A guide to house building in South Africa

A guide to house building in South Africa

Design: Lighting and electrics

Great lighting can make or break a space. Pay lots of attention to your electrical planning.

You have two options . You can either go latest, hot trend and illuminate your room with 30 pendants, spot, down, LED, wall and ceiling lights, or you can go budget and place one pendant in the middle – done! If you like the sexy lighting, but have a budget, go middle of the road and get your red marker out onto your drawings to start planning – the earlier the better.

If you’re having a space designed by an architect, it’s likely you will have enough lighting points to illuminate a rugby field. This has its place (think restaurant, bar etc.), but it’s also worthwhile noting that you are likely to pay an electrician per light point (ask for prices – a pendant, for example, is more than a downlight). Find a balance if you have a tight budget.

A 6x6m room can have some pretty cool lighting with around 6 downlights, a pendant and maybe an LED or two. The key is to mix it up a bit (like textures in interior design.) Remember that floor and table lamps can also do the trick in creating atmospheric lighting.

Get help

A great tip is to meet with a lighting supplier that is an agent for all the different makes. They know all the specs and can suggest best options across brand. Glo lighting in Johannesburg provides an excellent service.

Another tip is to plan where your furniture will be going once build is complete. Always have some drawn onto plans itself. This helps you visualize where you might need plug points, direct light, atmospheric light or where to center a pendant over furniture.

Finally, for bedrooms, always good to consider adding a fan point above beds. The basic black fan without light point is the more classic way to go, but then make sure you include adequate lighting elsewhere.


The crucial thing to remember is that you need to get the scale right. You can create a ‘wow’ effect by having a large chandelier as focal point or a grouping of many smaller lights.

Classic, crystal chandeliers are not very ‘in’, but there are some uber cool alternatives out there – sometimes at a price! A R150 000 light is great, but not too many can afford that. Time for ‘Plan B’.

Klight does a copy of this great Mooi designer light.

Making your own lights are a real option – so put on your tool belt and scan Pinterest for inspiration.  All hardware stores sell the components, but you might need an electrician to check out earthing compliance etc. The basic ceiling cup, cord and brass lamp holder (the bit that you stick globe into) is an example of the easiest light to make.

Now, using this pendant base, you can add upside down baskets, buckets, hurricane candle holder, colanders…pretty much anything to make an interesting light at the fraction of the cost. It’s also pretty easy to have large lampshades made to size at upholsterers, using a fabric of your choice (remember, go bigger than you think necessary – for punch).


These beauties can be very ineffective, if used incorrectly. A room with 20, randomly placed downlights doesn’t set the world alight. Place them carefully (do not leave this up to your electrician), to illuminate features (especially if you’re not using many). However, if they are your only light source, you will need surprisingly many for strong light. Include dimmable bulbs, for further options.

The square downlight fitting looks pretty cool, just remember they are a nightmare to line up on a ladder from underneath. Can’t go wrong with round version.

Track and ceiling mounted light boxes are becoming very fashionable. Useful when you are renovating and cannot add new light points in concrete ceilings.

Surface mounted track lights

Wall lights

Often under used, but great for adding accents above art work in the form of a spot or even as an interesting artwork itself.

LED strip lights

What fun can now be had with these goodies! Behind mirrors, in ceiling shadow lines, underneath kitchen island slabs – it’s a dream!

Bathroom lights

Regulation stipulates that you need fully enclosed light fittings (i.e. no exposed light bulbs) for bathrooms. Also, nothing too close to a bath. If you are renovating an existing house, it’s unlikely you will be visited by council for inspection. New or sold houses need Occupation/Compliance certificates and it will have to comply.

Exposed, hanging light bulbs can be encased with upside down Consul glass jar and lid (just drill a hole in lid). Bob’s your uncle!

Garden lights

Often forgotten in the scramble to get the house complete. Subtle lighting in the garden makes all the difference at night. Two or three spot lights into a tree create a magic wonderland at night.

Leave the flood lights for garage area.  Also splurge on entrance lights (either front door or street gate). If you like the metal, square variety, shop around for a good steel manufacturer. You can often get them for much cheaper as many will make and supply lighting shops.

Plug points

South Africa has a new regulation plug system as of this year. We are going from three pronged to two pronged plugs or a combo. If you install them it means you’ll have to change a lot of plugs on your appliances, but rather be ahead of the game. Click here for more info.

Remember that you can also get dual plug/USB points installed now. Useful near beds and desks.


How things have changed in the last few years. No pendant is complete without the latest vintage bulb. Do keep in mind that some of these give off a lot of heat, or make for a very poor light source (if you need strong light).

Dimmable bulbs are great for creating atmosphere, but you will need a dimmer switch built in. Most importantly – if you don’t want your home to look like a CSI lab, go for WARM WHITE!

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