How To Put The Lighting Right (without calling the electrician)

One of the things that magazines and blogs and designers talk about all the time is how to get the lighting right in each room. I have done that myself (and I hope it was useful) but it seems to me that a far greater, and perhaps more common, issue is how do you PUT the lighting right when you move into a new place – either rented or bought – and you don’t have permission or budget to change what’s there but you know you need to do something that doesn’t involve the electrician?

the curve and opal disk floor light from houseof
the curve and opal disk floor light from houseof – the latter is good for small spaces as the base is small

So for this week’s Wednesday Ad Break I spoke to Helen White, co-founder of Houseof, who has suggested some ideas for what you can do to put bad lighting right. Before we start you should know that Helen was a lighting buyer at both BHS and MADE before setting up her own company with Michael Jones (who also worked at BHS) and do read to the end where they have offered a 15 per cent discount code at Houseof.

“One of the things I felt was that we, as buyers, were on a treadmill of sourcing new lights for the store and looking at new shapes or colours and we were often forgetting the real purpose of the light which was would it improve on existing lighting and did it bring something new in terms of function, or was it just about finding a new style,” she said.

Green Mesh Table Lamp from houseof on mustard made cabinet
Green Mesh Table Lamp from houseof on mustard made cabinet

From that thought, Houseof was born, selling lights in both classic and vibrant colours as well as ones that you can customise to suit your decor. Remember a few years ago there was a rash of tutorials from people telling you how to spray the light you bought that was perfect in every way except it was chrome instead of brass or brass instead of black? Well Houseof  offers all those options so you don’t have to get the spray gun out.

But let’s talk about each room. And if we’re going round the house it makes sense to start with the hall. This is a problem for many for, as Helen points out, if she had a pendant light in her tiny hall she wouldn’t be able to open the front door.

curve wall light in pink kitchen from houseof
curve wall light in pink kitchen from houseof

Now I do have a small pendant light in my hall by the door but if I had the dramatic fixture that I crave by the stairs I would knock myself out every time I came down them.

“Halls are the one place where a spot light can be a good idea as you need a good spread of light and you need to be able see as soon as you come in,” says Helen, who has come to terms with her own inherited hall spotlights.

“But halls are also a great place for wall lights as most people don’t have the space for table or floor lamps.”

red pendant from houseof with mustard made cabinet
red pendant from houseof with mustard made cabinet

Remembering that we are trying to avoid electrician’s fees, look for plug in wall lights so that you can just fix to the wall. Sorry renters but you may have to stick to the pendant if you have one and the spots if you have those although you may be allowed to fix a light on a wall if you make good the holes when you move out.

Moving along the hall, which in my house doesn’t have any plug sockets so we’re staying with the pendants as the ceiling is quite high, we come to the kitchen. Where in my house the ceiling is low. Now I’d like to say we inherited a grid of spotlights but the truth is that we managed to install it all by ourselves and several of them are in the wrong place as well. And the low ceiling means that pendants aren’t an option either.

brass opal disk light from houseof: the bulbs swivel so you can direct the light
brass opal disk light from houseof: the bulbs swivel so you can direct the light

So, wall lights once again are good but, says Helen, don’t forget table lights. “People often don’t think of putting table lights in kitchens but it can bring drama and add texture and works really well.”

We have a row of cupboards along one wall and, in an effort to try and not use all the spotlights (which are three different circuits – one for each area of the room – cooking, dining, walking between the two) we have put table lamps at either end. This definitely softens the effect of spotlights.

tripod floor light and cage ceiling pendant from houseof
tripod floor light and cage ceiling pendant from houseof

If you have higher ceilings and too many spotlights then you can hang pendant lights from the same fittings that you already have and while that will involve calling the electrician it’s not a big job to change the type of light coming out of an existing fitting. And once again, if you have a couple of spare plug sockets (that you don’t always need for the hoover and the iron) then consider a plug in wall light.

Out of the kitchen and into the sitting room. Once again you are likely to have inherited a central pendant light, which you probably don’t use that much.

Green diffuser floor lamp from houseof
Green diffuser floor lamp from houseof

“This room is more about creating atmosphere. I have a central light and I only use it when I’m ironing,” says Helen. “So for me this can be a fitting that really is mainly aesthetic and beautiful. Choose one you love and think of it as an ornament.”

Another trick, says Helen, is not to overlight this room. “You don’t have to have a table light in every corner. A dark corner will blur the edges of the room and make it feel warm and cosy. There’s nothing wrong with a dark corner.

