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bright idea

The Upgrade: How to get lighting right in your home speaks to experts about how to make the most of lighting in the home.

HARD TO BELIEVE now, but once upon a time lighting mostly consisted of a disposable bulb dangling down in the centre of a room, wrapped in a perfunctory lampshade.

These energy-wasting incandescent bulbs, once branded ‘Heatballs’ by a German importer, have been in the process of being phased out since 2008. With this, consumers have looked for ways to improve how they light their homes.

Speaking to, Michelle Lynch, showroom manager with National Lighting, and Ruth Kennelly, owner of RK Designs, answered a few questions about using lighting to showcase your home’s best features.

We used to just have one light bulb hanging down in the middle of the room. What happened?  

RK: The difference between the old way of doing it, in terms of having a light in the middle of the room, is that now obviously there is a huge emphasis on ‘task lighting’.

From the point of view of interior design you have to light the areas for how they serve the tasks carried out there. Then on the other side, you’d be lighting some areas for aesthetic.

ML: People are much more energy conscious than they used to be. LED lighting has become much more popular.

(With a standard household bulb – you can get that as an ordinary bulb where a lot of the energy is lost in heat – but you can now get an LED equivalent of that.)

task lighting Task lighting RK designs RK designs

People used to very much leave lighting until the last minute but now they are thinking about it at an earlier stage and coming into lighting showrooms so that they can plan what they are going to use and where they are going to use light fittings.

Do Irish people have their own ideas about these things or do they just do what everybody else does?

RK: The Irish idea of aesthetic has changed a lot over the last 10 or 15 years and we take a lot of our lead now from North America. The idea there is to have a very comfortable space and they would always use a lot of lamp lightings and soft lightings. In general the American idea is comfort.

There is also a huge influence from Scandinavia in Irish design. So you have on that side a cleaner, more modern aesthetic.

ML: There is a lot of interest in nostalgia – like old-fashioned types of pendants. Filament bulbs, which are very decorative, you are also seeing around a lot at the moment. This is where the bulb is exposed and is almost a feature of the light fitting itself.

A lot of softer colours – a lot of antique brass – a lot of creams.

Ok – and keeping it cheap. What can a person on a budget do?

ML: Light bulbs these days come in different colour temperatures, so they can be cool or warm, and a range of things in-between.

To create a nice cosy atmosphere you could use warm lighting, or say in a kitchen or a bathroom where the perception would be that you would like it really bright, you could go for a cool colour temperature. Those kind of things can make a difference.

RK: Using maybe wall lights. And using them not necessarily where you’d expect to find them. Another would be to use LED strip lighting in recesses – so behind your cupboard presses you could run LED strips and it could just give a nice glow.

Sounds expensive.

RK: No, not at all. LED strips are not expensive once you have an area. You could make vast changes for €100. I mean, you could buy a lamp for €5,000, but you could put an LED lightstrip in your kitchen press for €100, no problem.

What about lighting your outdoor space?

ML: Outdoor lighting would be hugely popular. There has been a trend in the last while for people to really make the most out of their gardens and try to bring a piece of the garden into the home. We have a huge amount of outdoor lighting on display.

People come in with drawings of their gardens and an idea of what kind of effect they are trying to create. Wall lights, post lighting, highlighting to light up sculptures, plants, trees and that sort of thing. Lighting in decks. There are lots of different options and different effects that can be achieved.

Outdoor lighting has always been popular to be fair – but people are getting more imaginative and realising there are more options out there.

shutterstock_54374599 outdoor lighting outdoor lighting

What about someone who wants to make their friends jealous? What should they do?

RK: Sometimes what can be interesting is thinking about how the light in your home reflects onto the walls. The reflected light can make patterns or shapes on the walls. That can be really interesting from a visual perspective. Reflected light from lamps can be nice.

shower lamp hansgrohe hansgrohe

Have you seen anything really weird in the area of lighting recently?

RK: I did see a really interesting thing, Hansgrohe the shower people, they have come up with a lamp you can use in your living room that is also a shower. It is actually used as a shower – water comes out of it – and the light. It is actually available.

Michelle Lynch and Ruth Kennelly’s tips for improving lighting in the home

  • Use task lighting that focuses on a specific area of the room.
  • Filament bulbs can work as a feature of a light on their own.
  • Colour temperature bulbs and LED lighting strips are a cheap way to improve lighting in the home.
  • Lighting can be used to ‘bring the outdoors indoors’.
  • Think about the way light reflects onto walls when lighting a room.

Find out other ways to upgrade your home here.

Related: LG’s first smart bulb will flash whenever you get a phonecall