Hello and welcome to The Compost Bin. I'm Compostwoman and I live with my family in rural Herefordshire. We have nearly four acres of garden and woodland, all managed organically and to Permaculture principles, which we share with Chickens, Cats and assorted wildlife. We also grow a lot of our own food, run courses in all sorts of things and make a lot of compost!

I am a Master Composter and have spent more than a decade as a volunteer Community Compost adviser with Garden Organic and my local Council.
I'm a self employed Environmental Educator so I run workshops and events where I talk about compost, veg growing, chicken keeping, cooking, preserving and sustainable living. I also run crafts workshops and Forest School/outdoor play sessions in our wood.

We try to live a more self sufficient lifestyle here, as best we can, while still having a comfortable life and lots of fun.

To learn more about us click on the About Compostwoman tab and remember to click on the photos to make them full size!

Thursday 26 September 2013

Let there be Light(s)

One of the things I dislike about growing older is the way I find it hard to see later at night - my eyes are getting tired by then!  I find now that to read or craft I need extra lighting to aid me and I guess I am not alone in this.

When Compostman renovated the sitting room we had long conversations as to whether we should alter the lighting but decided what we had, was just right for us  - a couple of ceiling mounted pendant lamps and some adjustable wall lamps - all of which can be independently on or off. We also have a small table lamp which provides a dim glow - usually this is on when we are all watching a film and just want a bit of light to see, so as not to tread on a sleeping cat :)
It is important to get lighting right for your needs and which fits in with the design of your home and there are some very helpful websites who give good advice about lighting. Here  is the Channel 4 website about lighting design and here is the Energy Saving  Trust site about using  energy saving lighting. I found both of these interesting and helpful.

The pendant lights in most houses are there to provide what designers call "ambient or background lighting" - a substitute for natural daylight. I was surprised to learn that the idea that we should light our rooms with one or at most two pendant lights is a hangover from the days of gas lamps.

I remember in my childhood home ( a large, high ceiling Victorian town house) we still had gas lamp fittings on the walls and we also had a number of beautiful chandeliers, made of crystal, which I was fascinated by. When we were considering new lighting here, I was quite tempted to get some modern versions of crystal lighting, but we have a smallish, Edwardian cottage, rather than a large Victorian, four storey town house so I decided against it. Part of me still hankers after a fabulous crystal chandelier as a centrepiece, though!

Anyway, although gas lighting is long gone from most houses, the idea of pendant lighting remains. The trouble is that, if you only have one or two overhead sources of light, this can cause problems.  Overhead lights alone can create a bland, flat effect in a room but if you use this more general lighting mixed with some other types, you can end up with a room well lit  for all sorts of uses. Usually the background lighting is augmented by such things as wall lights, downlighters, uplighters and standard lamps.We have a mixture of different types here, and it seems to work well for us. 

For example, if I am working in the sitting room during the day  I am lucky enough to have a North and two East facing windows providing lots of natural light. As it gets darker the main overhead lights can be turned on,  and there are also the wall mounted lamps which shine on certain areas of the sofas, this allows me to read or crochet while the rest of the room can be darker. The rest of the family can watch TV, while I can do my reading or crafting. Two other wall lamps provide similar "islands" of light for other people to read, if they wish.

When I am working at the table, reading, writing, painting, sewing, quilting or cutting out, as well as a pendant light overhead I can have one of the wall lights shine onto my work. I also have an excellent adjustable floor standing lamp which shines, over my shoulder, if needed. Compostman bought it for me as a Christmas present.

This, and the wall lamps are called "task lighting" by designers.

Task lighting, however, needs careful placement for best effect. You should apparently always place the lamp opposite your writing hand or you'll be working in your own shadow. The beam of the light should fall on your working area and not reflect onto your computer screen or paper. Common sense, really!

Compostman and I have had similar conversations about lighting in every room we have renovated - we always take the opportunity to rethink the lighting as it can make such a difference to the functionality and usefulness of a room.

So, in our kitchen we have fluorescent overhead lights and some under the cupboard downlighters which are similar to some in the Mail Order Lighting endon lighting range, so there is always lots of light to see what we are doing when cooking.

In our bedroom ( newly refurbished, as I have mentioned several times :)  ) we have three triple, adjustable downlighters on the ceiling. These are really useful, can be operated separately and can also be dimmed. One of them is over the bed head, so one of us can read while the other goes to sleep in the dark :)

If you are thinking of renovating any room, or even redecorating, it is always worth considering what your lighting needs might be. There are many useful guides to lighting around, I mentioned a couple earlier on and  I found this BBC site to be helpful so I knew what "buzz words" to use! There are also many online sellers of lights - I found the huge range of different stock carried by Mail Order Lighting was very helpful, when browsing for ideas.

What do other people use as lighting? Do any of you use specialist craft lamps? If so, are they any help?


  1. Interesting you should ask Sarah. I am the same and need more light to sew and my eyes get tired in the evening. In our sitting room (and I have replicated this in every house) we have a pendant light and wall lights, all independent. There is a lamp in the 2 opposing corners and I have an adjustable "daylight" lamp by my chair which I can use for sewing. In our bedroom we have wall mounted lamps, which swing round to light your book. We have one each, so one can sleep and one can read.
    I have a slightly different arrangement in my sewing room. It has recessed spots and a pendant light on independent switches. I have bought from a neighbour, a standard lamp which shines down over my shoulder, fitted with a daylight bulb.
    To answer your question, I could not sew without my daylight bulbs.

  2. Hi Kath

    It sounds like you have come to a very similar set up to us, which is reassuring :) I have a daylight bulb in my standard lamp for sewing and yes it is much better to see by, than an ordinary one.

    Your sewing room looks good :)

  3. Just discovered your fab blog. I have to confess that up until very recently I've not really given much thought to lighting apart from having ceiling lights and table lamps. I do find now that if I can stay awake long enough to read in the evenings it is a struggle, and hand sewing is near impossible! I'm thinking of trying daylight bulbs and more table lamps (wall lights are currently not an option). Going to check out the websites you mentioned. Suzanne

    1. I find good light is an essential as I get older - and realistically I needed better light once I reached 30 - it is a normal function of getting older that we need more light - I think!


Hello! Thank you for reading my blog and for commenting. I try to reply as quickly as I can and I really appreciate your interest in my life and doings here in The Compost Bin.