8 things to consider when designing your lighting layout

Lighting is an important element in home design and can transform a space, but there are a number of factors to consider when looking to amp up your interior

Lighting design should never be an afterthought, although that’s often the case. The position of your lights, the type of fitting, the colour and temperature of the bulb all have an impact on the mood of your home. Not just that, but your ability to function in places like kitchens and bathrooms. Designing your lighting layout to be both functional and beautiful is an art, and one worth getting an expert involved with.

Consider it early

The best time to consider your lighting is as soon as the concept plans for your renovation or new build are signed off. Producing an accurate lighting plan at this phase of the project is crucial for ensuring it’s included in your builder’s pricing, but also light fittings sometimes have long lead times – 12-16 weeks is not unusual. The sooner you can sign off on the design and selected fittings, the more likely you are to stay on track.

Challenge the status quo

Whoever said that a kitchen island has to have three pendants hanging over it? Why not one linear pendant centre or a feature pendant and supporting task lights? There are so many options for light fittings. If you find something you like but don’t think it fits in with the norm, who cares? There will always be a way to make it work.

Surfaces matter

Look at how the surfaces in a space interact with light. For example, a particularly glossy finish to a benchtop or splashback in a kitchen will reflect light in ways you possibly won’t like. Similarly, darker matte colours and finishes will absorb light, making it harder to illuminate the space, which is great in a media room, but not so helpful in a kitchen.

The purpose of downlights

Do you know what downlights are good for? Lighting the floor. When you walk into a room, it’s the room itself you want to notice, not the floor. Think about what it is that’s in your sight line and how to light it. Wall sconces or wall washers and task lighting (ceiling lights you can angle towards a specific area) are great for illuminating what you actually want to brighten. Artwork, a dining table, an entrance – you get the idea.

You’re not at work

Nobody wants to feel like they’re still at work when they get home, so leave the bright white lights out of your design. Aim for one colour temperature throughout your home – I was once told by a lighting designer that 3000k is recommended for New Zealand and 4000k for Australia due to the different climates.

Winding down

Dimmable lights are great for bedrooms, especially ones that have a sunset setting, which means they mimic the sunset helping you to wind down in the evenings and is great for your circadian rhythm. For bedside lighting though, this is a little more personal. Choose something that suits your needs – are you reading a book? Watching an iPad? This will dictate whether a lamp or wall sconce works best.


In a kitchen, overhead lighting is best rather than behind. You want to see your work area, not cast a shadow on it – so position your lighting above the work areas not the circulation space. For a bathroom, have lights on both sides of the mirror to ensure your face is illuminated.

Think of the kids

Motion or sensor lighting in hallways and bathrooms is a practical addition for anyone, but especially young children who need to find their way to the toilet during the night. Small recessed lights in your skirtings, or at the bottom of your hallway walls will light the path without your eyes needing to adjust – the same goes for lighting under your bathroom vanity.

Words by: Jen Jones

Create the home of your dreams with Shop Your Home and Garden