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    Creating illusions of natural light

    Summary: Advice for increasing the natural light in the home and using artificial light to give the illusion of natural light.

    It is possible to create an illusion of light and space without major cosmetic changes to your house. The most effective method is to use mirrors to reflect light into the room. Ideally, hang large mirrors on walls opposite or adjacent to windows and entrances. Choose materials and colours that reflect light back into the room. Paint surfaces a pale matt colour, using white for the ceiling and a softer creamier shade for the walls. If you opt for stone flooring or floorboards, choose a pale stone or wood, preferably with a reflective gloss finish. Metals are also reflective, particularly polished stainless steel, copper, and chrome.

    Avoid heavy, dark furniture that will block light and divide up the room. Transparent glass and plastic are good materials for furniture, as they let light through, but be warned - they may need frequent cleaning. Space and light are closely related so increasing the space between objects can suggest a lighter, airy ambiance. Keep surfaces pale and plain as busy patterns can make the room seem overcrowded or garish.

    Electric lighting

    For natural light in a bulb, you can now buy ‘full spectrum’ natural light bulbs or tubes. Light tubes provide the equivalent to 500 watts of light and are a renewable energy source and so better for the environment. They come in a range of sizes, up to 6m long, and can be easily installed with minimal electrical work.

    Supplement natural light with a subtle lighting scheme that will provide sufficient task lighting and make a room more cheerful. In rooms where you need functional lighting, such as bathrooms and kitchens, work out the areas you need the most light, such as over sinks, worktops, and mirrors, and install overhead lighting. Spotlights are a good idea as they can be recessed in the ceiling and focussed on a specific area. They are also available in efficient low-voltage systems, lie halogen. If you opt for track lighting, although fluorescent light is efficient and bright, it can be a cold, stark light so you may need atmospheric background lighting to soften the look.

    To create an overall impression of light in a room, place lamps and light fittings all around the room, illuminating any gloomy corners, alcoves, recesses and pelmets. Boost the vibrancy of a room or wash surfaces in a gentle light with some of the following techniques:

    • Add picture lighting or clip-on lights to cast pictures in an attractive glow and add light to the environment.
    • Supplement ceiling pendants and lighting with wall-mounted light fittings, preferably controlled by a dimmer switch to vary the light intensity.
    • Place uplighters at floor level in skirting or hidden behind furniture to cast light up the walls.
    • Install downlighters behind a false ceiling to wash walls with light.
    • Direct light onto a mirror to bounce light back into the room.
    • Mount worktop lights under kitchen units and behind cookers.
    • You can even add LEDs to flooring, bathroom tiling, cupboards etc. to add a twinkling glow.
    • Remember to put atmospheric lighting on different switches to the overhead lights.
    • Keep labour costs down by adding table lamps and standard lamps.

    Electrical regulations

    Your lighting scheme plans may be affected by building regulations. Any work carried out in an area with water like a bathroom or kitchen must conform to regulations and will require approval from your Local Area Building Control department. Major work installing new circuits should be done by a professional electrician, but you can add lighting points and sockets yourself providing that your work meets safety standards. See our section on electrical regulations for more information.

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