When deciding on the most appropriate solution for a room’s background lighting, think about its main uses and the task that will be performed there, then decide how best to achieve the general light. In a living space, for example, the background light may be provided by a chandelier, lamps and wall lights; in a utility room, it could be uplighting or downlight, or a combination of these. Various effects can be achieved when chandeliers or decorative lamps are used as the general light. For example, a chandelier with exposed lamps will create a totally different effect to one with diffusing shades.
If using LED downlight to achieve background light in a kitchen, bathroom or corridor, try to arrange them so that they relate to the layout of the space and are not necessarily laid out in a grid formation. While the latter will give totally even illumination, this can make a space feel more like an office than a home. In addition, most people have to stand or walk directly under a light, as it can cast an uncomfortable shadow. A better solution is to create some reflected light by directing the down lights towards the walls or cupboards so that the light reflects off the surface. This ‘wall washing’ will result in a far softer effect.
When using LED downlight for general light in this way, bear in mind that their effect will be strongly governed by whatever they are lighting. If the walls or floor are dark, then the reflected light will be much reduced. If the ceiling is the only light colour in the room, then uplight this. It is important to recognize that the colour and reflectance of the walls in an interior play an important part in how light is affected. In an totally white space, the reflectance is at its greatest, and the amount of light required to make the room seem bright will be comparatively less than in a dark timber or painted room in which light is absorbed and litter is reflected. A simple way to test this theory is to hold a piece of white card under a downlight, then a black or dark-coloured card, and observe the difference in reflection on the ceiling.
Uplight is a form of background light that is much softer than direct downlight. This can be from a freestanding floor uplihgt, a wall-mounted uplight or a linear fitting concealed above a cove in the ceiling or above cupboards. It provides an excellent basis for general light because it is soft and diffuse, with few sharp shadows, so that any accent light punched through it immediately creates contrast. The same rules apply: a white ceiling offers the best reflectance, but a matt surface is preferable to a shiny one. A shiny surface will reflect the light source itself, which will look unsightly, and the even wash, described above, will not be achieved.