Creative lighting can elevate your room

March 16, 2011 

Creative lighting can elevate your room

In a suite at Hotel Seven, the bed and translucent furniture appear to be floating in the air. (DEBBIE TRAVIS)

On a recent visit to Paris, I discovered an enchanting new hotel that celebrates the magic and power of illumination. The owner of Hotel Seven had a marvelous vision - to create a space out of technological invention that would transport the guests into a blissful environment filled with emotion.

Each room is designed to come to life and carry you into a dreamlike world simply by turning on the lights. Lighting comes from both the floor and the sides of the room so that you feel like you are levitating. And to complete the picture, a beautiful sky mural was painted on the ceiling. Tucked under a fluffy white duvet, I was in heaven.

The experience offered a whole new meaning to “uplighting,” a design trick I had thought of mostly for illuminating indoor trees and plants. It reminded me, when next I am redecorating, to design the lighting in the room first; to make use of the advances in lighting. Now that green living has become the central focus in building, decorating and design, there are more and more products available to help us feather our nests responsibly. Mood lighting, task lighting and ambient lights come in LED and fluorescent fixtures, and there have been great advances in the quality of light these cost-effective forms produce.

Experiment with light in your living space. Start with some uplighting – it really does change the whole aspect of the room. Because you can’t see the fixture or the source, light coming from behind a panel or under a shelf is a great effect. Ceiling spots provide focus for artwork as well as overall ambient lighting and are particularly effective with a dimmer. You will be amazed by the difference creative light design can produce; it will lift your spirits.

Dear Debbie: We have just purchased a small condo as a holiday home. It needs some sprucing up but is in good condition. I have two questions. The kitchen has almond cabinets and light-beige countertops. Too bland for my taste. Is it possible to refinish the counters? We have stripped wallpaper from the small ensuite bathroom, and the walls are not in good shape. Would you suggest a textured finish or any other ideas? – Irene and Alan

Dear Irene and Alan: You can paint your kitchen counters after some preparation. Sand and clean with a heavy-duty detergent to rough up the smooth surface. Apply a high-stick primer designed for slippery surfaces. Let dry completely. Give it a day. You can now apply any paint effect; granite and marble are colorful, full of pattern and will add life to the room. Use acrylic or melamine paint for durability. A simpler solution would be to add some pizazz in the backsplash area. Update with any of the stylish tiles available, and to keep the cost low, you can use plain tiles and accent with one or two rows of glass, metallic or colorful ceramic in various sizes.

For the bathroom walls, a textured plaster finish is a good idea. The plaster will fill in the imperfections, and you can then apply your own smooth or slightly broken texture with the trowel. Another option is paintable embossed wallpaper. Available in modern and traditional patterns, you will love the effect; paint any color and accentuate the pattern by rubbing a little ocher over the paint and wiping back.

Debbie Travis’ House to Home column is produced by Debbie Travis and Barbara Dingle. You can follow Debbie on Twitter at Please e-mail your questions to

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