In most homes lighting accounts for between 10 and 15% of the electricity bill and contributes significantly to carbon dioxide emissions. New accommodation (including extensions) will involve some light fittings that will only accept energy efficient lamps.

Think about a lighting scheme before you start to decorate a room. Where is the furniture to go? You can install floor sockets underneath tables or free-standing furniture, avoiding ugly (and dangerous) trailing cords. How will you be using the room? Is it primarily for use during the day or at night? For study or entertaining?

1 Downlighting is something people love or hate. It can be incredibly helpful and effective in some respects but like everything should be used in its proper place. During the day rooms with good-sized windows will receive a fair amount of natural light. In the evening downlighters can help to create a soft overall glow that adds ambience to an area. This is extra-useful in a reception or dining space.

2 Spotlights make a feature out of key possessions and architectural detail. They can also be interesting when used in the corners of rooms, where you would not normally have light. You can then install two different switches so that any ceiling lights would be on a different circuit to spotlights. A blanket of spotlights on a ceiling is not glamorous and the excessive light they provide can be exhausting but a dimmer switch can instantly change the lighting from dramatic to cosy.

3 Lighting is probably the most important aspect of a dining room. It should be subtle yet sparkling. Bright overhead lights other than chandeliers are inappropriate and even chandeliers should be fitted with dimmer switches so you can experiment with brightness levels for different occasions. If it is too dark you will not be able to see what you are eating but if it is too light the atmosphere will be spoilt and peoples complexions will look drained. Wall lights are a good option and setting wall sconces into a mirror creates a dazzling reflective effect although they would need to be installed by an expert.

4 You want to achieve different levels of light, which is where table lamps come in and also picture and wall lights (depending on how much art is in your home). You can wire these to become either a picture or a wall light. Indirect lighting is an interesting way of adding atmosphere to a room eg lighting the underneath of a bath which gives a nice glow. Equally for the front of bookcases one can light up a display of objects in a bookcase by carving a track out of each shelf and inserting a run of LED lights. This provides hidden light that casts upwards and downwards lighting the display without producing any heat.

5 A living room is likely to have different seating areas and each chair needs to have its own lighting. A sofa, for instance might require practical yet elegant swing-arm “library lights” to provide good light for reading, while armchairs can be lit effectively with lamps. The problem with relying predominantly on table and floor lamps in a lighting scheme is that 90 per cent of lamps need lampshades so you have to think about how many sorts of shades a room can support without looking like a lampshade shop. They also need to be beautiful. Lampshades are like the shoes and handbags of the home.


  • Energy efficient lighting is most cost effective in rooms where the lighting is most often used. Any room in which the lighting is used for more than four hours each day should be considered.
  • Installing energy efficient lighting in an extension can provide savings of over €50 per lamp, over the life of each lamp, even though energy efficient lamps are initially more expensive than conventional ones.

Lighting should be designed according to the use of the room, and should be considered carefully. Properly designed energy efficient lighting can improve the ‘feel’ of a room as well as saving energy. Soft tone, dimmable, spot lights, free standing and pendant lamps are all variants to consider in your extension.

Make your kitchen look contemporary while also saving money by installing hidden fluorescent lights at the top of the units. These bounce an attractive light off the ceiling and cost little to run. It is a trick used by many of the most expensive kitchen designers. If you want to make a room such as the sitting room look bigger, put an uplighter in the corner. It will pool light on the ceiling and increase the feeling of space.Achieve a contemporary look by replacing table lamps with recessed light strips, or horizon lights, at the back of a long bench built along a wall. Cover with frosted glass for a wonderful soft light.