What can you do about lighting in the home office?

Filed Under: Do it yourself, Redecorating, Remodeling    by: ITC

The home office may be in a room on its own, it may share the kitchen table or a corner of the living room, or it may simply be a wide shelf in a child’s room where homework is done.

Wherever it is, adequate lighting with no confusing shadows is necessary and similar lighting is required for close work such as model making, sewing or drawing. For all these activities, the lighting requirements remain the same: for close work, you need at least 200 watts of incandescent light (the most common form of lighting, using standard screw or bayonet light bulbs and rather yellow) or 400 watts of fluorescent light directed onto the work area, with a good general back-up light from elsewhere.

You always need sufficient background light to see the room and its contents, otherwise the contrast between the darkness of the room and the brightness of the work area will strain your eyes.

A desk is best placed against the wall rather than in front of the window because light from outside alters constantly, being dull sometimes and brightly sunny at others, so that the interior lighting would need to be constantly adjusted.

Fluorescent light is used a great deal in large offices because of its white, shadow less quality. In small rooms, however, low-voltage work lamps give a clear, white light which is ideal for working and even an incandescent angled lamp will give a perfectly adequate light.

Lighting should come from above and behind the worker, and should shine on the work without casting shadows or glaring into the eyes. A good form of lighting for a workspace which doubles as a dining table is a rise-and-fall lamp hanging from the ceiling. This can be pulled down low over the table for intimate conversations, raised slightly for reading and writing, and raised still higher to give a more general illumination.

Desk lamps should stand so that the lower edge of the shade is about level with your eyes when you are sitting working. Use a 75 watt or 100 watt incandescent bulb with a reflective (silvered) interior, which concentrates the light and gives the impression of a larger bulb.

The most popular lamps among architects, designers and other people who work at desks or drawing boards are angled desk lamps such as an Angle poise or a lamp called the ‘2001’, which have springs to keep them in place once they have been positioned. The heads are flexible and they can be used as down lighters, shining down on the page, or as up lighters illuminating the whole of the work area with reflected light from the wall or ceiling. (This is particularly good for computer work.)

They are available in table-mounted, clamp or clip-on versions and some are available with floor stands, the head and arm sections simply slotting into whatever base you choose. Their flexibility makes them ideal for small workspaces.

Safety with small spaces

Filed Under: Do it yourself, Home repair, Redecorating, Remodeling    by: ITC

People feel very secure in their own homes and are usually unaware of what a very dangerous place the home really is, especially for small children who are inexperienced, unsteady on their feet and insatiably curious. These are some of the dangers to plan against.


– Stairs should be well lit so that shadows do not confuse.

– Stair carpet should be well fitted and taut, with no loose stair rods or rucked-up areas which could cause a child to trip.

– If young children live in the house, there should be a child safety gate at the bottom and top of the stairs until they learn to negotiate them safely by themselves. This is particularly important in houses which have steep, narrow staircases and it is worth teaching an active toddler how to come downstairs backwards. Until you have achieved that, it is essential to have a gate.


– All floors should be non-slip.

– Carpets should be smooth and flat and not rucked up.

– Vinyl, cork and linoleum tiles should be undamaged and properly stuck down, particularly at the corners.

– Carpets on stairs and floors should be in good repair. Electricity

– Electric power points should be fitted flush to the wall and out of reach of young children.

– Electric leads should not trail over the floor.

– Lights in children’s rooms should be fixed to the wall or ceiling so that they cannot be knocked over.

– Electric sockets should be covered with socket guards.

– Buy electrical equipment with an official safety-approved label on it, which shows that it has been checked and has passed certain safety regulations. If using foreign equipment, check that it is suitable for use with the voltage of the country you are living in.

Doors and windows

-Doors leading outside, or to a hall or landing, should be protected with safety locks and handles which young children cannot operate on their own.

– Fix protective metal bars or a grid to the frames of upstairs windows, at least on the lower half of the window.


