Last Updated: 26 September, 2020
Room lighting is more complicated than it used to be with different options including uplights, downlights, acsent lights and mood lights. We’re in the process of planning the lights throughout our house because we have either just one bulb, like in our bedroom or because we have rearranged walls so have no lights, such as our study.
Here is our step by step guide to developing a lighting plan.
Draw out your room
Draw the shape of your room, including doors, windows and features such as fireplaces. This should be done to scale, and you can download graph or square paper to help you. If you know the furniture you’ll have in the room and where it will be positioned draw it on to the plan.
Consider how you are going to use the room
Do you want the room to have the same level of light through or do some areas need different types, for example if you want to show off a feature or if you work in one area. Or perhaps the room has different purposes at different times, for example it is a study and a dining area which need different lighting.
Also mark on if there are any areas where people will be looking in a specific direction, for example in a lounge it maybe the television, in a study a monitor and bathroom a mirror. This will make sure you don’t put lights in places that are likely to shine in people’s eyes or impact on what they are doing such as causing shadows, for example behind someone standing at a cooker or sitting by a computer monitor. We have an example of poor light placement in our lounge as the uplighter put in by the previous owners impact on our tv watching as we get uneven light on the screen (we assume they had their tv in a different location).
Calculate how much light you need in the room
As every room is likely to be a different size and be used for different purposes it is important to calculate how much light you need for each room. This is done by calculating the area of the room by multiplying the width by the length in meters. So if your room is 2m wide and 3m long the area is 6m2. Next you calculate the lumens you need.
Lumens are a measure of light output that is consistent across different bulb types (unlike watts which are a measure of energy usage)
There are different assumptions on how many lumens you need in a room, and this could differ on the age of the occupants (older people need more light) and the wall coverings i.e. colour, texture. We have used the following assumptions:
- Normal room – 100 lumens/m2
- Work area – 200 lumens / m2
So the playroom is a normal room of 11.3m2 so needs 1130 lumens (11.3 x 100) while the study is a work area of 17.7m2 so needs 3500 lumens (17.7 x 200).
Decide on your lights
Now you know you know roughly how much light you need in the room you can decide how you want to provide, for example one powerful light or more smaller lights. Personally, I prefer more lights as the light feels more even with less chance of shadows.
Go shopping for lights, or at least start browsing. There are huge numbers of lights available* so you will able to find ones that fit your taste and budget. Start with what you know, such as the specific lights you identified earlier; for example a reading light if you read in the same chair, accent light to highlight a piece of art. Once you have an idea of some lights you’re interested in, calculate their lumens. If the details don’t tell you the lumens you can get an approximate value by knowing the bulb type, the bulb wattage and the number of bulbs in the light fitting. For example the Edda crystal pendant light*
- uses G9 bulbs which Google tells me are halogen bulbs
- the bulbs are 33 watts and looking on a LED lumens to watts conversion chart they are somewhere between 400 and 700 lumens (lets say 500 for ease)
- there are three bulbs so 3 x 500 means the light has approximately 1500 lumens
Then subtract this from the total required for the room. The answer tells you how many lumens you need for the remaining light. So if your room needs 3000 lumens and you’ve chosen two wall lights that total 1000 lumens, that leaves another 2000 lumens in general lighting. You could provide this by two 1000 lumen lights or four 500 lumens lights depending on the look you want in the room.
If you are looking for some inspiration, this post discusses different lighting options for each room.
Example 1: our study
Our study is currently a blank canvas as there is no furniture or lights; or door or carpet! We are starting with even light across the whole room provided by recessed spot lights. It is possible in future we may decide to add some accent lights to the bookcases and a lamp near a sofa, but as we don’t currently own those we can’t make realistic decisions including them at the moment.
- room area is 17.7m2
- it is a work area so needs 200 lumens per m2, meaning we need 3500 lumens
- we are planning on nine lights of 500 lumens each, totalling 2700 lumens
- leaving us approximately 800 lumens for either accent lights on the bookcases or a desk light if a shadow is created from the spotlights when we sit at a desk
Example 2: our lounge
The previous owners have left us with five uplighters, two pendants and one emergency light in the lounge (obviously the emergency light only comes on during a power cut). We’ve classed this room as a normal room, although it has two purposes as we all use it during the day and in the evenings we relax and watch the television when we want softer light.
- room area is 30.2m2
- it is a normal area so needs 100 lumens per m2, meaning we need 3020 lumens
- we want to split this between spotlights to provide even light and uplighters to provide a softer more relaxing light
- to provide even light we want eight spotlights of 300 lumens each, totalling 2,400 lumens
- leaving approximately 600 lumens for the uplighters (although I suspect we may go stronger than this as these are the only lights we’ll have on during the evening). Note: these wall lights are not shown in the plan below as they will replace the existing wall lights.
Plan the light switches
There are two important aspects of deciding where the light switches will go; easily accessing them as you enter or leave the room and having the correct lights on each switch.
The switch should be close to the door and on the side that it opens, so you don’t have to hunt in a dark room. If there is more than one way to enter or leave the room you can have a switch by each one.
If you have different type of lights in the same room, as we plan to in our lounge, you may want the different lights connected to different switches so you can change the brightness and mood of the room, instead of having them all on or all off. Another way of doing it could be by area, so in a large room you could turn on the lights for one section on each switch.
Another option to control the brightness and mood is to use dimmer switches. But remember if you want to dim LED lights you need to buy special dimmerable LED bulbs which are more expensive than normal LED bulbs.
Once you’ve decided where you want the switches and which lights you want connected to each one, show this on the diagram. For example, by drawing a line from the switch to each light it will control, or by grouping the lights on each switch, as shown by the dotted line in the example lounge lighting plan above.
Fitting the lights
It is important that all electrical work is done by a trained person, and some work requires a certificate from a qualified electrician, so make sure you know what is needed where you live. Discuss your plan with your electrician. They’ll have fitted many lights so may add valuable insights into your plan.
My husband and father in law have started installing some lights in our new utility and shower rooms. The next room will be the study. It is possible the rest will be done as part of the big changes to the house which we need to start talking to builders about. I’m hoping to have at least one bold, extravagant pendant light somewhere, perhaps in the hallway / landing.
Are you wanting to get any new lights at the moment? What is the most important feature for you? How do you choose your lights?
*Disclosure: This is a collaborative post, but all words are my own and images from our house.