Lighting up your lifestyle

Architects are moving in to design a brighter future, writes Rosalind Russell
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The next time you move into a new home and find the previous owner has removed all the light bulbs, you may be grateful. It will provide the perfect incentive to redesign the rooms, using lighting as a leading player. When Pet Shop Boy Chris Lowe brought in architects to turn a shell into a house, the lighting was a major part of the design. He even has special fibre-optic lights in the shower, to illuminate each drop of water in the spray - which must feel a bit like being on stage with nothing on. Those were designed by the architects (two of whom studied at Liverpool University with Lowe) but others came from top-of-the-market suppliers such as Atrium and Erco Lighting. Erco has also worked for Brooke Shields, Lynsey De Paul and Harvey Nichols.

"What is very big in Europe is indirect lighting," says Erco's Tim Lipscombe. "Lighting adds an extra dimension to a room and provides a bit of drama. Industrial design coming into a domestic situation is also very hip."

The kind of lighting you choose could say a great deal about your personality. Middle-class and safe? There's always John Lewis. Lord Archer of Weston- super-Mare? In his Thames-side penthouse, above a 12-seater dining-table looms a massive, architect-designed, medieval-style chandelier, lit with low-voltage bulbs concealed in the candle bases. His Krug and shepherds pie party guests must be very impressed.

Lowe and Archer, of course, have homes fit for royalty. But Archer's interior designer, Jane Davies, says you don't have to be rich to be seen in a good light. "You can get clever and sophisticated lights from IKEA. And you can improve the mood and atmosphere of a room by using shades with gold lining. I'd suggest middle-level lighting - table lamps - for bedrooms and drawing-rooms, and use only central lights in the hall and dining-room. My own favourite is a standard lamp with a galleried table around it, so you can sit comfortably with a drink and a book."

Having a good eye, says Ms Davies, is the secret of finding a cheap light that looks good. "But if you are trying to make a house look attractive to a buyer, I'd suggest investing in a more expensive lamp, because you'd be taking that with you anyway." Purves and Purves in London's Tottenham Court Road sell lights you are unlikely to find anywhere else. The staff are all graduates in furniture design or related fields, so will happily advise on any lighting problem. But look carefully at Naomi Campbell and Kate Moss the next time they strut their stuff in Paris or Milan. One of P&P's biggest sellers is an animal print lamp designed by Patrick Quigley. "What happens on the catwalk is picked up very quickly by other product designers," says Andrew Purves, who was a buyer for Habitat and Liberty before he launched his own store. "And animal prints are fashionable. But I think you have to maintain a sense of humour about design. We have a slightly tongue-in-cheek bendy man light which you can stand up, kneel down, or hang from the ceiling with one hand. Another is a plastic bear with a light inside it, which sounds silly, but is a serious light fitting. Our first rule is, we have to like it to sell it."

Purves and Purves have a mail order catalogue on the Internet.

No need to surf to find Bhs, whose High Street lighting departments are legendary, and not necessarily cheap. The current elliptical range includes a neutral ceramic lamp base and shade at pounds 60. The autumn range - which starts appearing in stores in July - introduces hand-blown glass, brushed chrome and matt aluminium. A three-prong Medusa wall light costs pounds l50 and a Dolly lamp, with what looks like a Fifties New Look hat shade, pounds 35. In peach or pistachio, a real pair of West End girls.

Erco Lighting

(0171-408 0320)

Purves & Purves, 81/83 Tottenham Court Road,

London Wl (0171-580 8223), or on the Internet at Http://

Atrium (0171-379 7288)