– Shower doors should be made of plastic or glass covered in safety film so that it will not splinter if it breaks.

– Make sure the flooring is non-slip, and use non-slip bathmats.

– Bathroom heaters should be wall-mounted and children should not be able to reach the switches from the bath.

– Use a rubber safety mat in the bath.

– Fit doors with two-way bolt indicators which can be opened from the outside.

– Install a high door handle to stop a child entering the bathroom alone.

– Fix the medicine cabinet out of child s reach and keep it locked. All medicines must be stored here. Eighteen month to two-and-a-half-year-olds are the main victims of home-poisoning accidents and aspirin is the main cause.


– Fit safety catches on cupboards and drawers to prevent children from getting into them.

– Keep high chairs away from worktops, doors and through areas so that children cannot reach anything dangerous, and also so that you will not trip over the legs. Children should always wear a safety harness in the kitchen.

– In a small kitchen it is particularly important to prevent children bumping into things, knocking over pans or playing with the cooker.

– Install cooker guards to keep prying fingers away.

– It is better to have rounded edges on tables than square ones as children are less likely to knock into them when they are running around.

– Make sure you have a non-slip floor and wipe up all grease spills immediately.

– Divide the kitchen, if it is big enough, with a waist-high storage unit and a gate so that children can play within sight but out of danger.

– The most convenient place for cleaning equipment is unfortunately under the sink, which is also the most dangerous. Keep chemical cleaners and all poisonous substances in a locked cupboard well out of reach of a two-year-old standing on a chair.

– The following are all poisonous: adhesives, air- freshener blocks, ammonia, bleach, upholstery and carpet cleaners, dyes, detergents, disinfectants, dry- cleaning fluids, paint solvents, fertilizer liquids, marking ink, insecticides, match heads, metal polish, moth treatments, oven cleaners, paint strippers, shoe polish, paraffin, scouring powders, silver polish, lavatory cleaners, turpentine, washing powders, washing up liquids and window-cleaning preparations.


– Never leave any fire unguarded. The best guards are made of metal mesh and are about 90cm (3ft) high and 1.2m (4ft) wide, with sides which prevent a child from getting anywhere near the fire.

– Place a piece of furniture in front of hot radiators or hot pipes to prevent young children bumping into them by accident.

– Do not use a portable paraffin heater in a room where a child may be left alone.

Lighting in your children’s rooms

Filed Under: Do it yourself, Home repair, Redecorating, Remodeling    by: ITC

General lighting for young children should be bright and revealing. Children like to make full use of the whole room and all the floor space when they are playing, and they will be encouraged to do so if the room is well lit.

Satisfactory lighting can be provided by a single ceiling pendant with a high-wattage bulb, up to 150 watts, and a pretty but not too obscuring shade. The ubiquitous Japanese globe-shaped paper lampshades are ideal for this, giving a clear but non-glaring light. Many have printed designs specially for children, although the natural white ones give a lovely light. If you do buy one with pictures or some sort of design, check that it lets plenty of clear light through.

All desks in the house should be provided with an adjustable lamp and children’s homework areas are no exception. Even before they go to school, children like to paint and draw, cut out, stick, make models and so on, and for all these activities they need good light. Bad light will deter them from doing homework, although neither child nor parent may realize what the problem is.

For older children, it is important that this general light should be boosted by various lights for the different activities they undertake. The smaller the home, the more likely a child will be to sleep, work, play and entertain friends in the one room.

These individual lights should be chosen with care. Take the bed, for example: even very young children like to look at picture books in bed, and older children usually enjoy reading before they go to sleep. A good reading light is essential and if the children are in bunks each bunk should have its own lamp. Young children should have a pull cord and a light fixed to the wall, not one standing on a table which could be knocked over. Alternatively, the light could be switched on and off from the door so that the parent is in control. An older child can have a light which is switched on and off from the bed so that he or she can read before settling down to sleep.

