Interiors expert Kate Watson-Smyth's tips on perfecting home lighting – 'think of it as earrings to enhance an outfit'

Glow up your home with this expert advice

Kate Watson-Smyth
(Image credit: Kate Watson-Smyth)

Interiors expert and journalist, Kate Watson-Smyth, shares the key to achieving lighting in your home that will transform your space. It's all about being more intentional with the way you're lighting your home, viewing it from more than just a practical aspect.

Lighting trends, just as other trends we've seen take centre stage throughout the year, have allowed us glimpses into styles we may have never previously considered. However, irrespective of your living room lighting – or any room for that matter – success with lighting lies in nailing three things: tone, layers, and decorative accents.

Victorian fireplace with marbled mantelpiece, grey panelled walls and large circular mirror

(Image credit: Future PLC/James Merrell)

Kate Watson-Smyth's top tips on using lighting in a home

Speaking to Ideal Home, we grilled the Mad About the House writer for her top tips regarding ways to instantly spruce up a home – especially homes in need of some TLC ahead of the new year.

Kate Watson-Smyth
Kate Watson-Smyth

Kate Watson-Smyth is an author and journalist who has been writing about interior design for more than 20 years. As well as four best-selling books, her work has been published in the Financial Times, Sunday Times, Daily Telegraph, Guardian, Independent and Grazia. She writes a monthly column for Red magazine and her home has been featured in the Wall St Journal, Corriere della Sera and Remodelista.

'Good lighting is one of the key ways to transform your space and make it look great,' begins Kate. 'I think good lighting is so important, especially concerning renters.'

Of course, if you're lucky enough to own, rest assured that these tidbits of advice are just as applicable.

Consider tone and warmth

If you're a renter, be warned that not changing the often standard cool-toned lightbulbs is a common living room lighting mistake.

'A lot of the times when you rent houses it's got horrible standard lightbulbs in or are bright white. So, the first thing I would suggest if you rent a property is to change the lightbulbs for something warmer – a warm white,' she advises.

You can easily snag some warm-toned bulbs on Amazon at an affordable price.

'That will instantly improve things.'

Modern white kitchen, large lilac breakfast bar with high bar stools, low hanging pendant lights

(Image credit: Future PLC/David Parmiter)

Layer your lighting

'The key to good lighting is layering,' explains Kate. 'I'm not a fan of necessarily using all the overhead lights either. I'd much rather go for lamps – and you need to layer them. This is so you can get light at different heights and in different strengths.'

'You need a mix of floor, table, task, and wall. The first for height, the second for atmosphere, while task (or desk) lamps allow you to focus on specific jobs,' she explains. Think warmer, ambient lamps for your bedroom lighting ideas and brighter task lamps for your home office lighting ideas.

'The magic thing about lighting is that you can use it whether you own or rent to highlight the good bits and shadow the more utilitarian pieces.'

Master bedroom with cream carpet, pale blue walls and double bed with light blue blanket and vintage cushion with floral pattern, lamp with red lampshade on mirrored beside table

(Image credit: Future PLC/James Merrell)

Using lighting as an accessory

Lastly, Kate sheds a spotlight on how our lighting choices shouldn't only look good when the 'big light' is off, but also during the daytime for example, when they're not in use. This is a huge factor as to why the interiors expert is 'always experimenting with light'.

'Make sure you choose lighting that looks as good switched off as it does on. Think of it as earrings to enhance an outfit,' she says. 'They can be slightly more decorative.'

This is a playful and insightful analogy to run with the next time we consider our hallway lighting ideas and kitchen lighting ideas alike.

Bathroom conversion full of warmth and character. Vanity unit with white and green marble top

(Image credit: Future PLC/Simon Whitmore)

Our picks of lamps for layering

These are a few of our favourite lamps to help you on your journey of nailing lighting as per Kate's advice to create maximum impact in even the dreariest of spaces.

So, best believe we're officially waving goodbye to flat and lifeless spaces in our homes come 2024 – and you can hold us to that.

Taskrabbit, the platform that connects people with skilled reliable Taskers to get help around the home and garden, has been working with Kate Watson-Smyth on their 2024 interior trend report, revealing what is set to be big in our homes in the coming year. Those looking to get a helping hand can book a Tasker online or on the Taskrabbit app.

Jullia Joson
Junior Writer

Jullia Joson is a Junior Writer at Ideal Home. She's always loved all things homes and interiors, graduating with a bachelor's degree in Architectural Studies from the University of Nottingham where her love for journalism blossomed following her internship at ArchDaily. Now focused on home tech, Jullia works on writing features and explainers to help people make the most of their home appliance investments. When she isn't writing, she loves exploring the city, coffee shop hopping, and losing hours to a cosy game.