My Top Ten Interior Design Tips #5


Abigail Ahern house
Abigail Ahern’s house has a mix of lighting; table, task and chandelier are all visible in this corner of her study

I have spoken about lighting in detail in my series on how to get the lighting right but, in short, you need more lighting than you thought.

One overhead pendant is not enough. If it’s all you have then it should be on a dimmer. It should probably be on a dimmer anyway. Then you need to buy more lights. You need a table light for atmosphere and a floor light to throw a soft glimmer up onto your walls. You need a task light to read by and perhaps a light above a picture to show it off. Have your lights on different circuits so you can vary the mood according to what you are doing.

In short; create layers of lights that all do different jobs. Remember that a dark lampshade will throw a stronger light up and down but if you want a softer more ambient light you might want to consider a paler shade that will allow light to escape from all around.

Use lights as pointers to your possessions and consider what you want to light and work accordingly.

I’m always finding gorgeous lights and posting them. Here’s a link to a selection of some from this year.

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. This article is great. Lighting is very important but difficult to get it right. In our living room, we have a nice pendant in the middle (artichoke light) and a couple of wall lights (minimal white plaster cubes) above artwork but it feels so dark! It is impossible to read for example. We are thinking of adding 4 downlighters, one in each corner of the room on a separate switch, possibly a dimmer switch. I just have my doubts about them looking tacky, it is a traditional room, with exposed brick fire place, a log burner, picture rails but with modern furniture. Any advice? Thank you x

    1. Oh Janet I’m so sorry – I know that someone else had a similar problem and she unsubscribed and resubscribed and it did take a couple of goes but it did work. Have you cleared your cookies – I barely know what that means but people say it to me all the time when my computer is glitching. Also recently I subscribed to a site and never got any emails and I checked spam etc and they weren’t there but then I found they were going straight to the bin without even touching my inbox. I seem to have to fetch them out to read them but I have no idea why they are going there. I hope you can find a solution. If not let me know and I will see if my tech chap has any thoughts. XK

  2. Lighting is so important – we haven’t really got it right in any of the (many) places we have lived in. This time (new house) the architect did a detailed lighting plan for us (rejected by my husband as being too much of everything) and now we have been to a lighting Consultant and he has suggested another plan for us. This also seems to be a bit over the top so we are working through it and buying things bit by bit. It is not easy… I very much appreciate all of your tips. Thanks!

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