How to properly design lighting for a house or a flat?

Light is a key factor determining not only the way we see our surroundings, but also how we feel in them. How we experience an interior, does it disappear in the dark, or is it inviting thanks to its light. When designing light for your own house or flat one should best take it upon themselves to select the proper lights. The following article aims to assist you in this not-so-easy task.

Selection criteria for lights

1. The selected lamps must provide the appropriate amount of light

This appropriate amount of light changes, however, depending on the type of activity in a given room, i. e. for reading one only needs light of about 300lx, and for activities requiring more precision, like sewing or gluing of tiny components – 750lx. In turn, resting or watching TV should occur at significantly lower light levels, ranging from just over ten to a few tens of lux. It is thus advisable not to limit lighting to a single source for a single room, but according to your needs install several light sources, i. e. a ceiling lamp, an additional lamp for intermediate-intensity light, sconces and floor lamps for light at particular spots..


2. The light has to be functional

This means that the distribution of the light points should allow them to fulfil their task properly. For example, lighting in the bathroom should be focused on the mirror, because this is where the highest precision is required for putting on or removing make-up. In the kitchen, in turn, one central light will not be sufficient, because a person standing at a sink or worktop, which are usually installed at walls, will block the light, leaving their workplace in a shadow. That is why one usually uses additional lighting mounted to cupboards hanging on the walls. The functionality of lighting is also determined by the manner in which it is controlled. Currently one is able to effect lighting control from a remote unit, install motion detectors, i. e. so that when somebody approaches the front door, the light automatically switches on. There exist 'intelligent’ fixtures adapting the light intensity to sunlight intensity. Developing electronics continues to make man’s life easier and easier.


3. Lighting should be energy-saving

On the lighting market there is an increasing number of fixtures equipped with compact bulbs, light sources giving more than four times the intensity of traditional bulbs (at the same power rating). One should differentiate at this point between fluorescent lamps with an electronic and a standard starter circuit. Those with an electronic, warm starter (which are usually more expensive) can safety be used around the house practically everywhere. However, when using those with standard or electronic and cold starter circuits (which are typically cheaper), one needs to remember that there is a strong relation between light source lifetime and the on/off cycle. They should thus be used only at spots where light shines for relatively longer periods and is cycled rarely.


4. Form of light fixtures

The fixture form should fit in with the design of the interior, the style of the house. Designs and styles of fixtures should exist in harmony with the atmosphere created by the master of the house. After all, his house is his showpiece.
Taking the above into account, each room should be considered with three types of lighting in mind: general lighting, spot lighting and decorative lighting. In different rooms, different types of light will dominate; it might also happen that a particular interior will require all three types of lighting. Thus, the starting point should always be the function of the interior being examined. Foremost one should be perfectly aware of what they want to achieve. It’s only then that they should set off to pick the proper lighting.

Additional remark:

Bear in mind that lighting is closely related to the power supply, and that a power supply cable will need to be run to every light source. When refurbishing the house it’s best to think thoroughly about the option of running additional cabling, installing additional switches or outlets. Maybe the power in a particular outlet should be controlled by a switch at the door of the room?

Now it is up to us and us alone how we will feel in our houses. Care for proper lighting is also care for our health.

The author of this article is Przemysław Oziemblewski, a member of the Polish Committee on Illumination (Polski Komitet Oświetleniowy), editor of the website „Light and lighting”, and author of the ebook „How to properly light your house or flat?” which is available in Polish at:

You can receive more information about house lighting signing up for a free training course through (only in Polish).