Light in the home – switches and circuits

And so we come to the final chapter of this lighting series. I know, it’s very sad isn’t it? We’ve covered natural light, hidden lighting, statement lighting, accent lighting, and now for the season finale – switches and circuits. Hmmmm…perhaps a bit of an anti-climax. Nevertheless, this behind-the-scenes cleverness and trickery is just as important as the lighting itself and proper planning will ensure your room is adapted perfectly for your lifestyle. This is how your lighting scheme can reach its full potential.

Feature image: Forbes & Lomax button dimmer controller in stainless steel

Chapter 5 – switches and circuits

Now that you’ve rigorously planned out your detailed lighting scheme, you need to make sure each level is on multiple circuits so that you can control them independently. This is going to require some degree of planning and forethought on your part. Sorry about that.

Glenshaw Mansions, Brixton, London
An open plan space features separate zones that require independent lighting. Image from YourSpace Contractors via Houzz.

Consider how many different light options and combinations you may want and make sure the circuits are separated. In open plan spaces you will also want to think about the different zones as well as the different lighting levels. This may mean you have a hell of a lot of switches in each room but it’s worth it. Much better to have tons of switches than to only have the option of all lights on or all lights off.

Calvin Street
This industrial style bedroom by Chris Dyson Architects features four switches for the nearby areas
Forbes & Lomax unlacquered brass three gang dolly switch
Forbes & Lomax unlacquered brass three gang dolly switch

If you’re going to have a lot of switches, then why not make a feature out of them? If you’re looking for something a little more aesthetically pleasing than the standard white plastic variety, then look to companies like Forbes & Lomax that offer a huge range of attractive and high quality electrical accessories. Finishes include brass, nickel, antique bronze and stainless steel, but the one that really nails it is the Invisible Switch®.  Featuring a transparent acrylic plate and a backplate that you can paint or wallpaper to match the wall, the switch just blends in seamlessly. Classy.

Forbes & Lomax Invisible Lightswitch
Forbes & Lomax Invisible Lightswitch® with nickel silver dolly
Forbes & Lomax unlacquered brass 5amp socket with black insert
Forbes & Lomax unlacquered brass 5amp socket with black insert

Most lamps have their own control so you might be thinking that this will save you a switch or two. However, if you have a lot of lamps in a room, consider putting them on a lighting circuit so that you can activate them with a flick of a wall switch rather than having to run around turning seven lamps on and off every day. This involves installing some three pin 5A sockets and changing your table or floor lamp plugs to three pin plugs. It’s fairly straightforward to do if you’re the DIY sort, or just speak to your electrician. It’s a very useful feature and you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it. Plus it keeps your sockets free for other appliances. With or without a lighting circuit, you will need to decide on your layout of furniture, light fittings and lamps before starting your refurbishment to make sure the sockets and switches are in the right place. Nothing says ‘I didn’t put enough thought into this’ like trailing cables and extension leads.

In certain spaces, such as open plan areas and circulation spaces (i.e. hallways and landings) you may want to consider two way switches so that you can turn lights on/off from multiple locations. Think about how you will use a space and where it will be most useful to have the switches. For example, an entrance hall will need switches coming in from the front of the house, back of the house and also from the top of the stairs. Incorrect placement of switches could result in a lot of running around or fumbling in the dark.

Traditional ceramic light pull, £26.00 from Willow & Stone
Traditional ceramic light pull, £26.00 from Willow & Stone

As well as the position, be sure to specify what type of switches you want as well. There is a whole range of styles to choose from, even with just normal on/off switches – rockers, dolly toggles, or for bathrooms don’t forget the mighty pull cord.

While an on/off switch is often sufficient, particularly if you have well thought out lighting levels, dimmer switches are also a fantastic tool for adjusting light levels. These are especially useful with ceiling spotlights and pendants. Just make sure that dimmers are compatible with your chosen light fittings and/or bulbs.

Never Square
The swing arm wall lights in this bedroom by Duck & Shed look stunning and are ideal in the absence of bedside units

If you have opted for bedside pendants or wall lights, don’t forget to add a switch by the bed for them too. Having to get out of bed to turn them off every night will get old really fast! Some fittings will feature their own switch but if not, install a wall switch on each side of the bed to control each one independently.

So that’s it, the end of my mini-series on light in the home. It’s been a bit of a lighting overload this last few weeks but I hope you enjoyed it and found it useful. You might say you found it…illuminating. Hahahahaha! I’m hilarious. Let me know if you have any thoughts or questions in the comments section, or drop me a line if you’re looking for some advice on a lighting plan of your own.

Lights out.

J x

Links to the previous chapters for your viewing convenience:


3 Replies to “Light in the home – switches and circuits”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: