Lighting and open plan living (2020)

More and more we are knocking walls down. To design houses with one free-flowing space where we can eat, play, work and relax. Open plan living is great, especially for families. But with fewer walls and larger spaces, how do you get the lighting right?

Lighting is so important and a big part of interior design. It can transform a room!

Lighting is a great way to zone your open plan space, to add some personality and to add focus. I’m sure you know lighting falls into 3 main categories. Task lighting, ambient lighting and accent lighting.

Task lighting

Does exactly what it says, somewhere where you need to see well enough to complete a task. In an open plan living area the kitchen area is the obvious place where you need task lighting. This is often provided by spotlights and downlights. This illuminates the area where you are working.

It is important to ensure that you have the right output with task lighting to ensure it is effective. The output of light (lumens) from task lighting generally needs to be 3 times as much as ambient levels. So, you will need lighting with a higher lumens / watts.

Some options are:

- Spotlights

- Downlights (narrow angle)

- Under cabinet lighting

Ambient lighting

Ambient lighting is indirect lighting and is generally softer lighting. There are lots of options but it needs to provide enough lighting throughout the room. Ceiling downlighters provide uniform light. But they add limited interest either in the day or night. Other options are:

- Pendants either in singles, clusters or rows help to zone the room

- Spot-lighting focusing pools of light in specific areas

- Table lamps for living areas, for reading a book and relaxing

table lamp in gold

 Accent Lighting

Accent lighting provides interest, atmosphere to highlight particular features such as artwork. Accent lighting can create atmosphere and drama in a room. As with task lighting, accent lighting needs more lumens (more light output) to be effective.

- Picture lights

- Chandeliers (with a dimmer)

- Wall lights

Planning an open plan living area from scratch? Draw out the room and place where the furniture will go. This will enable you to see where you will need the different types of lighting. If you are updating a room you can still use the same process.

Then for the rest of the room, which areas would benefit from accent lighting?

You also need to think about switching. You need enough switches to be able to control each area and type of lighting. This will enable you to change the mood of the room for different uses.

Think about what you are going to be using each area of the room for, both separately and in combination.

For example, a kitchen needs high-lumen task lighting. Dining needs softer, more ambient light. And you probably want them controlled separately.

Lastly, if you have a completely blank canvas. Think about how many plugs you need for table-lamps! These can be standard sockets requiring a light with its own switch. Or preferably 5A sockets controlled from a light switch. More about this in our next blog.

 Once you have decided what type of lighting you would like the next step is style of lighting. Is everything going to match? Do you have a colour theme? Think about the style and how the lighting will fit with your furniture? Are you going to pick one statement piece that stands out? Make sure you think about how the lighting will work at different times of day and different seasons. 

Once you have decided what type of lighting you would like the next step is style of lighting. Is everything going to match? Do you have a colour theme? Think about the style and how the lighting will fit with your furniture? Are you going to pick one statement piece that stands out? Make sure you think about how the lighting will work at different times of day and different seasons.

gold table lamp in living room

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