The importance of lighting by Claudia van der Werf


Lighting is an effective and impactful way to change the mood or appearance of a place, whether it is a restaurant, bar, shop or even your home. The way you light a space will completely transform the area, and having multiple lighting sources allows you to control ambiance and mood, which is especially important in public spaces.

Choosing the right lighting, especially for the home, can be tricky, but as long as you bear in mind the mood you wish to create and any practical and safety issues, lighting can be a beautiful and fun way to decorate a space.

A lot of planning goes into designing the right lighting for a venue or event. Good or bad lighting can really affect the ambiance of a place and determine what those entering think of the décor, environment and even the mood of the venue. When planning lighting, the first thing to ask yourself is what are you trying to achieve in the venue?


Are you looking for a romantic, uplifting, corporate, serious, or fun feel? Should the lighting be decorative or practical? Once you have secured exactly what the lighting needs to achieve, then you can think of the practical side of things, such as the height of the space, ambient light from surrounding areas or windows and any existing features like pillars, bars or storage areas.

Mistakes in lighting are unfortunately quite common, and this is something designers and venue managers should put more focus on. For the most part, the errors come in two extremes: too much light or not enough light. The level of lighting is imperative, especially in areas where light is needed for practical or safety reasons.

Another mistake often made with lighting is choosing the wrong temperature of the light, or the so-called “Kelvin” value; the higher the value, the colder the light. This temperature is determined by the light bulb, and sometimes when replacing a bulb, the wrong Kelvin value gets put in, causing an unattractive mix.

The higher the Kelvin value, the more the light looks like bright daylight; the lower the Kelvin value, the more warm, sunset feel the light gives off. Putting the wrong bulb in will make the lighting look like it has either been designed badly or poorly maintained.

When using lighting outside, to brighten up a terrace for example, you must check that the bulbs work well in high humidity levels, as some types of LED lights and batteries are not suitable to use in high temperatures or damp conditions. Outdoor lamp fittings should be waterproof, or at least resistant to a certain degree, and small particles like sand and grit should not be able to enter. Check the IP rating of the light fitting before using it, as this will tell you how suitable the light is for outdoor use.

When designing for exterior spaces, you also need to think of what the light will look like when it is turned off. The best kind of outdoor light also serves as a sculpture or an art piece, so they are attractive both lit and unlit.

Although design is important, the overall safety of your lighting should be high on your priority list. Make sure you choose good quality lighting brands, such as European brands Slide or ImagiLights, which follow strict safety standards, leaving you feeling assured that the mechanics of the fittings are of the highest quality.

After choosing well known brands, you then have to think practically about the safety of these fittings, so do not overload switches with too many lights and make sure any lampshade or bulb that can get hot is out of the way of children and any flammable materials. Finally, keep the wires all tidy and stored properly, so they do not become hazardous.

The main feature we consider when advising on lighting for interior or outside use is the green factor of the lights. Using energy saving bulbs and energy efficient LED lighting should be considered the only option when selecting your lighting. Thinking about how long a bulb will last you is crucial, as it will not only save you money but also help the environment.

Looking at future trends, we are seeing more and more people opting for changeable colour lighting, allowing the light to change to different moods and effects. Many clients are also wanting lighting objects that double up as other decorative or practical pieces, such as the Slide ice bucket which lights up, or light up bars and seats.

People are now becoming more conscious of the sustainability aspect of the products they buy, especially with electrical goods, and this will steer even more customers to high-end, industry leading brands.

Lighting is an investment and one that should never be an after thought. Get the lighting right and your space is filled with a warm, welcoming and relaxing ambiance; get the lighting wrong and the space will feel too clinical, sterile and impersonal.

Claudia van der Werf is director of Desert River. 

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