Light has a huge impact on mood. Most people have heard about the connection between lack of natural light and depression, but in more subtle and immediate ways, lighting can help cue different moods and it can help us relax and focus our attention. I asked award-winning lighting designer Rebecca Picherak (who is admittedly more familiar with lighting theatres than she is bedrooms) for some ideas on how to light a room for any erotic encounter. Here are her top tips.
- Every space is different, take the time to experiment.
Invest a little time playing with the light in your room. Each space is going to be different, the furniture that's in the space, how it is positioned, the size and angle of the walls, the height of the ceiling. There are very few absolutes in lighting; it depends on what you're going for.
- Consider the sexual mood you are trying to set.
Are you going for a frenetic night of animalistic abandon in a club atmosphere? Or a slightly mysterious, titillating French brothel from the 20s? Or a cozy lair, comfortable enough to make even the most uptight let go of their inhibitions? What lights you use, and how you use them will depend on the sexual tone you are trying to set.
- When you're lighting for sex, dimmers are always good.
Consider installing dimmers on any overhead lights. This isn't hard to do (as long as you have some good safety instructions, and make sure you flip the right breakers) and will make a world of difference.
- When you're lighting for sex, fluorescent is always bad.
Even the low wattage Ikea ones that are trying not to be offensive – they still are. Many fluorescent lights contain mercury, a toxin you just don't want in your bedroom. Fluorescent lights are not stable - they rapidly flicker on and off, and though it is not necessarily perceptible to the eye, for many it causes headaches and fatigues the eyes. Also, it just doesn't look good.
- Don't spread light all over the room, light specific points.
It's better to use lots of localized points of light. Grab whatever desk lamps, or reading lights you've got and play around. Point them at the wall, into a plant, or at a painting. Lights that illuminate specific points of focus are great for making a room look beautiful. You can use this technique both to draw attention to parts of the room as well as hide corners that are filled with junk.
- You don't need to spend a lot on special lights.
Put a light on the floor, aim your desk light at a photo, try turning the TV around to face a white wall for a colorful moving effect. Play with what you've got, and get creative about what you own that lights up.
- Light your room for sexy bodies.
If you've ever been in a change room with bright overhead fluorescents and close quarters you know how unflattering some lighting can be on our bodies. Consider trying to light from the side—it really helps to highlight the shape of the body. (This is the primary way to light professional dancers.)
- Candles set the mood beautifully.
Candles, of course, are great. If you are prone to falling asleep before extinguishing all fire hazards, use tea lights in a little candle holder. Paper shades are great to soften incandescent light bulbs. (Again, a dimmer will go a long way to creating a warm and sultry atmosphere.)
- If you want it bright, experiment with different sources.
Just turning the overhead light on is boring. It floods the room in a predictable pattern and offers little nuance. If you want it bright use a portable work light (they have cages so they can be knocked around a little, they have an insulated handle and are easy to move around - careful though, the unshielded metal bits can get really hot). You can buy them at most hardware stores.
- Create beautiful shadows on your walls.
Experiment with using your lamps to make shadows on the walls. Aim a light at a wall through colored glass and you may get beautiful patterns, but even better, position a light so that the moving shadows of you and your partner are projected larger than life onto the walls around you. Shadowplay can be hilarious and very sexy.