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How to use Light for Health and Happiness

It should be our goal to be outdoors as much as possible, but for many of us, particularly those of us who live in northern climes, it is understood that we will spend a lot of time indoors in the winter – which is why there is so much attention in my native Sweden to home design. Swedish architects have long understood the necessity to open our houses to light, and to incorporate light-maximising features such as large windows and clever spaces, as well as an interior palette that makes the most of whatever light we have. You can make a big difference to the light quality of your home with well-chosen electric lighting.

Lighting tricks and tips

  • An uplighter in the corner of a room will bounce light upwards and make the room look bigger.
  • A ceiling-hung pendant lamp will make a room look taller.
  • Lights under your wall-mounted kitchen cupboards will allow you to chop and cook without a shadow.
  • A swivel lamp is perfect for reading or close work, but make sure that the lamp is tall enough to be manoeuvrable, so there won’t be shadows on the work.
  • For bedside reading, make sure your lamp is adjustable – you don’t want to have to crane your neck or assume an awkward position to relax and read!
  • Clip-on lights are handy, as they can be moved around.
  • You can use spotlights to highlight the things that you love, and integrated lighting in your wardrobe or hall cupboard to make things much easier to find. If integrated lighting is too expensive, LED spotlights can be cheaply installed; make sure you know what you are doing when installing lighting, though – if in doubt, contact an expert.
  • Floor-level lighting is a good choice in areas like stairs and landings, where you don’t want or need harsh lighting, particularly at night. Try LED strip lighting.
  • When placing task lighting, if you are right-handed, place it to the left, or your hand will cast a shadow, and vice versa.
  • Two lighting techniques – wall washing and light grazing – can add texture and a lovely sheen to a wall. A wall washer light is placed at a distance of more than 20cm from the wall you want to highlight; with light grazing the light fitting is much closer, which can draw attention to the texture of a wall because of the angle of the light.
  • LED strip lights are a really easy way to add light to task areas, like the underside of kitchen cupboards. These can be flexible, which can be installed anywhere, or more rigid, which are, of course, more durable and can be placed behind a picture or TV to provide interest. You can also place LED strip lights under your bathroom cabinet so that night-time visits to the bathroom are not interrupted by harsh lighting.
  • In the bedroom, choose a central light fitting that is restful, not too brightly coloured or garish. Make sure it’s dimmable and preferably with a remote control, so you won’t have to get out of bed to turn the light off!

Extracted from Light Your Life by Karl Ryberg, published by Yellow Kite, £16.99