In children’s rooms it is most important to plan for safety. There should be absolutely no trailing leads, and nothing easily knocked over or broken. Lamps should be ceiling- or wall-hung, or firmly fixed to the frame of the bed or bunk. When installing sockets, set them at table height so that young crawlers and toddlers won’t be tempted to poke their fingers into them. Where floor-level sockets already exist, fit them with clip-on socket covers.

Unfortunately, children are prime targets for badly made goods; if something is pretty enough or advertised enough, a child will want it and it can be hard to say no. However, where lighting is concerned, poor-quality fittings must be absolutely taboo. Metal lamps may be badly insulated and become live; plastic lamps may break or simply fall to pieces. Always look for safety symbols when buying lamps, or buy from reputable manufacturers and retailers. Old fittings, no matter how charming and nostalgic, are a potential danger and there are plenty of new fittings which are safe, fun and inexpensive.

Another very important consideration for children’s rooms is a nightlight. Some children find it frightening to be left completely in the dark, but there is a good choice of lamps which just give a dim glow to help them to go to sleep and to comfort them if they wake up in the middle of the night. It doesn’t have to be a bright illumination, indeed too bright a light would be disturbing.

Doing up small spaces — storage galore

Filed Under: Crafts, Do it yourself, Redecorating    by: ITC

Hanging storage

Never underestimate the importance of hanging things up. Coats, jackets, umbrellas and hats all need to be accounted for and most people have several of each, so one or two hooks in the entrance hall are really not going to be enough.

An ideal solution is the Shaker idea of a wooden strip with wooden pegs which runs right round the wall at shoulder height. A simpler version is a wooden batten with cup hooks or other hooks screwed into it. This will hold an endless number of outdoor items holds electric plugs at a (tennis rackets and so on), and even equipment such as a broom or vacuum cleaner.

In the kitchen, a metal rail fixed below the ceiling above the cooker and worktop and hung with butcher’s hooks will hold any number of utensils otherwise floundering about in unnecessary cupboards. It should be positioned so that the utensils are not hanging so low that they will brain you as you stir the soup, and not so high that you need a stepladder to get them down.

Cup hooks are the time-honored way of storing things with handles, such as cups, mugs and jugs. Don’t choose the smallest hooks but get generous-sized ones which will take big, fat handles, and set them far enough apart so that things won’t knock into each other when they are hanging at an angle.

Furniture that folds

Folding chairs and tables are absolutely invaluable in a small home.

Doing up small spaces when designing your home — jewellery

Filed Under: Crafts, Do it yourself, Redecorating, Remodeling    by: ITC

Some of the most decorative objects we own are our jewelery, yet they are the most difficult to store and display. Strings of beads get mixed up with each other and tangled, rings are scratched and earrings become divided as easily as socks so that you can only find one of a pair when you want to wear them. It is worth searching around for different ways to store jewelery because when it is displayed in the open it looks very rich and exotic, and is certainly safer from damage and easier to find.

A row of hooks on the wall over the dressing-table is a simple answer but there are other ideas. A bamboo-framed mirror, where the frame includes small shelves, looks very pretty festooned with beads and bangles. A collection of individual metal hooks attached to painted metal pictures covering a whole wall would make a very intriguing and decorative ‘jewelery bank’. A tailor’s dummy will carry necklaces, scarves and hats, and a bentwood hat stand will hold feather boas, hats, scarves and dangling strings of beads. Screens can also be useful for draping scarves and jewelery. Stylized “hands’ will hold numerous rings, cut them out of stiff board, paint them and fix them to the wall so that they lean away at the top.

Earrings are especially tricky things to store. A collection of small boxes will do the trick, or you can create a display. Cover a piece of board in fabric (velvet makes a good backdrop), with a little wadding in between, and hang it on the wall. Loop the earrings on pins stuck into the fabric, and add stray brooches, hatpins, etc.

