Hello everyone, can you believe it is Autumn and as the clocks ‘fall’ back this week I thought you might like some insider knowledge on how designers tackle lighting, and in particular my speciality to try and do it as eco-friendly as possible! There is so much on the market now, so you just need to ensure your Designer/Electrician knows that is what you want. Any minimal extra cost for low energy bulbs and fixtures is repaid numerous times over by savings on your bill plus you get to make a small step to help the planet at the same time – winner! Investing in quality fixtures is also more eco, as it keeps hand made techniques alive, will last longer lasting due to better quality materials and look wonderful for years to come. Safety is also a factor to consider.
If you are building new or making a renovation consider your lighting at the beginning of the project as it makes a tremendous impact on the success of a design and can save you time and money later. Having finished your decoration and you decide you would have loved some wall-lights or an extra spot or socket here or there is not ideal. If you are in a rental or don’t want to gouge out the walls adding surface mounted is the way to go.
Here are 10 tips I would like to pass on! At the end I have shown you some examples of the lights I mention.
- Layer the light in your room. 2/3 circuits, with dimmer controls to create different moods at different times of the day for different activities. Consider what daylight you have first, the way your room is orientated towards the sun. North facing rooms (or the basement in the below image) sometimes need light during the day to prevent it from feeling dreary. Most rooms have more than one activity and need light to adjust when required. Can I just state here, for the record, dimmer switches are probably the most important accessory you can have in a home!
- General lighting – allows movement around the space so you are not bumping into things or tripping down a step. Take full advantage of your available daylight for this during the day and supplement at night to compensate. Overhead pendant lights, wall lights that wash the floor or ceiling in light to reflect downwards. Up lighters can be wall mounted or on the floor. Don’t be afraid to combine styles traditional chandeliers can coexist with halogen spots. The idea is pools of light from halogen spots to allow easy and safe movement. Remember your eye is drawn to the brightest point so make sure ceiling spots are recessed and you see what they light rather the light itself. Not all spotlights are created equal…..
Candle light (or the artificial alternative) is very flattering…
- Task Lighting – list the activities in the room. Eg, bedroom might be reading in bed, seeing into the wardrobe to get dressed, sitting at a dressing table or studying at a desk in the corner. Make sure your own shadow does not cast a shadow over your work area. By having the correct light when you need it and dimmer switches your bedroom can go from a functional space to one of relaxation where you end the day with a small directional reading light by the bed before sleep. The candle fixture below has some spotlight concealed below to shine task light onto the table.
- Accent Lighting – here one can create some drama, it is where the fixture is not usually seen but can create effects to highlight architectural features (e.g. on a beam to make it stand out or light angled at a stone wall to accentuate the rough texture) or you may want to highlight a wonderful piece of art. Specialist lights are required for expensive artwork to prevent damage. In a very minimalist bedroom you may place lighting behind a headboard to gently wash the walls and make the bed look like it is floating off the wall. In a bathroom you might under light a vanity which makes it float off the floor and give you enough subtle warm light at night without using the main lights – also saving every.
- Balance – try to think of balancing the light as you would furniture in a room. You need a contrast between light and dark to make things interesting. The human brain likes well lit vertical surfaces, when these are counteracted with light accent features and darker areas it makes the room much more special to be in. In technical terms interior designers measure the output of light (lumens) from the fixtures proposed and give you a ration of about 3:1 between the brightest and the lowest light source. 5:1 is the limit otherwise your eyes would tire with all the refocusing and you would feel uncomfortable after a short time.
- Security – a sign of the times. We have to ensure that we feel secure in our homes and having a well lit front doorway, pathway, side access and back garden will prevent burglary. To conserve energy and not have them burning all night they can be on passive infra red and are switched on by movement. You can also get them with pet sensors so the neighbours cat or a hungry fox do not set them off at all times of the night. Ensure that these security lights are placed highly enough that would be burglars cannot disable. You can supplement these high energy security lights that switch on with movement with low energy decorative lights that can remain on during the hours of darkness for a feeling of security. Inside your home put some lights on a timer to come on early evening in the winter months even when you are not on holiday its an easy and inexpensive deterrent. There are systems (if you feel particularly vulnerable) where your lights will follow a pattern of recent history, include the opening and closing of curtains but that is a whole new blog!
- Safetly – this sounds ridiculously simple, but surprising how many people don’t think about, stairways and changes of level within one room can be dangerous. Well and evenly lit stairs are a must. It is also very important to indicate by light a change in level within a room, even just one step. If you have a similar flooring throughout a space it can be difficult for the eye to detect a change in level, also in the evening, for family members who know the space, a well placed stair light can save a nasty fall.
- Light to visually change the shape of your room –
Large room, e.g. an open plan living/dining/kitchen space, creating soft pools of light on certain objects/areas will make it feel more cosy. Don’t over do it.
Small room can be made to feel larger when walls are washed with even layer of light, e.g. wall washer lights (see below) this ‘pushes’ the walls out.
Narrow room by lighting along the shorter walls this draws your eye from the long ones and balances the space.
Ceilings too low wash light up with up lighters. Ceilings too high keep light off the ceiling, use surface mounted downlighter or pendants hung at a lower hight without light upflow to ceiling all directed down or side. Uneven ceiling or unsightly beams highlight the positive with light and ignore the negative your brain will follow suit.
- Mirrors– when hanging mirrors in a bathroom or at a dressing table always have soft non diffused lights at head height either side of the mirror to create even flattering light on the face. For full length mirrors direct the light at an object in front of the mirror e.g. space for a vase of flowers or at the space where the person will stand. Never direct light onto mirrors as the glare will be very annoying.
- Windows at night when there are no curtains (a common thing here in Switzerland in modern homes with huge windows) turn into black mirrors that suck the light out. This is counteracted by lighting the space outside the window, balcony or garden to compliment the inside. This also extends the room. When that is not possible use recessed ceiling downlighter to wash the area directly in front of the dark windows.
There are so many more lights I could show you but I think might be enough for now! Most of the sources above are lighting companies I will be working with on Project Weinberg and subsequently for clients through my studio in due course….
Thanks for reading.