Lighting is one of the most important stages of designing a space. Fabrics with hand-painted patterns or carefully sourced vintage furniture won't look their best if they're sitting in a badly lit room. To us, lighting is more than a necessity - our approach to creating layered, ambient schemes is a signature part of our Houses.
From responding to architectural details to picturing how our members will use the space, we choose lighting to set the mood, catch the eye and make life a little easier. This could mean maximising natural light or focusing on a fireplace. Here, we share our techniques for creating a lighting scheme that is design-led, atmospheric and practical. With advice from Soho House Design Lead Designer Candace Hickman, this is how to light your space the Soho House way.
It all starts with the layered lighting formula
We use four key lighting sources in every space, layered at different heights to create an all-round glow. This is essentially the backbone of Soho House's approach to lighting and the formula we use for almost every space.
Overhead, the ceiling light is mainly decorative and always dimly lit. We choose beautiful or interesting fixtures to draw the eye upwards and offer a hero design moment, as opposed to actually lighting the room - pendants and chandeliers are a favourite.
While many people don't think of installing wall sconces in their homes, we think this is an underrated tool. Position two sconces at equal heights across from each other to create the next level of lighting. These fixtures can also be used to uplight artwork or draw attention to an architectural detail.
Choose an appropriate corner and use this space for a floor lamp; we recommend positioning it behind a reading chair, next to a side table or alongside a large plant to anchor it. Not only will this create another pocket of warmth in the room, but it can also act as an interesting design feature. Think large, 1970s-inspired arched styles or ultra-contemporary designs to make an impact.
Finally, table lamps are the most important stage. In our opinion, you almost can't have enough, and we suggest positioning at least two or three on side or coffee tables, next to seating, and on top of desks or dressers to bring a cosy vibe.
Essential tips you can use in any space
When it comes to simple lessons learned from the Soho House Design team's lighting schemes, there are several tips you can use at home to create a warm, welcoming glow throughout your space.
For example, every light in our Houses operates on a dimmer switch, so that light can be adjusted to suit the mood of the moment. These can be easily added by yourself at home and it'll make a huge difference.
We also always choose the colour of our bulbs carefully - don't just reach for the first one you see. The Soho House standard is 2700 Kelvin, and any bulbs used should be a warm white colour, closer to amber than blue.
How to take cues from the surrounding architecture
While a lot of work goes into selecting the perfect light fixtures, natural light is always preferred. So, when planning the design of a room and the lighting scheme within it, first think about the layout of the space itself and what cues you can take from the architecture.
We always place seating as close to a window as possible and make this the focus. An example of this is at Soho Warehouse in Downtown LA, where huge industrial windows dominate the space. Our designers position pockets of seating in front of each one, or plot in banquettes to run alongside and make the most of the views.
Do some research into where and how the light falls throughout the day, so that you can maximise that 4pm suntrap with a well-positioned reading nook, or balance the darker corners with floor and table lamps.
Use lighting to create a hero design moment
We use our ceiling fixtures to make a design statement, rather than to illuminate the space. First, consider the room's feel and purpose: glass fixtures as well as linen and woven shades work well for a bedroom as they diffuse the light softly. As the light tends to hang over the bed, it also suits being a centrepiece for the room, so don't be afraid to choose something eye-catching - although beware of anything hanging too low.
In a dining space, a low-hanging pendant is perfect as you can position it over the table where no one is in danger of knocking it. Make it part of the space and a real focus feature while dining. Although the singular beam of light that pendants give out can feel localised, keep the dimmer switch low and complement with candles leading down the table setting for more atmosphere.
Embrace practicality and comfort
While lighting has aesthetic value, some of our most-used techniques are based around practicality, comfort and making our members' lives easier. For example, the light sources in our bedrooms are connected on a singular switch so that you can turn them on or off at once. That way, when you're ready to sleep, it's easy to turn them off in one go without getting out of bed.
Another tip is to approach lighting according to your activity throughout the day. Do you like to read in the afternoon? Then an angled floor lamp behind your reading chair or sofa makes sense. Do you spend a long time cooking in the evening? In that case, low pendants over your kitchen island or worktop will provide the best light. Again, if you wind down in bed, a bedside lamp or reading light is essential. It's all about picturing your day and enhancing it with practical decisions.