Feature article

Interior lighting trends

Our experts offer lighting tips and trends to enhance your space.

Last updated: 1 February 2023

When it comes to lighting in your home, there’s so much to learn about how to mix your fixtures, meanwhile technology is allowing designers to be more creative with their lighting materials than ever before.

What you’ll learn:

  • The latest in lighting technology
  • Most Kiwis have got their home lighting wrong
  • Varying or mixing your lighting from bright to subtle is the way to go
  • New lighting materials like leather, ceramics and cardboard are coming in
  • Choose your lighting with the era of your home in mind

According to architect and lighting designer, Diego Sáez Ibarzábal from Inlucem, lighting in 90% of homes in Aotearoa New Zealand doesn’t add any experience. Most people aren’t aware of the influence of lighting, he claims. It’s about having light in the right place, he says. If you put a light in that “uplights” the ceiling, the space feels bigger, for instance.

When the light is correctly positioned, it’s enhancing, like watching a movie with a globe light on, he says. And in architectural design, the light needs a surface, otherwise it will travel endlessly, he explains. Always aim the light at the surface, be it a wall, a ceiling or the floor. Always think about where the light is going to be reflected, he advises.

Wick by Graypants from ECC

Latest lighting trends from ECC

Anita Dykes, lighting design consultant at stylish lighting retailer, ECC, likes to see a mix of lighting in a home. “You’ve got “the stars of the show,” say a light in the entrance, a pendant in the dining room, something at the staircase and then blend them together by colour so there’s a link through the house,” she says. When looking at creating lighting in a home, Anita says she always likes to start with the dining room. “It’s all about the function. You stand at the table facing all the guests, you’re able to see through the light, then when you sit down, it’s a whole different experience,” she explains.

Lighting materials are evolving thanks to LED technology which means bulbs are no longer getting hot, says the lighting consultant. She’s seeing leather, cardboard and wood light fittings. And The Wireline light fixture, is a rubber and glass product that’s new and exciting.

An arresting light to have near the island for the kitchen, is the Flos Tracking Magnet, a flexible architectural lighting system which can be recessed, surface mounted or suspended. The lights are magnetised and you can unclip them and pull them round to accommodate something on the kitchen island, like a big vase of flowers, says the lighting consultant.

In the foyer of a home, meanwhile, create an arresting first impression, with wall lights that are almost like a piece of art, she suggests.

“There are so many wall lights with a gold leaf, they look like objects of interest when you illuminate them,” adds Anita.

In an entrance hall, you can mix it up, she says. “Have a pendant light, a wall light and then a console table with a table lamp on it.” Then you could have a couple walls of artwork and family photos and some lighting to highlight that.

“It doesn’t have to be uniform,” adds Anita.

Flos Tracking Magnet from ECC

In the foyer of a home, for that first impression, the ECC lighting consultant likes wall lights which are almost like a piece of art.

“There are so many wall lights with a gold leaf, they look like objects of interest when you illuminate them,” adds Anita.

Petra by Christopher Boots from ECC

With an entrance hall, you can mix it up, she suggests. “Have a pendant light, a wall light and then a console table with a table lamp on it.” Then you could have a couple walls of artwork and family photos and some lighting to highlight that.

“It doesn’t have to be uniform,” adds Anita.

In a multipurpose living space where you watch media you might have a nice pendant as a general light, a corner table lamp and then wall nights. When you have a movie night you can dim quite a lot of this down, suggests the lighting consultant. And her recommendation is to have dimmers on everything.

Latest technology trends to watch

Anita is a big fan of putting dimmers on all lights to change the mood in a room. The latest trends in lighting tech are in smart dimming, says the ECC lighting consultant. There are lots of opportunities to dim lights while sitting on the couch, says Anita. She’ll always ask clients if they’re analog or digital people. “Some people like to twiddle with dials, others want to be able to control things from the beach,” she says.

To see what’s possible in the latest technology, check out the Casambi solution based on Bluetooth low energy wireless technology, she suggests. You download the Casambi app, then when you want to turn on the light, Casambi starts searching for devices through the house.

Whole house lighting systems can be automated these days, and there are lights that respond to light – if it starts to darken, they’ll respond by coming on.

And it’s not all about high tech. One of the most popular lights at the moment are tech-enabled portable lanterns, says Anita. “You charge them at a USB station and then you can wander around the house and pop them in nooks and crannies inside and outside. You can get them in different colours and they’re brilliant for kids' rooms,” says the ECC consultant. The Graypants Wick is very popular and the Follow Me by Marset, she says.

It’s about layering your lighting

Rachel Williamson, founder of lighting retailer, Mr Ralph, which specialises in decorative lights, is welcoming the fact that soul is coming back into New Zealand homes with accent lighting and ambient lighting replacing some of the strip lights, spotlights and recess lights popular a couple of decades ago.

.“Lighting in the 1990s was all about recessed lighting and, as a consequence, we lost the soul in our homes,” says Rachel. “Without accent and ambient lighting it doesn’t feel like a home,” she adds.

You need to layer the three forms of lighting, task, accent and ambient lighting, advises Rachel. In kitchens you need to have task lights, for doing certain jobs but these can be turned off and the ambient and accent light can form the framework of the room. In the rest of the space you might have an armchair in the corner with accent lighting, and then you can have the ambient glow from a table lamp or a pendant light, she says.

“We’re designed to respond to light,” says the Mr Ralph director. In her own case, if she has too much light, she feels anxious.

In her own home office, she has a table lamp on her desk which beams down on the keyboard and then she has a pendant lamp hanging down over a round table and a couple of chairs.

