to have an outside space with your apartment, consider buying a patio heater, chimney or wood burner as people always like to stand outside at a party even in cold weather. For that extra welcoming effect add tea or fairy lights to create the ambiance of an indoor party.

Natural light

To make the most out of the natural light available in your apartment, you need to think about what you will be using the various rooms for, keeping in mind that the daylight changes throughout the year. Sunlight is ideal but sometimes you may find the bright summer light uncomfortable to sit in. Conversely, harsh winter sunlight can make everything appear flat.

Ideas to maximize your natural light
  • Hang mirrors, particularly opposite windows.
  • Use voile or muslin to diffuse light or perforated roller blinds to block out harsh sunlight.
  • Replace an inner door with a glass paneled door.
  • Use light reflective surfaces and pale carpets and furnishing.
  • Trim any overhanging bushes or tree by your windows.

Electric light

Electric light can never light a room as efficiently as the sun, so think of electric light as atmospheric background. With electric lights you can easily create either a cozy or a really dramatic light effect in your apartment.

Ideas to maximize your electric light
  • Choose something more versatile then a single light bulb hanging from the ceiling. Use spotlight which can be used to highlight your favorite picture or mirror.
  • Highlight features such as ceiling coving with up-lighters.
  • Layer the lighting throughout the room so you have the right kind of lighting for your different needs, for example table lamps and ceiling lights.
  • Make sure that all your lighting is controlled separately to avoid over-illuminations.

Ambient light

Ambient or background lighting is usually provided by a central pendant light and often causes problems as it creates a bland and flat effect. However, if you supplement your general lighting with other types of lighting you can end up with a great and flexible lighting scheme.

Accent lighting is meant to give texture and shade to all general lighting by adding depth and shade with different shadows and pools of light. It is formed by a mixture of halogen spotlights, down-lighters, up-lighters, tracks and table lamps. With the table lamps, use opaque shades that direct light down and prevent it from spilling out. Tracks are great for lighting different areas of a room.
Once the basics are in place, decide which possessions to highlight, whether it’s glass or a picture.


Clip a spotlight on the underside of the shelf or put up wall washers into the ceiling.

Pictures and paintings

It is very tricky to light paintings well. If they are behind glass you have the additional problem of glare. To avoid this use an ‘eyeball’ light that can swivel and set it to broad beam or you could mount an adjustable spotlight on ceiling tracks and point it on a focal point on the painting.


Should be lit from below or behind. From below, place a row of low-voltage halogen spotlights beneath the shelf or a fluorescent strip hidden from view in a casing. From behind, use a fluorescent strip, not halogen, which does not give the right light.


Always check whether your plant loves sunlight or need to be kept out of it. For larger plants, use an uplighter or a recessed spotlight in the floor behind. The lights will bounce off the ceiling or floor and create unusual shadows on the walls.

Task light

This is what you need when your are doing specific jobs, whether it is reading, cooking or working on your computer. Task lighting needs to be focused on the area you are using. If the light seeps out, you are likely to get glare from other surfaces. Task lights comes with tungsten, halogen or fluorescent bulbs.

What you need from a task light
  • Your light should be able to at least take a 60 watts bulb, as it must be brighter than the others in the room.
  • Use an inexpensive pull-down pendant or clip-ons.
  • Clip-on spotlights are useful as you can move them to wherever you are working.

Matt Shelley

Handy with a camera and technology. A citizen of the world. Converted to rice while in Japan.

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