Once you start thinking of the possibilities, more and more solutions begin to emerge. A pair of antlers or the protruding parts of wooden-framed mirrors all make good hangers for necklaces, and a champagne bottle is ideal for bracelets; spray it gold if you want it to look even more exotic. If you prefer a high-tech look, plastic-coated wire storage units are very practical for jewelery and are also invaluable for keeping track of scarves, ties, socks and gloves.

Make the most of spaces in your home

Filed Under: Crafts, Do it yourself, Redecorating, Remodeling    by: ITC

Dividing room

Sometimes by cleverly dividing a room you may be able to give it an extra function, or even two. A largish bedroom can have one end divided off to give you a roomy wardrobe next to a tiny L-shaped bathroom. If the space is very small you may have to install a shower rather than a bath, but an oval bath can be angled to fit a remarkably small space.

Another successful division can be bedroom and office. A sturdy shelving unit will make a good solid ‘wall’, providing office storage on one side and leaving space for a small guest bedroom on the other. The division need not reach the ceiling, which might create too claustrophobic an atmosphere in a small space.

If built-in furniture already exists and you cannot very well get rid of it, you may be able to move it or use it differently. In most kitchens, the space given to storage and worktop can be reduced if the room is carefully planned to function at its most efficient. A good kitchen table can be a worktop as well as an eating space. A tabletop can be attached to the wall by a hinged leg.

Once again, the interiors of cupboards can be fitted with wire pull-out baskets and trays; hooks can hold cups and jugs, and stacking equipment is a great space-saver. This means that the working part of a kitchen can take up a comparatively small space, leaving room for entertaining as well as humanizing elements such as pictures and prints.

Less is best

There is a tendency to overfill kitchens with storage cabinets which are not really necessary. In small kitchens these can be claustrophobic, and it may be better to keep cupboards at a low level and to install narrow shelves where they are needed at a higher level. Instead of a large refrigerator and freezer, it may be more space-saving to have two refrigerators or small, separate fridge and freezer units than one monstrous appliance which dominates the whole room. Small appliances also provide more worktop space. The upper wall space can then be used for storing narrow objects such as spice jars, salt and pepper mills, sauce bottles and so on, or for hanging shallow shelving units, knife-racks, storage for kitchen implements and other decorative, hang able items to cheer up the working environment.

Attics and sloping roofs

Attics make good play areas for older children, who enjoy the secretiveness of enclosed spaces which would be claustrophobic for adults. When converting an attic, remember to insulate it adequately; it may be possible to get a grant for this. Make sure there is a means of escape in case of fire and that any ladder required for getting up to the room is sturdy and solid. If you install low seating round the walls, people will not bump their heads.

Arches and alcoves

If you are converting two rooms into one, you can make the connecting arch a very deep one, perhaps as much as 55cm (22in). This will not only provide alcove space for a number of uses, the top will provide a good platform for displaying objects such as sculptures and even plants if there is enough light. In the alcove you can perhaps fit a refrigerator, an extra cupboard, wine-racks or other bulky items which you may have difficulty finding room for elsewhere.


Those areas at the top of flights of stairs are simply asking to be converted into something useful. Unfortunately, they often open onto a main staircase and are thus drafty and public. All the same, there is no need to waste their tremendous storage potential. Shelving is one obvious answer and books always give a warm, comfortable feeling. If the space is square and very small, make the shelves just wide enough to hold paperbacks. If you don’t have that many books, magazine collections can be housed there or jars, tins, shoebox files, and so on.

If you don’t need extra shelves, then the space could be used as hanging storage—something which is often neglected. You can hang folding chairs, tools, sports equipment or even cleaning equipment. Objects which seem uncouth when they are flung higgledy-piggledy in the bottom of a cupboard can take on an almost sculptural look when hung in a disciplined way on me wall.

Doing up small spaces in your home

Filed Under: Crafts, Do it yourself, Redecorating, Remodeling    by: ITC

The word ‘collection’ covers a multitude of interests, from photographs in silver frames to lead soldiers, Dinky toys, horse-brasses, antique dolls and Indonesian masks.

