Overhead lighting – yes or no?

It’s often said that if you want to make a room more atmospheric, the way to do it is to switch off overhead lights and go for ‘mood lighting’ – anything more low level, from floor and table lamps to candles.

It’s true that pendants can be a bit harsh, and you don’t want guests sitting under a bright glare. But overhead lights can be lovely, if used right. Hang them low, so more light comes through the shade rather than from the bulb itself.

It helps to have them on adjustable cables too, especially if you’ve got lights directly over the dining table. This way, they can be pulled down low for a soft glow, or moved up if you decide to turn them off and light some candles.

If you’ve got pendant lights on fixed cables, and they’re lacking a bit of soul, it could be as simple as changing the shade. Try a darker one that gives a moodier glow, or something with a diffuser underneath that softens the pool of light (such as our Iona lampshade, shown in the dining room pictured).

Generally, we think ceiling spotlights aren’t right for a dining room – the light they give out’s just a bit too focused. Even with our Coates ceiling lights that have a much softer glow and can be directed wherever you want the beam to fall, they’re better used in places like the kitchen where you need more task lighting.

Table lamps – they’re not just for side tables

When you’re used to seeing things in a certain place, it might not occur to you to move them somewhere new. But table lamps are just as happy on a dining room’s sideboard as they are beside the sofa or bed.

In fact, if you go for a cordless lamp or a tealight lamp, they can even make a great centrepiece for a Christmas tabletop. This trick’s especially useful if you don’t want to use overhead lights, but need something stronger than candlelight on the table. Pick a reflective material, like glass, that’ll bounce some light around – our Shaftesbury lamp, pictured, does the job beautifully.

If you want to go for the dining table look but with a plug-in lamp, cables can be an issue. But there are ways to hide them. Try wrapping a light garland around them, trailing them under the table and plugging into an extension lead. It’s not for everyday, but fun for a special occasion.

In praise of wall lamps

Wall lamps have a place in every room of the home but are often overlooked. They’re brilliant at creating a soft level of light and are decorative features in their own right. Go for a plainer style and you can even hang Christmas decorations from them.

If you don’t have any wired in, you can still create the same feel. A vintage sconce designed for candles is one option. Or you could wind string lights around mirrors and picture frames. Which brings us to…

Light garlands – the fun bit of your room

We’re not really fans of flashing lights or glitzy colours, but more subtle light garlands can look lovely on a festive table or dotted around the dining room, like on window sills or over shelving. Clear or white lights feel elegant and go with everything.

Having them on the table itself works well, but the battery-powered kind are also great for adding a little extra sparkle around the room.

In the dining room pictured here, they’ve been hung from a branch suspended over the table, along with lots of baubles – it’s maybe not practical for everyday life, but Christmas isn’t about practicality.

Or, if you’re lucky enough to have old ceiling beams, you can wind string lights around these – as in the farmhouse kitchen pictured here.

Candles – the more the merrier

Nothing feels quite so magical as flickering candles at Christmas. You need more than one or two though. To get the most out of them, think about variety.

A mix of different heights makes a table feel more atmospheric – we like the pillar candles and tall candlesticks shown here, with lots of tea lights in between (for a similar look, try our Blyton candles and Corinium candlestick).

To make candles a real focal point, place them around the room, too – mantelpieces, windowsills and sideboards are all ideal. You could even place a few larger pillar candles on the floor or in an empty fireplace to bring a room to life.

If you’ve got lots of candles lit at once, keep them safe by burning inside vases or tea light holders. Glass is the best material, as its gleam will make the whole room glow.