Light it up!

I love ambient lighting. I thought everyone did.

Whilst our house was being renovated, a friend offered their flat for us to stay in. It’s a beautiful flat in a wonderful location. My friend lives out of London and only uses the flat occasionally, so for most of our month’s stay it was just the two of us (the kids were shipped off to the grandparents).

“Where are the side lights? “  I asked my husband.  “There aren’t any,” was his reply. “But what does he use for ambient lighting?“  I asked. “Just these top lights,” he informed me. “They are on a dimmer switch,” he hastily added.

I’m not a fan of top lights. They are great for task lighting but they cast shadows that can be quite unflattering – no matter how much you dim them!

As a thank you gift to our friend, I bought some side lights for the lounge and bedroom. These were received with gratitude but my friend did say he didn’t really get the lighting thing.  “Quite frankly Anna“, he told me, “they’re either off or they’re on!”

Fair enough. For those of you who do appreciate soft, ambient lighting, the bathroom is just as good a place as any other to get it right. All bathroom lighting needs to be IP rated to be safe in a damp/wet environment. LED light strips can be cut to size and put into ‘channels’, which can also be cut to size, with clear or opaque glass to create a soft glow. The same LED strips can be placed under wall hung units – as they can be bought with an adhesive backing – and thus creating extra illumination in what would be a dark area.

Wall lights on either side of a mirror will give a more flattering look than those placed above. There’s a plethora of illuminated mirrors to choose from, but I would be wary of the kind of lighting they emit. Many have a bluish light which can make a room feel cold. Personally, I would always go for a warm white.

Small accent lights in recessed shelving can create a feature in a bathroom and add depth to a room.

One thing I insist on is that task and ambient lighting are put on separate dimmer switches and not mixed. For me, the top lights only go on when I need to apply makeup or to clean the room. The ambient lighting goes on for the rest of the time.

I went over one night to visit my friend when he was in town (and we were back in our house). I told my husband I was looking forward to seeing the room in a more ambient setting. “Oh he wouldn’t have turned those lights on,” my husband said. “He’ll be genuinely pleased you got them but don’t ever expect him to actually turn them on.”

My husband was right. All top lights were on high beam. All side lights were off.  My poor friend, I had barely said hello before I turned the dimmer down and literally raced over to those side lights….