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The best way to light up your home for the festive season

  • Lighting Ideas
Nov 26, 2021
A string of fairy light across some artefacts places in front of a wallpapered wall

Here’s the what, how-to, and why of creating the perfect atmosphere for at-home celebrations

A memorable dinner party needs delicious food and drink, a plentiful, beautiful table, a feel-good playlist… and the right light to bring it all together. Light is the first thing we notice and experience when we enter a space. The right quality and amount of lighting can be stimulating, welcoming and celebratory. It can influence our moods and lift our emotions, so as we step into the Christmas season—the last leg of the entertaining season—we’re looking at this exceptionally important décor facet. When it comes to lighting, there are plenty of ways to get it wrong and a few tricks to getting it right.

Doing Far More with Fairy Lights

Think of Christmas, and fairy lights are the first decoration that come to mind. A must-have on any tree, they are easy to come by, relatively easy to handle and easy to put up. They can also add a pop of colour.

Rati Chaudhary, the décor blogger behind her namesake handle on Instagram, says the options with fairy lights are pretty much endless—and that they can be switched up to illuminate and decorate different parts of the house.

She often uses fairy lights on her dining table as a runner. Fairy lights add a festive touch and double up as a centrepiece. “Sometimes I weave it between the flowers along the centre of the table, sometimes I’ll put them around a vase or lantern and place it on the corner, if I’m entertaining buffet-style.” And she says that you don’t need to worry about the length and breadth of the surface or how far the nearest power outlet is—there are enough tools to place your fairy lights exactly where you want them.

“If you need to decorate the table or a space that’s not close to a plug point, you can use lights which come with button cell batteries—they don’t need to be connected to an outlet. Or, you can also use USB fairy lights that connect to a power bank—the USB port can be tucked under the string of lights and hidden away. Plus, they run for a long time.”

Décor blogger Rati Chaudhary

Rati Chaudhry is a Mumbai-based corporate communications specialist and décor influencer.

Fairy lights hung on a wall and a jute curtain

Fairy lights can be used in several ways — here, Rati works them into her bamboo blinds.

Christmas also means cheesy holiday flicks—so giving your television a little spruce-up for movie night or Christmas carol karaoke can be fun. Rati uses fairy lights to frame her mounted television, which throws light into the room from a completely different direction when compared to sconces, floor lamps and pendant lights. The key to framing your lights just right and getting them to stay in place? 3M hooks, says Rati. “You can buy hooks online, they don’t cost much and they get the job done!” 3M hooks have a powerful adhesive that make them stick, and they’re sturdy enough to take on weight. “Plus, they blend into the wall and don’t distract from the lights,” says Rati. The same can be done with a mirror and the effect will be even better, since the light is reflected and bounces off other surfaces in the room.

If you don’t mind getting out your stepladder, then Rati says that using your fairy lights to create a cascading curtain effect on your balcony or in your garden is worth it. “My balcony has a wooden ceiling, so it was easy to string the lights. But you can easily use cobbler nails. You also get readymade cascading lights—you don’t have to loop them, just hang it up on a set of nails.” You also find plug connectors online which run as low as 150 rupees, which can be discreetly woven into your lights to make them stretch across a long ceiling.

Rati says that there’s an abundance of fairy lights in the market for every budget, style and purpose, whether it’s decorating your tree or a wall—and there’s a lot you can do, without breaking the bank. “There’s so much to choose from! Coloured fairy lights, LED strip lights, copper-wired LED lights, ball lights, mesh lights…and all of it economical, too.” 

The Mechanics of Mood Lighting

Fairy lights need to be physically placed and arranged around the home, but if that’s not your style you can also brighten your home for the holiday season with floor lamps, table lamps and statement light fixtures to create a mood.

Amrita Nambiar, founder and principal designer at lighting and lifestyle label Olie, says that she’s seen quite a shift since the pandemic. “As more people work from home and entertain indoors, they’re more inspired to invest in interiors and lighting.” But she also says that lighting doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg, and that you don’t need to make any structural changes—it’s about setting the right brightness of light, which can be achieved with materials and bulbs that emit a cheerful glow.

Olie works exclusively with natural materials like grass, rattan, bamboo, and fabric, which by default emit a lot of light. “At Olie, we don’t work with plastic. We’ve made a conscious effort to work with Indian crafts, and a lot of craftspeople in India work with grasses and handwoven fabrics.” Since you may not be able to install a statement light just for the holidays, you can switch up the look, feel and vibe of a room using your existing fixtures, by simply changing the brightness of the bulbs—which is where lumens come in to play.


Amrita Nambiar

Bangalore-based Amrita Nambiar is a lighting consultant and founder of luxury lighting label Olie.

A floor lamp placed next to a bed

Lamps made with natural materials, when combined with bulbs that have a brightness in the 1000-lumen range, can create a warm and welcoming vibe.

Most of us are familiar with watts, which measure the energy consumption of a bulb. And we’ve also heard of kelvins, which describe the colour temperature of a bulb. Lumens, on the other hand, measure and determine the light output and brightness of a bulb. So, the higher the lumen count, the brighter your light will be. Says Amrita, “People tend to choose white lights because warm light appears dull—but this is probably because the lumen count is too low.”

The lumen count can be found on the box. For home lighting, Amrita says anything between 600-1,000 lumens works. The key is to choose a warm LED light, without going too yellow. For the holidays, says Amrita, “Opt for bulbs in the 3,000 kelvin, 1,000 lumen range—that will give your space a cheerful glow!”

Plus, bulbs are also easy to switch up and replace, which means you can play with mood lighting any time. Says Amrita, “The festive mood doesn’t have be reserved for Christmas—you can make your home feel warm, welcoming, and festive all year round!”

So whether you’d like to indulge in a little DIY with fairy lights or refresh your lighting with new bulbs, we hope you’ll take these cues from our experts to get your home holiday-ready.

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