How to make your home feel cosy with ambient lighting, according to an interior design psychologist

Posted by for Interior design

We often think that the antidote to cold evenings is stocking up on throws, blankets and cushions. Good lighting, though, is actually the ultimate way to achieve “peak cosiness” at home, promises an interior design psychologist.

We’ve long been fascinated by Scandinavia’s culture of hygge, and, as the winter nights get longer and darker, it feels only right to start making some cosy changes to our homes. 

But if you’re a little lost on how to achieve that sweet spot of “peak cosiness”, you might be interested to learn that it all starts with lighting, to which there is a science. 

Indeed, although interior design touches and soft furnishings are important to the overall look of your place, if you want to create a general feeling of warmth and ambience, lighting is where to start.

Niki Schafer, an interior design psychology expert who is working with B&Q, has created a room-by-room guide explaining exactly which types of lighting you should use and where, from the colour of the bulb to how low we should position our lamps.

Here, Schafer shares her easy-to-follow tips with Stylist.co.uk, so that you can start preparing your place for winter with this how-to guide to lighting.

  • Pick the perfect lightbulb

    When previously buying lightbulbs you might have been more concerned with getting the right shape, fitting and kilowatts, but the hue of light that a lightbulb emits is incredibly important when it comes to the atmosphere of a room. 

    “Never underestimate the power of the perfect lightbulb,” says Schafer. 

    “The temperature of a bulb is measured in Kelvins. While high Kelvins give more neutral white light to create an energising, bright, vibrant environment, it’s the low Kelvins that generate warmer, cosier lights,” she explains.

    “A light that you want to sit by and feel cosy needs to be a lovely yellow or peach coloured light, making 2700 on the Kelvin scale ideal. To give this some comparison, bright daylight can be up to 6500K, and a fire is lower still – around 1900, which is super cosy but perhaps a little difficult to see by!”

    Shop extra large globe bulb at Pooky Lighting, £14

  • Start your cosy journey in the hallway

    When you’ve had a long, hectic day, stepping through your front door is like entering a beacon of calm and safety. Schafer thinks it’s important to make those first moments at home feel as warmly enveloping as possible.

    She says: “As the first interior space you see after a long day, it immediately sets the scene of relaxation before you get further into the home.

    “You’ll need somewhere to empty your pockets, unload your keys and look through the post, so I always advise setting up a table lamp with a temperature of 2700 Kelvins on a console. This space, and especially its light, is essential for setting the scene of relaxation before you get further into your home.”

    Shop Nantan matt black table light at B&Q GoodHome, £20

  • Create a low pocket of light

    “When settling down for the evening, cosied up on the sofa, you don’t want garish overhead lights which can feel too bright and cold. To achieve the feeling of cosy, the point at which our bodies relax and we feel a sense of safety, it’s best to sit in a pocket of light,” says Schafer. 

    The best way to achieve this is a dimmable floor lamp, which casts a puddle of warm light downwards. But it’s also important to think about how you can use lighting to enhance how you use your rooms. 

    Schafer advises: “If you’ve got a darker corner, could a lamp transform it into a reading nook? If so, try adding a ceramic-based or rattan style table lamp with a light coloured shade next to your favourite armchair or on either side of your sofa.

    “To create a sense of balance throughout the room, wall lights can also create a soft light that doesn’t dominate. Try leaving them on a circuit of their own so they can be used as the sole source of light.”

    Shop Noko wicker lamp at Nkuku, £195

  • Pick matching bedside lamps

    When we’re trying to wind down and get ready for sleep, a bright overhead light can be jarring. 

    Schafer recommends putting a bedside lamp on both sides of your bed, praising how calming the symmetry looks. She says: “In the space where we most need to switch off, it’s really important that your lights produce a relaxing glow as you settle into bed at night. Consider a separate reading light but keep the bedside light as a more romantic or cosy light source.

    “Of course, all light will be impacted by the colours around it – darker, warmer colours absorb some of the light, whereas white and lighter colours will bounce it around more. All of these can be taken into consideration so think carefully about how you want to feel in each space you are designing your lighting for.”

    Shop table lamp with wooden base at Zara Home, £69.99

  • Get the balance right in your kitchen

    Kitchens aren’t the same as living rooms and bedrooms, which are spaces where we’re consciously trying to unwind. Often kitchens are for socialising, but at the very least, a practical space which needs to be well-lit. 

    Schafer insists, though, that this space is all about balance. Cluster pendant overhead lights controlled by a dimmer switch are the ideal lighting solution as they look stylish and atmospheric when turned down, while at full brightness give lots of lighting coverage when you’re cooking.

    “Kitchens require brighter light when you’re working in them, but it’s nice to turn the glare down when you’re eating or just enjoying a glass of wine. 

    “A pendant light is also brilliant as acting as a focal point, statement piece, or even a conversation starter. From modern and sleek to ornate and dramatic, there are no limits to the impression you can create.”

    Shop Nantan matt black 5 lamp pendant ceiling light at GoodHome B&Q, £80

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Images: B&Q / courtesy of brands

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Megan Murray

Megan Murray is a digital journalist for stylist.co.uk, who enjoys writing about London happenings, beautiful places, delicious morsels and generally spreading sparkle wherever she can.