Designer secrets: Susie Atkinson on the keys to perfect lighting

Susie Atkinson, a designer whose projects include Soho House, shared her best lighting tips with Country Life.

What do you regard as the ideal combination of lighting in a living room?

Different levels of light, preferably on dimmable circuits, allow you to create atmosphere and different moods, and is more flexible than too much overhead lighting.

Table and floor lamps, some picture lighting and a dimmable pendant possibly centred on the fireplace or over a central coffee table or stool make a good mix.

And in a bedroom?

Lamps are my favourite here because they cast a softer, lower-level light. I might also use some picture or wall lights and reading lights by the bed.

What are your tips on using spotlights?

I try to avoid using too many of them, because they aren’t very characterful. Twelve spotlights in a ceiling and a pendant in the middle just don’t look very good and can create an over-lit feel. Better to use them specifically, for example, angled to highlight an artwork or to light a dark corner of a kitchen or bathroom.

Soho House in Mayfair

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Any thoughts on lighting in kitchens?

Pin spots positioned over working areas are ideal, perhaps mixed with pendants over an island where your head won’t hit them. I also like wall lights around a dining area or pendants over a dining table, with lighting inside glazed cupboards to illuminate pretty china or glassware and uplighters focused on a display shelf of books.

How do you light hallways?

LED candles by OKAA ceiling lantern, pendant or chandelier creates the focal point, often mixed with wall lights in a long hallway or up a staircase, where it can be more difficult to use overhead lighting. I also like using candles in floor lanterns; OKA ( sells LED candles that can be used to safely light a wooden staircase.

Any new lighting ideas that you are keen to share?

I love sourcing antique lights, such as beautiful old-brass wall sconces, to mix into both contemporary and traditional projects to add individual character. I also like to buy simple black wall lanterns (such as those by Davey Lighting – and paint them a colour, such as red or blue, to create interest in a hallway. And the handmade textile pendants by Naomi Paul ( are beautiful, diffusing light to create a gentle glow.