Five common lighting problems and how to solve them

I’ve always said that lighting is one of the most important things to get right in your home but also one of the things that people struggle with most. All too often I go into rooms that are badly lit and no matter how beautifully decorated the room is, no matter how comfortable or welcoming, if the lighting is wrong it will ruin the entire room and make it an unpleasant place to be.

Generally, I have achieved good lighting in my flat but there are five areas that need a bit of attention and I have called in the help of the experts at John Cullen Lighting to give me a bit of guidance. Hopefully, you will find their advice useful too…

Problem one: Dressing table

Me: What would be the best way of lighting my dressing table?

Five common lighting problems and how to solve them | Dressing table lighting | Apartment Apothecary

Solution: You could consider backlighting the mirror with a linear LED like Contour HD24 for an even glow. This would involve mounting the mirror slightly off the wall with a smaller timber frame, and then attaching the Contour to the back of the mirror facing towards the wall. It creates a lovely soft wash of light and will illuminate your face with minimal shadows. If you can’t chase new wiring, consider linking this to a plug and locally switching from a 13 amp socket.

As standard, a downlight and a table lamp are a great way of lighting a dressing table area. The downlight should be tilted to angle towards the mirror and bounce the light back onto your face, whilst the table lamp gives a more even glow of light to help reduce shadows. Make sure your lamp has a lovely pale shade in soft fabrics to help maximise the light. Or use pendants in frosted glass for a real decorative wow factor, as well as a good even light to your face.

Problem two: Hallway

Me: We currently have spotlights in the hallway, which are very practical but they can be quite harsh. Is there a way of creating softer lighting that feels more welcoming when guests arrive into our hallway, especially at this time of year as we begin the festive period?

Five common lighting problems and how to solve them | Hallway lighting | Apartment Apothecary

Solution: Consider adding mobiles to soften the overall spotlights. This one from Skandium adds a real architectural note, whilst the antennae create exciting shadows and reflections on the walls.

Firstly the simplest solution is to change the switch to a dimmer so that you can set the right tone for the rest of the house from the front door. This will also enable you to soften the overall brightness for more mood and atmosphere. You could also swap your downlights for directional spotlights and wash the walls with light rather than the floor. The feeling of moving along a run way will be instantly softened and help highlight areas of interest to a visitor, rather than the floor. For example you could tilt a downlight to the blackboard door to add a focus to the hall.

It may also be possible to add glassware below or relatively near your downlights, so the light reflects through the glass creating wonderful shadows and reflections over the walls.

Problem three: Converting home office to nursery

Me: We are in the middle of converting our home office into a nursery so the lighting needs to be completely changed and I am getting rid of the main pendant light over the desk. How can I create soft lighting in the nursery, especially considering that I will need to do night feeds in there and I won’t want too much light as that will wake up both me and baby?

Five common lighting problems and how to solve them | Home office lighting | Apartment Apothecary

Solution: Coffers (where the central part of the ceiling is raised up, and a small outer sections remains lower) give an excellent atmospheric light source. With a linear LED tape such as our Contour HD24, giving an even wash to the ceiling, you are spared all focussed downlights and therefore an almost glare-free light. Having this dimmed would allow for a very soft light which shouldn’t keep you or the baby too alert when feeding during the night.

Having a light source at low level is the best way to avoid a light source disturbing you. Fittings recessed into the walls at skirting height, or using a linear LED under a piece of furniture, keeps brightness away from the eyes. LEDs are also pretty much heat free, so there would be no issues once baby starts crawling!

Problem four: Open shelving in kitchen

Me: I recently added open shelves to our kitchen and removed the wall cupboards that had spotlights attached to the underside to illuminate the kitchen worktop. Can you recommend a way I can light the shelves and the worktops? There are currently spotlights on the ceiling.

Five common lighting problems and how to solve them | Kitchen open shelving lighting | Apartment Apothecary

Solution: Spotlights in the ceiling will help with the general light in the space, but won’t do much to help with task lighting the worktops. Although you’ve removed the wall cupboards, it is possible mount Under Cupboard Lights under your shelves for a task light source. You could use an Eyelid or Flat version, and if you didn’t want to see the lights, perhaps add an ‘L’ section of metal at the front of the shelf to hide them from view.

Our linear Contour LED strip also work well under shelves. They can be hidden in a similar way to the under cupboard lights with a downstand at the front of the shelf, or recessed into the shelf using a metal profile.

You could also consider uplighting from the same shelf that you underlight, for a boost of general light and a dramatic back-lit look to items on the top shelf.

Problem five: Dining table

Me: We have a ceramic pendant light hanging over our dining table. Can you recommend the perfect bulb to create a soft light whilst we eat?

Five common lighting problems and how to solve them | Dining table lighting | Apartment Apothecary

Solution: We are all a little bit in love with LED Squirrel lamps at the moment. They come in all shapes and sizes, with Edison screw and bayonet options, and are a really beautiful option now that standard GLS lamps have been discontinued. In essence they stretch the standard coiled filament out until and layer the stretched filament in longer and broken lines, for a lovely and relatively glare free glow. A good make is to buy them from Tala.


Thank you so much to the team of lighting experts at John Cullen Lighting. Such brilliant suggestions and I can really visualise how everything you have advised will make a massive difference.

What lighting issues do you have?

Katy x

*This post was written in collaboration with John Cullen Lighting.

**All images of my home by Katharine Peachey (except dressing table image). All other images by John Cullen Lighting.



  1. Emma
    14th November 2016 / 6:31 pm

    Really, really useful. Things that I would never think about like using directional spotlights instead of down lighters to create softer light – makes perfect sense but it had never occurred to me! Going to make a list now like you have of the different areas in my flat that need attention. Great post.

  2. Nicola harrow
    14th November 2016 / 9:05 pm

    Really like the look of the LED strips. They could work in loads of different places. Do you know how they are installed? 🙂

  3. Clare
    15th November 2016 / 10:09 am

    Yes! The dressing table struggle is REAL! I can never see myself properly and end up standing next tot he window to put my make up on.

  4. 16th November 2016 / 11:16 am

    Thanks for the tips, lighting is something I’ve always really struggled with.

  5. Lesley Bain
    22nd November 2016 / 9:53 pm

    I love the effect of the Contour LED strips, I’ve added these to my wishlist. Very useful information thank you 🙂 x

  6. Val Muggeridge
    1st March 2021 / 2:47 pm

    We recently had the whole house newly carpeted and I am pleased with the effect during the day. However in the evening the carpets look completely different. I chose a beige with a pink tinge. However because it has a mix of colour at night the colour looks deeper pink and looks really tatty. What lighting can I use to show the colour at night as the same as in the day. All our lighting at the moment has uplighter lampshades.

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