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Many people want something special from their lighting, rather than just the basic downlights recommended by an electrician. Of course, budget plays a big role in your choice of lighting, and many factors impact the cost of lighting design.

Why does lighting design matter?

Let’s say you’re building a new home. It’s the house you’ve always dreamed of, and you want it to be something special. You’ve been through years of just being happy to have a roof over your head, but now you want a home you can spend several years living in style and comfort.

Needless to say, your simple downlights from the hardware store aren’t going to have the same impact as professionally designed lighting and high-quality fittings.

The lighting in a room can create a certain ambience, whether you want soft, gentle light throughout or a more complex design to highlight certain features of the room. In short, if you use standard downlights, you’ll need more of them, and they’re not that visually appealing. On the other hand, architectural lighting design makes a statement – your statement.

The problem with mainstream lights

When we talk about mainstream downlights, we refer to the standard lights you’ll find in any hardware store. They’re often the lights that your electrician will recommend, and that’s because they do have certain advantages.

Firstly, there’s the cost. These lights are much cheaper because they are mass-produced. We’ll touch on the reasons for this a little later. Basic downlights are also easy to install, so electricians love them. However, these lights have several problems, particularly if you want quality lighting design in your home.

Basic downlights all look the same. They have a thick bezel and are usually only available in white. The light source is also right at the ceiling level, making them visually unappealing. In addition, they don’t spread light very well, so you’ll need to install more of them to reach the desired level of lighting.

The benefits of architectural lighting design

The obvious benefit to having an interior designer or architectural lighting designer work on your home is the fact that you’ll get lighting perfectly suited to you. It will be functional, highlight the right areas of each room, and above all else, it will look beautiful. 

Importantly, architectural lighting design is unique. You’re building that dream home, remember? You want lighting that makes a statement; something that will impress your guests and become a talking point. It’s not just about impressing others, though, because you also want to feel that sense of elegance through every room of your home.

Other benefits of architectural lighting include:

  • More installation options (not just basic ceiling installation)
  • The light source is recessed behind the bezel
  • High CRI (Colour Rendering Index – this means colours in your home will look more natural)
  • Varying range of beam angles
  • High lumen output
  • Different finishes
  • More unique designs
  • Greater variety of bezel options
  • High IP rating (resistance to water)
  • High fire rating
  • Experienced designers don’t use more fittings than necessary

What impacts the price of lighting?

Several factors determine the cost of lighting.

IP ratings

IP stands for Ingress Protection, which simply means the resistance a light fitting has against both solids and liquids. Many people think it’s purely about water resistance, but the rating also considers protections against dust and other contaminants.

When viewing an IP rating, there are two parts. The first digit refers to the solid particle resistance, and the second refers to water protection. For example, IP00 has zero protection against solid or liquid. However, IP68 has excellent protection against solids and liquids and is fully submersible.

Some common examples of IP rated lighting include:

  • IP44 – Can be used in certain zones in a wet room (bathrooms) but not above showers.
  • IP54 – Used above showers or in zone 1 of a wet room, where most of the water is.
  • IP65 – Can be used outdoors, protected against water jets such as hoses.
  • IP68 – Fully submersible and completely sealed against dust. Can be used underwater.

Basically, the greater the IP rating, the greater the seal. This increases the cost of manufacture and, therefore, increases the product’s price. In addition, manufacturers must pay for IP testing on their products, which can cost tens of thousands of pounds. If that cost is spread across a limited, unique design of products, the manufacturer must price the product higher.

Fire rating

Fire rating is vital because the ceiling in every home is a fire barrier. When you drill a hole in it to install a light fixture, the barrier is considered broken, making it easier for a fire to spread. It’s why the light fitting you put in that hole needs to be fire rated.

There are building standards that govern where and when you need fire rated fixtures, which often depends on where you’re drilling. There are three levels of fire rating:

  • 30-minute
  • 60-minute
  • 90-minute

It’s important to note that just because a light fitting has a 90-minute rating, that doesn’t necessarily mean it has a 30-minute rating. Each level requires a different test, for which the manufacturer must pay.

Much like the IP rating tests, this significantly influences the price of a product. So, when looking for the highest fire safety, choose fittings with 30, 60 and 90-minute fire ratings.

Economies of scale

When something is basic and mass-produced, it’s cheap. When something is unique, decorative and has bespoke features, there will be fewer of them, increasing their cost. These mass-produced light fittings are also usually made from cheaper materials. However, one of the highest costs is in testing IP and fire ratings.

Every variation in design requires a new test, which costs thousands of pounds, adding to the manufacturing cost.

Suppose a product is made in limited numbers. In that case, manufacturing costs are spread over a smaller number of units, increasing the sale price. It’s one reason why mass-produced items are so cheap. One design requires one IP and fire rating test, but then the product is reproduced millions of times.

The light fitting design

Like anything, people are willing to pay for quality. It’s the same with lighting, and why trusted brands can sell their designs for a higher price.

The concept of high-end, luxury lighting design began in Italy. Over time, those brands built a reputation for quality and uniqueness, which people look for in their dream home. Many of these Italian manufacturers also used famous designers to create their fittings, adding more esteem to a product and, consequently, a higher price tag.

Interior designers and architectural lighting designers help grow these brands because they recommend quality names to their clients. As a brand grows in reputation, often, so do their lighting prices.


Overall, your choice of lighting usually comes down to budget. There is certainly a temptation to go with the cheap and easy option. However, it’s a decision you may regret later. When building a new home, it’s the best time to get the lighting you really want, even if it adds a bit of cost to the overall build price.

You’ll find it much easier to work with an architectural lighting designer right from the start rather than having the added expense of retrofitting a new lighting design. Plus, you can impress all of your housewarming guests with visually stunning light fittings. Remember, first impressions are everything, and beautiful design lasts a lifetime.

Want to learn more about lighting design?

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