January 18, 2016
George Ross
Make a plan to light your room with a combination of practical and decorative fixtures.

Dear Debbie,

We are planning the lighting for our new living dining area and would like your advice. There are so many options we don’t know where to start.


Dear Benjamin,

You are very clever to be thinking about the lighting requirements at the beginning of your decorating process. Once you have an idea of where your furniture will be placed you can devise an overall lighting scheme that will enhance all the activities that take place in this busy space. Your choices will also make the most of your colours and fabrics, bringing them to life and complementing your settings.

Begin by placing ambient light. During the day natural light may fill your room, but think about evening lighting requirements. Ambient light comes from different sources, pot lights in the ceiling, wall sconces, overhead lights and floor lamps. The sum of the light shed by ambient sources should brighten up the entire space, but not in a garish way. Dimmer switches on overhead lights allow you to control the atmosphere as your needs change. Next consider accent lighting such as spot lights and shelf lights to highlight favourite objects and architectural details. Up-lighting is very effective for plants, and washes the wall with shadows that build on a mood. You may love a particular chandelier or fascinating floor lamp that gives off little useful light. This is decorative lighting and can become a focal point on its own. Fire and candlelight is about movement rather than serving a function. The kinetic energy of the dancing flames of a fire and the flicker of candlelight will always enhance the mood and drama you wish to create in your rooms.

In one corner of a living room shown here you can see that natural light fills the space during the day. In the evening, ambient light spills from tiny ceiling spotlights, and the sleek and sexy wall sconce ( A favourite antique candelabra takes pride of place on the floor, and a crackling fire invites all to gather round. With advanced planning, all the necessary wiring can be put into place and you will have the opportunity to make the most of your personal lighting choices.

Dear Debbie,

Noting that gray was the new black in decorating circles, I must admit I went a bit overboard, and am now faced with a living area that is over-filled with many shades of gray. Carpet, sofas, draperies look great but there is no real warmth to the room. Help please.


Dear Cassie,

This happens. We get caught up in a trend, and when we shop there seems to be just exactly what we are looking for because the marketers are on top of the trend. But your dilemma is easily fixed. Think of that little black (or gray) dress that is transformed by a dazzling necklace or designer scarf. Choose an accent colour, and there are many that will make your grays pop. Start small and introduce colour through sofa pillows. Turquoise metallic fabric looks great as do shades of orange, pink and red. Floral or geometric patterns will add movement to the room as well as texture. Find other accent pieces, a lamp, a collection of vases or ceramic bowls, or a fabulous art poster. If your walls are white or gray, try an oversized wallpaper print on one focal wall. Your room will come to life immediately.