“When everything is so full of noise, there’s so much media coming at us, it’s over-stimulating so when you go home, you want some respite from this,” she explains.

Photo credit: Bonnie Beattie

Lighting becoming softer in shape and materials

When it comes to materials in lighting, it’s all about form and function this year, says Rachel.

“Clear glass with bright bulbs inside are now gone, replaced by a pared back opal finish and you don’t see the bulb. It just glows beautifully,” says the lighting expert.

Rachel says she’s also seeing a lot of wood and rattan lights, the rattan might be a rich brown and more Victorian in style.

The retailer who sells Mat Macmillian Maker lights and has started working with Formation Lights, a Dunedin based artisan inspired by the Otago region, these are very much part of the trend for natural organic design.

The Mr Ralph director says she’s on the hunt for ceramicists in New Zealand. “It’s a beautiful material from the earth and there’s a desire to diffuse light,” says Rachel.

Photo credit: Bonnie Beattie

Are chandeliers still on-trend?

If you’ve got a softspot for chandeliers, they can be a bit dated if they’re a traditional style, but they’re evolving in different ways, says the Mr Ralph director. “We’re designing one at the moment with beautiful glass leaves, she says.

ECC sells a number of popular styles including the Moooi gravity chandelier and Melbourne designer, Christopher Boots is taking the concept to new levels, says Anita.

A new form of chandelier is being created where you might have three lots of lights in a cluster, says Rachel. Mat Macmillan lights are clustered all the time, she says. You might have one long shape and then have them vertically clustered, one up high and then another two below so the lights cascade down.

“There’s a time and a place for chandeliers,” adds Katie Scott from Sticks + Stones Design. And it’s a fine line between too much and just right. It’s all about being balanced, she adds.

If you have a beautiful view from a window then it’s not somewhere where you'd put a huge chandelier, she advises. They can work in an area where you’re trying to create interest.

Lighting inspiration from Mr Ralph

Lighting is a way to manipulate space

Although she’s an architectural designer, Katie describes herself as a lighting fanatic.

Lighting at the moment is about being natural, organic and soft, it’s not as structural as it was, says Katie.

Be clever with your lighting, she urges. With a feature wall, have an LED light shining on it at an angle. Where you put the light is to exaggerate or emphasise, advises the designer. “Lighting is a way for you to manipulate space, to focus on what you want,” she says.

Halo Wall lights from ECC

The trend coming from the most recent Milan Furniture Expo, is very much about mood and flush lighting, flush lighting down feature walls with natural tones, says the Stick + Stones designer. Interiors design is based on earthy tones and texture, so for instance, plaster renders are being used to give homes a soft, cosy, earthy feel, she adds.

As for lighting places like hallways or up stairs, Katie’s says tread lighting or lighting under a hand rail up a staircase can be very effective.

And she’s noticed an increasing focus on artisan products in light fabrication, says the architectural designer.

“With more love for things that are New Zealand-made, it can be a buzz to be able to say: “This light was made in New Zealand and was locally sourced”,” says Katie. She mentions well-known lighting artists like David Trubridge, Nightworks in Christchurch and SØKTAS, who though based in Queensland, are New Zealanders. One of them is Oliver Höglund, from the well known Höglund Art Glass hand-blowing glass family.

The Manhattan Range from Mr Ralph

Your lighting will depend on the age and style of your home

Always consider the character and era of your home with your lighting, says Wellington-based interior designer Charlotte Minty. She’s recently done a space by a marina and its location inspired the lighting style of brass and glass.

Moody bathroom wall lights by Articolo. Kitchen pendant lights by SØKTAS.

Charlotte is a fan of pendant lights, especially in houses with generous ceiling heights.

Meanwhile in a large open plan living dining area, popular in the last decade or so, it’s nice to create separate spaces, she advises. So think about having pendants over the dining table, downward lights over the kitchen and floor lamps and downward lights in the living room, she suggests.

One of the things Charlotte has learned over the years is about lighting up art on the walls with a wash of light, then having the light bounce back into the room.

“Some clients really understand how important lighting is, it needs to be thought out and be part of the design,” she says.

It’s about knowing what’s working for you and what’s not, she adds. Is a space too bright or too dark? Are you finding not enough light by the bathroom mirror? What activity are you doing in each space?

When it comes to trends, Charlotte says brass light fittings are popular. Black lights are really strong too, she adds. They’re a great way to inject contrast and sharpness in a white space.

It’s also about being consistent throughout, she notes.” I did a kitchen that was predominantly white so used black lights and the rest of the house the lights were black or had black detailing,” says the interior designer.

Wall lights can work well in corners you want to bring into the light, suggests Charlotte. “Looking at my own house we’ve got a corner that’s a bit dark and we don’t want a table there or a floor lamp, so we’re doing a wall mounted light which will brighten up the corner,” she says.

Follow Me by Marset from ECC

Pay attention to your bulbs!

You’re inspired with some great ideas but don’t fall at the last fence and get the bulbs wrong. There are good and bad LEDs, says Charlotte.

Her tip, a 2700K (Kelvin) gives a warm, white friendly personal light, good for homes, 3000K is still nice and pleasing but she would never go over that.

Rachel Williamson says Mr Ralph has a ‘how to’ section on picking bulbs on its website. As you go up the Kelvin scale the light becomes more blue. Operating theatres, for instance, have very high Kelvin, for clarity needed in the detailed work, she says, but you don’t want to live with that all the time.

With LED lights it’s always important to keep them all the same, they need to all work together, adds Katie.

Lighting inspiration