Does your home need interiors Botox?

The answer’s in clever lighting, says Lucy Dunn

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By Lucy Dunn on

There are days when, to put it politely, my face can look a little tired. Days when crow's feet unjustly appear from nowhere and stubbornly refuse to disappear, no matter how much I trowel on the foundation. The same applies to my home, only the “wrinkles” are scuffs in the paintwork, coffee splodges on the sofa and lampshades greying with dust.

It’s amazing how quickly a room can turn and look past its sell-by date. This realisation normally only happens when you’re sitting watching Netflix and suddenly spy a yellowing plant in the corner that’s died a quiet grizzly death. That plant leads you to look at your sofa splodges and how your cushions have lost their plump. Which then leads you to notice the wonky picture above the telly – the one that was a gift that you popped on the wall but have never really liked.

Before you know it, you’ve grabbed the iPad and are logging on to Pinterest and pinning like a madwoman, doomed to months of expense and DIY hell.

Or not, because this time of year is perfect for jaded rooms. Evenings are getting darker, which means lighting comes to the fore. And when lighting’s good, it will not only give Netflix nights a cosy vibe, it will cover up any design niggle within your eye range. With a flick of a switch, you can inject a new look into a room, plus it's obviously a damn sight cheaper than shelling out on a new sofa. I'd go as far as saying it's the interiors version of Botox.

When lighting’s good, it will cover up any design niggle within your eye range, plus it's obviously a damn sight cheaper than shelling out on a new sofa 

Also, one final important note: those old-school celebrities weren’t stupid – they knew that good clever studio lighting, positioned well, could be really anti-ageing and cover up a multitude of wrinkles. Which I'm totally on board with, mainly because the days when I could flash the cash on a little lunchtime “freshen up” of my own are long over. My crow's feet might not be going away, but I won’t say no to a room that looks 10 years younger. Here's how:


  • For maximum cosy appeal, interiors bods recommend you “layer” your lighting. This means you need to check you have three sources of light: “main” (overhead) lighting fitted with dimmer switches; “specific” (task or table) lamps; and “ambient” or “decorative"(candles, fairylights, lightboxes) lighting. At a push, you could do without overhead lighting, but I think there are always occasions when you need “the big light” on.
  • If there are things you want to hide in your room, move lighting away from them and keep those corners dark. Remember: the clocks go back at the end of the month and soon it will be dark at 4pm, so you won’t be reminded of those niggly things again until March next year.
  • For a 60-second “facelift”, keep different parts of a room at different brightness levels. Vary the heights of the lights, too (bearing in mind your eye level and where you normally sit). If the room’s still too bright, swap the bulbs and place lamps at floor level.
  • Create clusters of table lamps and floor lamps that you can turn on and off according to your mood. Remember: sizes of shades will affect brightness levels, and also whether the lights point upwards to the ceiling (which tends to be more illuminating) or downwards (which tends to be more atmospheric).
  • Switch your shades. Always bear in mind how the shade’s colour (or the lining) will affect the light – as a general rule, darker colours will emit creamier, cosier light, whereas lighter shades and whites will be brighter and let more light through.
  • Do you really need the lights on? Placing a group of candles in front of mirrors will double the light and bathe a room (and your good self) in a soft, flattering glow.
  • When it comes to deciding on the right lightbulb, you can get lost in technical jargon as, with the introduction of things like LEDs and halogens, lighting has become more complicated. But it doesn’t have to be. Since the introduction of energy-saving bulbs, wattage is a less useful measure of brightness, as new bulbs use a lot less power to produce the same amount of light. Instead, light output is measured in lumens. The higher the number of lumens, the brighter the light.
  • Think about proportions: a too-small pendant light can look weedy, whereas something that’s too big can drown a room. Try this design trick for picking the right-size light: add together the room's height and width in feet. That number, in inches, should be the approximate diameter of your light. In dining areas, you should choose a light that's a foot smaller than the table's width.
  • Finally, why does decorative lighting need a function, apart from to look good? There are some amazing lamps and bulbs in all manner of styles. Add a cluster of naked bulbs, line up a set of low-hanging shades (three is always a good number) and buy matching floor lamps to sit either side of a sofa. The world’s your oyster.



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