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Leading Lights

Lighting is key to a successful design project: Obviously, light is essential for us to see properly, but it also enhances mood, creates intimacy, adds warmth, promotes vitality and adds a plethora of visual effects which can alter the feel and use of a space.

Seasonal weather, how much natural sunlight falls into a room and from which aspect will all have a huge impact on the brightness and feel of a home. Geographical location, ceiling heights and window dressings will also effect the perception of colour tones dramatically, a point which was historically overlooked within the domestic market. Direct sunlight makes us feel healthy, especially when it comes from the South, and I am a strong believer that enabling adequate natural light for a room is intrinsic to good design. Shutters and awnings can be used to reduce glare, but without enough natural lighting a place can appear gloomy and restrictive. Roof lanterns, downward light tunnels and bouncing light around rooms by refracting off surfaces all help to increase the use of natural daylight, but when the sun goes down … we’re into a whole different ball-game.

Artificial lighting is an ever expanding market, and offers and array of possibilities from cheap functional bedside lamps to exquisite yet costly Murano glass chandeliers, which are works of art to be appreciated in their own right. The lighting industry in the 21st Century is booming: It can be upward, downward, dimmable, colour-changing, sound complementary and much more. The days of single pendant lighting are now behind us, with even new builds more often than not including low level lighting on stairways and in corridors to allow light to spill across floors, give ambience and light the way, with dimer switches and spotlights as standard.

While a decorative plan may appear beautiful in your mind’s eye with the wrong type of lighting it will be flat and uninspiring. More than one level of artificial lighting is usually needed to allow for variations in function or mood within the same zone, for example clear lighting for food preparation which can be altered to a more convivial and atmospheric setting for when the food is served. Well-lit niches for reading can sit well alongside soft lighting for others who are relaxing elsewhere with in a room. A barman needs a well-lit bar to prepare drinks, but the entire scheme benefits from darker booths where customers feel better able to relax and chat.

I am a personal fan of hidden LED strip-lights to provide unobtrusive and interesting contrasts to downward spotlights. Their effect is softer and more restful, moving away from the functional use of a room and transporting it into a relaxing zone. For example, our bathroom has overhead spots, but also has LED strips behind the coving and under the cabinetry / side of the bath to allow light to gently filter into the space and transform this zone into a restful one where you can lie back and softly relax in a bath full of warm bubbles.

Outdoor lighting is also taking a leap into the decorative and mood enhancing genre, with path and security lights having long since moved into motion detection mode.

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