“Focus instead of different lights of different heights in the other two or three corners so you can create a more interesting atmosphere – one floor, one table and one task and make sure they don’t all match and that they are at different heights.”

lights from houseof
lights from houseof

Moving upstairs to the bedroom. Again this is likely to be a central pendant situation and again, like the sitting room, this can probably afford to be ornamental. But Helen says you should consider a floor light in the bedroom.

“People rarely think about floor lights in bedrooms but if you don’t have, or don’t like the pendant, it’s a good way of getting some light higher up in the room. And there’s often an extra plug that you only use for the hairdryer or hoover. You can buy one with a small foot print that doesn’t take up too much room and can sit behind that chair that all your clothes lie on before they go the the laundry. We have one with several bulbs on it and you can angle each one in the direction you want the light to go.”

If the space on bedside lamps is crowded then a plug in wall light works well here as well if you have plugs either side of the bed, or even a double socket in the middle of the wall behind the bedhead.

lights from houseof
lights from houseof

Finally, the bathroom. This is tricky to change without an electrician so you might have to live with what you’ve got. That said, Helen points out that many people don’t realise that they can have a pendant in the bathroom if it’s in the middle of the room and more than 60cm above or away from a water source.

“Bathroom lighting doesn’t have to be boring although much of it is. You also need to install wall lights properly as you can’t have plugs so it’s harder to change things round in here.”

Houseof will be launching a range of bathroom lights in the new year so if yours are no good and you are in a position to change things then keep an eye out for that. Currently there is one light in the bathroom range that you can have instead of spotlights – this might also work for a low ceiling hall too. They will also be introducing new shades to the range and if you have any thoughts of what colours you would like to see then weigh in on comments. You never know -if enough of you have similar thoughts…

cone wall light from houseof with mustard made cabinet
cone wall light from houseof with mustard made cabinet

Houseof is offering you all a 15 per cent discount code (this is is the first time they have ever done this so take advantage) that runs from 7am today to 7am next Wednesday 23 October (2019). The code is simply madaboutthehouse.

Happy shopping and let us know in the comments what you buy.


As I have mentioned before (and try to say whenever it’s relevant) I post free organic content on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. Any posts on a Wednesday are in collaboration with or sponsored by brands and I receive a fee for doing so. That way you know if you are reading on a Wednesday that it’s paid advertorial. That said, I am particular about who I work with and try hard to come up with useful and interesting content (like today) or news of something interesting like a collaboration (last week). And, occasionally, there is an extra benefit in the form of a discount for you which I will try and do more often on these Wednesday posts. 


Tags : bathroom lightingbhsfloor lightsHouseofinterior lightinglightingMade.comspotlights
Kate Watson-Smyth

The author Kate Watson-Smyth

I’m a journalist who writes about interiors mainly for The Financial Times but I have also written regularly for The Independent and The Daily Mail. My house has been in Living Etc, HeartHome and featured in The Wall Street Journal & Corriere della Sera. I also run an interior styling consultancy Mad About Your House. Welcome to my Mad House.


  1. Hi Kate, thank you so much for this brilliant post and for the discount code, which is great. I just noticed the gorgeous carpet in the last pic (the one with the cone wall light and blue cabinet) — do you have any idea where this is from or alternativley where I might find one similar? Thank you! Helen

  2. I just made use of your discount code to buy the ‘metal diner pendant’ in olive to hang over my dining table. Thank you!

  3. Hmm, a globe wall lamp directly above the kettle. Perfect for collecting and storing moisture. You know what they say about electric shocks… it’s only a shock if you’re not expecting it

    1. HA! This was for a trade show firstly so nothing was actually working and secondly if you did that you would presumably make sure the two things weren’t in a direct line but good point to note.

  4. This is a subject on my mind these days! Our apartment has the worst lighting, somehow all the fixtures cast dirty looking shadows on the walls, but the true offender is the kitchen. Somehow my head is always casting a shadow on whatever I’m looking at or doing no matter which direction I’m facing! Truly maddening! We are finally recovered from moving expenses where we are ready to replace the ceiling fixture but the trick is to find something that doesn’t create the same problem… only shopping with a good return policy that’s for sure!

  5. Thanks Kate, I will take a look. Your approach to paid content/ads is probably the best amongst those I follow. Your sponsored or collab posts always feel very authentic to what you’d cover anyway, so they’re informative for your regular reader. I think it would be unreasonable for anyone to have an issue with such posts as the vast majority of what you write for us is organic, as you say, and we don’t expect you to live on thin air!

    1. I was pleasantly surprised (amazed really) to find that on asking our electrician if he knew of any ways to solve our lighting dilemmas. He came up with some really simple, clever and cost effective ideas. He had access to some wonderful lighting catalogues (Nordlux being one) and our house is now fully and practically illuminated and looks just how we wanted it to, even though we didn’t know how to get there

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