Mad About . . .

How to Get The Lighting Right in the Bedroom

11th August 2016
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As part of the August Updates I’m bringing you this one again – some of you will have missed it the first time round and some of you will suddenly find it’s more relevant than it was when it came out the first time round.

This week is part III in the mini-series How to Get the Lighting Right and we’re tackling the bedroom. In many ways this is a culmination of what we have already learnt downstairs but, given that we spend a third of our lives either sleeping, or attempting to do so, the lighting is just as important in this room as any other.

And, I have to admit, this is the one room in The Mad House where we haven’t really paid quite as much attention as we should have done. So, to prevent you from making the same mistakes, here is the definitive guide to getting the lighting right in the bedroom.

john cullen lighting bedroom .001

image by Elliot Walsh for Houzz

So, first things first.

First up don’t rule out overhead lighting. You may not use a central bulb much – we tend to use ours only to light the way to the switches by the bed. In which case, if you have a fitting there already you can put a really decorative shade on it and make a feature. I have the Lee Broom crystal bulb over my bed but, as much as I love it, it doesn’t really work. Let’s be honest you can’t tell that’s a 90 quid bulb from this picture can you? No, exactly. You need to make more of a statement. And you can probably do that for less money.

Kylemore LR 035

Use downlighters round the edges of the bedroom so they don’t shine in your eyes

Another trick is to change the fitting to a multi – or two way outlet – and then you can have two flexes coming from the central bulb to two cup hooks either side of the bed to create hanging bedside lights. This is a great space-saver for all those books that pile up on the bedside table that are on the “to read” list (we all know what that means but they still take up space).  If you do this, you should get the electrician to add two more switches by the bed so you can turn them off without having to get out of bed.

Talking of switches. As you can see, we opted for wall lights to save space and I spent ages lying on the bed trying to get them in the right place so I could just flick them off without moving. Reader I failed. I think the problem with these particular ones is that the switch is on the bottom of the light itself, and in order to make it reachable I would have banged my head on the light. Not such a problem with a hanging light which is separate from the switch. Food for thought anyway.


Include a combination of ceiling and table lights in the bedroom

Of course Sally Storey, John Cullen’s design director, was keen to stress the importance of having your lights on different circuits in the bedroom – perhaps even more than in other rooms in the house – so you don’t have to get out of bed.

She also suggests downlights around the edge of the room. This means they aren’ t shining in your face when you’re in bed but will provide good strong lighting for doing make up, or checking if both those socks are black or one is, in fact, navy blue. And we’ve all been there on a dark winter’s morning.

Bespoke RL13-087 copy

As with other rooms, lighting can still be used to create effects and highlight features of the room

Another of Sally’s tips to add atmosphere is consider a floor light. But, she suggests having a pale shade in contrast to the standard lamp in my sitting room (see part II How to Get the Lighting Right in the Sitting Room) which has a dark shade and means that light washes up the wall from the top or pools from the bottom. A pale shade will allow a soft circle of light to escape all round which is better for a bedroom.

Behind the purple wall in my bedroom is my wardrobe – we built the false wall and created hanging space and shelving behind it – and yes, for regular readers as soon as I’ve tidied it I will show you as I know several of you have been asking. We have a couple of lights in our wardrobes – just on the shelves that you can’t see, but I think the overall report from Sally Storey was “could try harder”. At least, after all these lessons I know what do to in there.

Kylemore LR 031

These spotlights highlight the decorative features of the room

The key message for the bedroom is that it’s not just for sleeping so getting the lighting right is crucial. You might be reading, putting on make-up, getting dressed, or, in a larger space, sittting and relaxing. Each task requires the right illumination. That is true in any room but don’t ignore it just because it’s the bedroom.

Lighting Rules for the Bedroom

Make sure your lights are on different circuits

Install a dimmer switch

Don’t be afraid of downlighters in here

Bedside lights need easily accessible switches

You need versatile lighting for different tasks

Consider decorative pendant lighting

John Cullen hold lighting workshops if you’re interested in learning more detail than I can provide here, check the website for details. 

Part I of this series was How to Get the Kitchen Lighting Right and come back next month for the final part: Getting the lighting right in the bathroom.

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