Why is it that ceilings all over the UK are peppered with downlights? For me it can be a depressing experience walking around the show homes of the average developer (and sadly even some higher end ones). In their favourite choices of polished or satin chrome the copious amounts of downlights stick out like a sore thumb. Some think that they are trying a bit harder and use white ones. Often the background metal shows through the thin, shiny white paint making them look grubby against a softly textured rollered white ceiling. To me this looks even worse than a complete contrast.

In the ramrod straight, evenly placed two rows so beloved of legions of electricians, they are in danger of diverting aircraft to land in back gardens throughout the country. If a room is square or a little bit larger than average then I’ll put money on them being set out in rigid grids around 1m apart – all apparently with the hallowed aim of creating an even illumination throughout each room. This theory is great for warehouses but do we really want this for our homes?

So why are they used in this way? The UK has the dubious honour of having the smallest sized housing stock and the lowest ceilings on average in Europe. It seems likely that they are being used to play this down. The average Brit would brain themselves walking across a room where there was a decorative ceiling pendant or chandelier. It seems to these developers that the only place that we can put anything other than downlights is over the kitchen island, the dining table, a double height landing or stairwell or if they are over the foot of beds. Two or three more courses of bricks to each storey would make such a difference in allowing more variety.

Sadly so many developers don’t seize the opportunity of designing with other types of lighting in and go for the easy option of a bland blanket of downlights in every room – even those that are able to offer their customers more generously proportioned rooms. Perhaps it’s just a lack of imagination?

They aren’t even the cheap option that they used to be when fire protection wasn’t an issue and a pack of 3 downlights with lamps (AKA “bulbs”) and transformers could be bought in a DIY shed for around a tenner. The main cost back then was the electrician’s time to fit dozens upon dozens of the things. Fire protection and energy efficiency requirements mean that these days it costs homeowners too much of their hard earned cash and developers a big chunk of their profit to kit out homes with downlights. And, when you factor in the average electrician charging around £50-55 per connection (that means per downlight) isn’t there a better way?

The campaign starts with one voice “Down With Downlights”, “Down With Downlights”…

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