Collections are best grouped together, so that the similarities and differences can be appreciated. A collection of dolls looks at home on an armchair but if you don’t want to give up a comfortable seat the top of a chest-of-drawers would be a suitable showcase, perhaps with a set of shelves behind for small dolls and dolls’ clothes hanging on the wall on either side. A couple of open drawers could hold yet more dolls peeping out and so the chest becomes a complete small exhibition in itself, leaving the lower drawers for family clothes.

Wooden, alabaster and marble eggs, or other similar-sized objects, can be displayed in a basket or a little batch of baskets. Collections of boxes can spread over the house in groups on mantelpieces, small tables and shelves. Small shelves which are ostensibly intended to stand on the floor can be hung on a wall individually or in groups to display smaller items.

One very successful way of displaying collections is on small tables. A round table covered with a floor-length cloth takes up very little space next to an armchair and collections look very decorative with light shining down on them from a table lamp.

Masks look best hung on a wall, either in a row if they have some unifying quality or haphazardly if they are different sizes and from different parts of the world.


Empty bottles are usually thrown away, but some bottles have attractive shapes, colors or ornamental moulding which gives them a decorative value. Don’t just display one on its own; their charm is in their variety. Rare or precious glass such as old crystal or Lalique pieces can be exhibited separately but they also look better as collections.

Glass needs light behind it to bring out its magical, light-reflective properties so windowsills are the ideal place to display it. Deep sills will hold a collection of different sizes and shapes but it looks best if you limit the colors to, say, blues and blue-greens, or reds and pinky yellow. Glass also looks extra shiny placed in front of a mirror where its reflective qualities are doubled. After dark, place a nightlight or tiny strip light behind the glass at the back of the windowsill.


A high shelf running all round a room or entrance hall will show off a collection of china or an antique dinner service. Pairs of plates or platters can be fixed to wire brackets and hung on the wall on either side of a mantelpiece, and individual plates can be hung like paintings wherever they look good. Don’t ignore the bathroom and lavatory as possibilities for hanging china. There are often free walls in these rooms which can be greatly brightened by pretty china, which will not be affected by condensation.

Home design — task lighting

Filed Under: Do it yourself, Redecorating, Remodeling    by: ITC

This is lighting for doing a specific job of work which requires you to be able to see clearly. It applies just as much to reading a book in a comfortable armchair as working at a desk or sewing table, or the kitchen worktop.

In the kitchen, it is important that clear, shadow less light should fall on the worktop where intricate operations with knives and measuring scales are going on all the time. Spot lamps and eyeball lights can be good here, and so can small strip lights fitted under the cupboards or shelves above the worktop. These give a good working light but are also soft and user-friendly because the light source is concealed and they are low.

Among the most useful task lights are angled lamps which can be directed at will. You can alter them to light up a book or sewing machine, or to move the light from one part of your desk to another.

Floor lamps, or standard lamps, which direct the light downwards, make good reading lights, particularly if placed behind an armchair where they give a pleasant ‘mood’ light in a corner at the same time.

Low-voltage lighting, which came onto the market comparatively, recently, can be effective for task lighting. The bulb itself is tiny and the reflectors round it give far more precise optical control than ordinary bulbs. Low-voltage lights operate on a supply of only 12 or 14 volts, much less than the mains voltage supply, and they are a fraction of the size of conventional bulbs.

If you want a low-voltage system installed throughout your home, get it done before you do any decorating and remember you will need space for a transformer (probably about the size of a gas or electricity meter).

Make sure such a system is on dimmer switches because, small though the bulbs are they can be very bright; if they are over a dining table, say, you may not want them to be too brilliant.

Task lighting in the bathroom or bedroom, for makeup and hairdressing, can be produced either by strips of small incandescent bulbs, which are practical but cruel, or by small fluorescent strips behind a baffle. Bathroom lights should be specially designed to conform to safety regulations and should either be switched on from outside the bathroom door or operated by a pull cord.

