Getting lighting right

Architect and House Rules judge Joe Snell shares his expert tips on lighting
Marcel Aucar/Home Beautiful

Architect and House Rules judge Joe Snell shares his expert tips on lighting


How important is a lighting plan when renovating?

Joe Snell: “How you light a space impacts on how you feel, and how you function. The only way to get the flexibility of both functionality and mood into one space is through a lighting plan. A lighting plan ensures that you have high quality task lighting over your kitchen bench, or at your study desk. Similarly, you need warm dimmable light so that you can change your lounge room into a cosy relaxing haven at the end of a long day.”

A floor lamp is an eternally stylish option in elegant living spaces. (Credit: Marcel Aucar/Home Beautiful)

What should you never do when lighting a room?

“The most common mistake I see is a grid of downlights in a precious space like a lounge or dining room. These are the worst lights for these relaxing spaces as they are glary and create an uncomfortable grid of light and shade. This happens when there is no direction for the electrician and they do what is the easiest and quickest solution.  The best way to avoid it is to have a lighting plan, preferably done by a professional, which guides the electrician in their work.”

A pendant over a dining table creates intimacy and offers lovely, soft light. (Credit: John Paul Urizar/Home Beautiful)

What’s trending in lighting?

“The biggest trend in lighting right now is concealed lighting, where you see the effect of the light on walls and in space, but you don’t see the source. There are many products now that you can buy off the shelf that have been designed to be included when the plasterboard walls are being installed. To make the concealed lighting work, you definitely need a lighting plan before your renovation begins so that you have your light fittings ready to go for the renovation. We often find ourselves designing spaces around lighting rather than the other way around.”


Other trends that have caught your attention?

“The other trend that is coming back is the floor lamp in lounge rooms. Rather than a grid of downlights in a lounge room, dedicated lighting for different uses is being introduced. So rather than randomly lighting up the whole room, you have a beautifully designed floor lamp that bends over your shoulder to light your page while you sit in your favourite reading chair. If you think about all the great movies – this is the look that is in a sophisticated lounge room – not a grid of downlights! To make floor lamps functional, introduce floor-mounted power points in carefully designed positions to work with the furniture layout.  This ensures that there are no power cords snaking across walkways.”   

Use a mix of lighting types in a bedroom, such as overhead lighting and bedside lamps. (Credit: Prue Ruscoe/Home Beautiful)

Related stories