Robin Gould of property-finding agents Prime Purchase has no doubt: ‘Good modern lighting is important for first impressions and can definitely help to sell a property. I’ve seen houses whose dark and rather forbidding interiors have been transformed into bright, cheery and welcoming spaces.’
Given the pivotal role that lighting plays, it’s surprising how often it’s treated as an afterthought. It could be that people simply feel overwhelmed by the wide range of options that’s available.
Lighting older country houses can prove tricky because rooms have often been added in different periods and their modern-day function isn’t necessarily the one they were originally built for, so each needs special treatment. Remaining sympathetic to the period setting is also a challenge. Old houses were originally illuminated by the flattering glow of lamps and candles, amplified in grander properties by mirrors, chandeliers and gilt wood. Obviously, this would be impractical today, but should be kept in mind to avoid your lighting scheme jarring with its surroundings.
Ask a designer, and they’ll say that the answer to this conundrum lies in layering. ‘For a big country house, you need a seriously large number of different lights to create a diffuse, warm atmosphere,’ explains Lucy Vaughan of lighting designer Vaughan (www.vaughandesigns.com; 0207-349 4600). Her ideal mix would include ceiling, wall and picture lights with muted shades: ‘When in doubt, go over scale. Hang a large lantern in the hall and a large crystal chandelier in the drawing room.’
Lamps are also important decorative tools. ‘The chaos of a country house can be offset by a well-placed pair of lamps on a console in an entrance or drawing room to add harmony or balance,’ says Sarah Hills of Porta Romana (020-7352 0440; www.portaromana.co.uk). In a dining room, she suggests hanging groups of ceiling lights at different heights.
Yet not all country houses offer the luxury of large, high-ceilinged rooms. In such a case, Sally Stephenson of Owl Lighting (01962 738689; www.owllighting.co.uk) believes ‘LED lights can offer a discreet means of illuminating the spaces and features that give period houses their distinctive feel’
Older buildings can also have logistical benefits: Sally Storey of John Cullen Lighting advocates the use of small spots that can be hidden in low beams (020-7371 5400; www.johncullenlighting.co.uk).
And don’t forget that lighting plays a key role outside a country house, too. Mrs Hills believes that, in order to make a great first impression, it’s important to bathe the entrance with a golden glow. Trees, shrubs, gates, terraces, statuary and swimming pools can all be transformed, creating a striking outlook that will charm buyers and visitors alike.
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