How light bulbs can change an entire room


At the flick of a switch, we can control the ambience in a room, how we see the colours of food on our plates, how well we sleep at night and our general productivity. Indeed, simply changing a room’s lighting can transform the overall tone and feel of a living space. Before we help you pick the best light bulbs and lighting, it’s useful to get to grips with other measurements that can take a home from dull to dazzling. For tips on choosing different types of lighting to boost your mood, have a glimpse at our tips on how to light up a room. If you would like to find out where to place your lighting, what measurements you need to consider and what kind of light bulbs you need to transform your home from room to room, read on.

What do Kelvin, Lux, and CRI mean?

A Kelvin is a measurement of temperature (which measures the colour of light) that begins at absolute zero, and the size of one unit is the same size as one degree Celsius.

When choosing a light bulb, it’s beneficial to have a look at the colour temperature in the Kelvin scale – 2700k is a nice warm light whereas 7000k is overcast daylight. Often, the scale is displayed on the packaging of a light bulb. Generally, the lower the Kelvin, the more calming the light will be. Fluorescent lights measure in at 5000k and candle flames score around 1800k. This explains why harsh office lights keep us ‘switched on’ and candles are a must-have when it comes to unwinding in the evening.

A lux is the number of lumens that light up each square metre of floor space. A full moon is equal to 0.05-0.36 lumens, and direct sunlight is a staggering 32,000-100,000 lumens. In terms of how many lumens you need to light up a room, it depends on the design and colour scheme. Roughly, for floors you would be looking at 20 lumens per square foot, tables and raised surfaces need around 30, whilst desks and task lighting require 50 lumens per square foot.

When choosing the right light bulb for your home, it’s crucial to think about CRI (Colour Rendering Index), which measures the ability of a light source to correctly pinpoint the colours used around a home. A perfect CRI score is 90-100, but around 80 is considered acceptable. A high CRI score might want to be factored in when choosing dressing room lights so that you can see the correct shade of makeup you’re applying and the colour of your clothes. Not to mention, when you’re hanging a brand-new work of art; you don’t want to ruin a beautiful painting by basking it in an uncomplimentary wave of light.

Technicalities aside, here’s how to put this information into practice and select the correct light bulbs for every room.

How soft white light can transform your living room

Lux: 100lx (everyday activities), Dimmable to 20lx

Type: LED or Incandescent

Watts: 4-6W (for higher light output), 3-4W (for smaller fixtures)

Kelvin: 2200-2700

In the sitting room, what you want is flexibility in the form of bright lights (to allow pouring through the local paper or a family game of scrabble) and lights that can be dimmed, to generate a mellow and relaxing entertaining space.

Incandescent light bulbs cast ambient light around the room, making it better suited to portrait photography (and the occasional selfie). However, clear LED lights tends to be favoured these days as incandescent light bulbs can be expensive and have a short shelf life.

LED bulbs have shed their reputation of emitting cold harsh light. Modern LED bulbs are a bright, energy efficient form of lighting with a long-life span, designed to look like old traditional filament designs.

The trick to transforming your sitting room with light is to use more than one light source in your living space. As you can see from the sitting room below, it’s best to position a plethora of table lamps around a scheme.

What kind of light bulbs should I choose for my kitchen and dining room?

Lux: 480lx

Type: LED

Watts: 6W

Kelvin: 2500-6000

The kitchen is the social hub of the house and needs to be well-lit to allow accurate food preparation. A good quality LED light will help achieve a high CRI score of 90+, which will accurately portray the colour of the food. Previously, CFL (Compact Fluorescent Lights) were used in the kitchen and could only produce a CRI rating of around 80.

The lights in a kitchen should be bright (all over 2500 Kelvin) and bordering on the cool side for a clean effect. Pioneering the luxury lighting UK market, the OKA founders have developed a range of lights suitable for the kitchen, which is compatible with LED light bulbs.

The dining room, however, is a different story. For dinner parties and social occasions, you want a comfortable space for entertaining. This is underscored by creating a dark, intimately lit room with warm pools of light.

The dining room walls should be washed with a lower light level and accent lights should be added to draw attention to a special ornamental feature. Why not place lights, like the Kahili Leaf Lamp on a grand console table to beacon rays across a vase or sculpture. If your sitting room is embellished with wall lights, select a small 3W or 4W light bulb.

How to select light bulbs which will make a bedroom more relaxing

Lux: 100lx (general lighting), 200lx (task lighting)

Type: LED

Watts: 2W – 6W (for reading lights)

Kelvin: 2200-2700

After dark, screens should be stored away and the lighting in the bedroom should be a warm-white (approximately 2200 Kelvin). This is because cold blue light and LED screens halt the production of melatonin, the hormone which sends us into a deep slumber.

Dimming is essential in achieving a relaxing atmosphere and improves the versatility of a room. Bedside lighting should provide down light to allow reading, but not up light so that the room remains dark. Displaying a bedside lamp, such as the Nymphea Lamp, on each of your side tables will make the lighting in your bedroom more balanced. Placing a mirror behind each lamp will project the light around all the nooks and crannies, doubling the light sources whilst keeping the bedroom beautifully lit.

For task lighting, which could be displayed on a desk, select a bulb with 200lx and pick 100lx for the main bedroom light. The dimmable Zion LED 6W bulb emits a lovely warm-white glow (2200k) and would work well with table lamps, which you can customise through your choice of lampshade.

How to choose lighting for your bathroom

Lux: 100lx (general lighting), 150lx (task lighting)

Type: LED or Halogen

Watts: 6W (general lighting), 3-4W (task lighting)

Kelvin: 2500-4000

Lighting rich in lumens is key to making a bathroom nice and bright. The bathroom is one of the few rooms in the house where cold light is acceptable (4100 Kelvin) and gives the space an energetic feel. Halogen lights are a popular choice for the bathroom, as they give off a bright white light which mimics natural daylight.

Task lighting should be placed either side of a large mirror – for decorative and functional purposes – and be fitted with an LED bulb. Generally, across the bathroom, lighting should be designed with uniform background lights with higher light levels in each area of use (sink, shower, bath etc.). Due to the wet environment, bulbs need to have an IP44+ rating to ensure they aren’t submerged in water. To avoid a short-circuit, make sure your light bulb fixtures and fittings are suitable for the bathroom.

Light bulbs dictate the mood of a room and it’s easy to diminish the feel of a space with the wrong light bulb. But hopefully, we’ve ‘illuminated’ you on which type of light bulb to use in each room. Remember to change your light bulbs throughout the year to create the perfect lighting for your space – in the colder months there will be less natural light to play with, so you’ll need more lighting, and you’ll need to swap to lower wattage bulbs to achieve that cosy autumnal glow.

For further inspiration, Lucinda sheds light on her favourite sitting room lighting tips – including the use of wall lights if you’re working with a compact space.