The importance of lighting in your home

Filed Under: Do it yourself, Redecorating, Remodeling    by: ITC

It’s one thing to know that good lighting is important in a home but quite another to achieve it. Lighting can be a very technical subject beset with jargon of lumen and wattage, up lighters and down lighters, the confusion of the innumerable types of light bulbs available and the difficulty of finding light fittings which please and do the right job.

But good lighting without the jargon is perfectly possible if you identify what you need it to do and then go and find lamps which do it. There is a short glossary to help you understand the most commonly used lighting terms.

Basically you need three types of lighting in the home. The first is ‘general’ lighting, which enables you to see your way around safely and comfortably; the second is ‘task’ lighting, for reading and working by, and that includes cooking, sewing, homework, paperwork, woodwork, model making and so on; the third is ‘highlighting’, which is used to light up sculptures, paintings, flower arrangements or any other aspect of your home you wish to make a feature of.

There is a fourth category and that is ‘mood’ lighting, whose purpose is to create pools of soft light which help provide an atmosphere of comfort and encourage relaxation and a feeling of calm. Lighting has much more influence psychologically than many people realize, but if you choose the first three types of lighting carefully they should in themselves be able to provide mood lighting at the same time as doing their other specific jobs.

There are various different ways in which to achieve these kinds of lighting and a tour of the home will demonstrate them.

Tips on mixing utility with decoration in your home

Filed Under: Do it yourself, Kitchen, Redecorating, Remodeling    by: ITC

A well-stocked kitchen dresser is full of everyday items, anything from jugs and plates to graters and wire salad baskets. People who choose to keep their kitchen equipment on view are usually very particular about what they buy, and will look for things they like or consider to be well designed so that the dresser is an exhibition area as well as a work unit. In the same way, a simple, narrow kitchen shelving unit allows the packaging and labeling of tins, jars and bottles to create their own entertaining and decorative display.

Another example of mixing the practical with the decorative is to intersperse shelves of humdrum objects (folded towels or the family’s toys and games) with one or two shelves in the middle set aside for a display of pretty china. The eye will be drawn to this collection and will ignore the rest, particularly if the display shelves are lit from the back by concealed strip lights so that the china stands out in a warm glow. Other possibilities are to use the central shelf or shelves for a vase of flowers or a collection of intriguing objects.

Shelves in themselves can be a source of interest, particularly if they are asymmetrical and thereby add a shape of their own. Modular shelving systems, which can be built up in various ways, will fit into almost any space. Another way of combining utility and decoration is to place small sets of shelves at random on walls between pictures or prints. Here they will provide space for those small objects which are always difficult to display but which it is a shame to have to relegate to the permanent darkness of chests-of-drawers or the backs of cupboards.

Small, awkwardly shaped alcoves provide a good balance between the useful and the decorative. A tiny alcove can become a highly personal showcase fitted with just two shelves, comparatively wide apart, so that the top shelf can house the music centre (out of reach of young children) while the lower shelf can hold a selection of small prized possessions and perhaps a painting tucked in at the back.

Some restaurants make a feature of their wine collections by fitting wine-racks all around the walls, up the stairs and over the doors. Wine connoisseurs could take a leaf out of their book and use wine-racks as decorative additions to the room. They can be fitted into the alcoves made by a chimneybreast or the alcoves created by building a deep-arched division between one room and another. The simplest wine-rack, filled with bottles, looks exotic.

Some things are awkwardly shaped for storage— umbrellas, walking sticks, ladders, hats, tennis rackets, and so on. Yet all these things together, perhaps with some purely decorative additions such as hand-carved decoy ducks, can look picturesque. It helps if you hang them from something with more character than the normal nails or screws—try small brass or china cupboard door handles, or colored cup hooks, coming practicality and interest.