The psychology of light: how to get the right mood for your rooms

In home lighting, brightness is often prized above all else. However, there are instances when this can have the adverse effect and flatten our carefully curated spaces. Fortunately, studies into the psychology of light can help us discover fresh and exciting mood lighting ideas that apply to a range of rooms, and can be used to best suit your home.

Hamburg - Use our guide to the psychology of lighting to discover the nuances that lie beneath the surface.


Forget the generalisations. An open plan kitchen-diner doesn’t have to be bright and airy throughout, nor should a living room always be cosy. The best mood lighting ideas reflect the unique elements of your home. That means:

  • How the shape of the space affects shadows.

  • How you regularly use it.

  • The mood you wish to evoke.

Keeping these in mind, you can use the following tools to enhance, adapt and enliven the atmosphere.


Extreme brightness isn’t always a good thing: it can quickly become overpowering and mask the nuances of your carefully designed home. One study found that the more intense the light, the more intense emotions are perceived to be. For example, people actually feel warmer in intense lighting, even if the temperature hasn't been raised. This makes it ideal for entertaining spaces, such as the living room or kitchen.


If brightness is the source of intensity, the colour and tone of your lighting adds nuance. For environments where you'll need to stay alert and creative, use daylight bulbs that emit light at the blue end of the spectrum (around 5000 kelvin). To encourage relaxation, use warmer tones (2700 kelvin). If you’re limiting the number of light sources in a room, install smart bulbs so you can still enjoy different 'moods' by tweaking the colour temperature of your bulbs using your smartphone.


Da Vinci and Caravaggio were masters of lighting in their art and their stunning use of chiaroscuro (Italian for ‘light-dark’) is the source of the vivid three-dimensionality that brings their works to life. Centuries later, and lighting designers are still using the same principles to bring a similar richness to home environments. The approach is based on three light sources: key, fill and back light.

The ‘key’ is the primary light source: the one that’s brightest in any situation. This allows you to choose what you'd like as the main focus of a room, for example an antique table with an attractive vase placed in the middle. Think reading lights, spotlights and standard lamps.

The ‘fill’ comes from the opposite direction, lighting the other side of people and objects to give depth. It gives you the opportunity to light up important elements that have been missed by the 'key', such as paintings. Usually this will be a window or a distant lamp.

The ‘back’ gently illuminates surroundings, something a central pendulum light with a low wattage bulb is perfect for. You'd use this concept to separate a subject from its background. Utilise this by setting up multiple light sources in your room, highlighting the furnishings you want attention drawn to, while employing fill lighting to sweep across plush surfaces like sofas or warm wooden floors.

For more fresh mood lighting ideas, visit our lighting design blog. Alternatively, you could delve into the specifics in our article on playing with light to discover practical ideas to apply to each room in your home.

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