SINGAPORE - The next time you go for a walk in your neighbourhood in the evening, take a look at the houses or apartments around you.
Which ones do you find aesthetically pleasing?
Whatever your answer, chances are that it has something to do with the way the home is lit.
While many Singaporeans regard lighting as a practical necessity, a growing number are starting to realise that functionality is not all there is to it.
Ong Wei Ping, executive director of Ecolight Design Consultants, says: "Attitudes are changing because people are going for better aesthetics and they are a lot more well-informed.
People now realise they know a lot less about lighting than they thought they did."
It is not just about buying the right kind of light.
There is also the matter of knowing where to place your lights so that the features of a home - its interior furnishings or an art collection - are showcased to their best effect.
Mr Ong says: "Homeowners now want to have things that are a bit different, such as undulating finishes on their walls and rustic granite stones.
You can put these up but if you don't put the light in the right place to show off their textures, then all that is wasted.
You pay a lot of money but you're not maximising the effects."
Aesthetics aside, lighting also has far- reaching effects on the comfort, well-being and mood of the person who uses the room, says Steve Rawlins, director of Intelligent Lighting Design.
And lights also play a role in safety, as in the case of step lighting, marker lighting or night lighting.
Nana Au-Chua, general manager of Million Lighting, points out that installing lights needs more planning than people think.
"Homeowners often leave lighting to the last, thinking it does not need much planning.
But since different rooms are used for different purposes, each will have specific lighting needs, so proper planning is vital to create a comfortable atmosphere for everyone in the family."
Homeowners who are aware of this are looking at lighting needs at an earlier stage of doing up their homes.
And rather than leaving it to their architect or interior designer, some are engaging lighting-design specialists to replicate design features that they may have seen on their travels.
Mr Rawlins says: "Lighting design is not just for public buildings anymore.
The same principles used in lighting up luxury hotels can be applied to homes to give the same feeling and atmosphere."
For example, a residential project in Sentosa Cove with a spiral staircase wrapped around a perforated metal grille has had this design feature transformed into a tower of light.
To create a flickering candlelight effect, fibre optics were tucked into the pockets of the grille.
And since the lights within the grille were going to be on for long periods, amber LED lights were chosen for their even coverage and energy-efficiency.
LED has proven a popular option for homeowners who want to dress up their homes with lighting effects. Getting the electricity bill halved as a result is a great bonus.
Advancements in LED technology have markedly improved the quality of such lights since their introduction to the market.
Where early generations of LEDs were criticised for being too cold in colour temperature, they are now increasingly comparable to halogen lights for colour rendition, says Ms Au-Chua.
She adds that homeowners looking for an alternative to halogens should look for LEDs with a colour temperature ranging from 2700k to 3200k.
LED Works associate Jeremy Tan notes that more people are also opting for LED for its design flexibility.
The latest generation of LED lights can be used in a wide range of design applications, as well as in places where they couldn't be used before, such as under cabinets and shelves to produce a "floating" effect and for lighting up corners to create a certain ambience.
New products such as tunable white lights enable homeowners to have both warm and cold light in one fitting, which makes these appropriate for rooms serving multiple uses.
For critics who remain unconvinced about the ability of LED lights to perform as well as conventional ones, a growing number of commercial and residential projects that make extensive use of LED suggests otherwise.
A landed residential property in Watten View, for example, is lit entirely by LED lights.
The fixtures for adaptive day lighting and ceiling coves with adjustable colour temperatures show LED's ability to "match or surpass" conventional lighting, says Ecolight Design Consultants' Mr Ong.
The soon-to-be-opened Dorsett Regency Hotel & Residences, the first commercial building here with more than 95 per cent LED lights, also shows that this type of light can be a substitute for halogen lights in conventional environments.