How To Perfectly Light Your Home, According To 3 Top Design Experts
Considered lighting can take an interior from blah to breathtaking. Lights, please!
DAJIANG "DJ" TAI
Dajiang “DJ” Tai is a principal at Cheshire Architects, and led the team that designed The Hotel Britomart, plus projects for Resident and the Northern Club, luxurious spaces in which lighting was a vital consideration
A building has no invisible surfaces, and when every single surface is brightly lit, including the foreground, it loses its meaning. The eye can only see with light, but space only comes to life when the lighting is carefully controlled.
A well-considered lighting strategy allows the designer to tell the story of a space, by illuminating what needs the eye’s attention. You can communicate with the senses by adjusting the lighting colour and lighting level; the light source itself can be celebrated to give shape to space. It’s a very important aspect of our work.
When we light a space, we have to appreciate the shadows. (I recommend the book In Praise of Shadows by Jun’ichiro Tanizaki). It’s usually the shadows, or the spaces that are deliberately dimly lit, that contain the most atmospheric quality. I’m a fan of small lanterns or candle lights, as they only gently “glow” the space immediately around them.
Of course, the light source itself is always interesting as it gets the most attention from the eye, so for any directly visible source, such as a lamp or chandelier, the more sculptural the forms are, the more weight they can hold in a room.
At The Hotel Britomart, we were very clear on very specific things we wanted to light (a picture on the wall, decor on the shelves or a beautiful spout in the shower). We also worked to use a celebrated light source (a chandelier or lantern) as well as general lighting (wardrobe lighting or lobby lights).
Our intent was to create a very softly lit home-like space that picks up the soft textures in the room. When seeking to achieve a luxurious ambience at home, only light things that you want people to see.
Try to keep the colour temperature around 2700-3000k. And put as much light as possible on dimmable switches. LED is the future. It consumes the least energy, will last 100 years, and do almost everything traditional light can do. The only thing LED hasn’t achieved is to give a warm glow, compared with a dimmable incandescent light. (LED tends to go a little blue when dimmed low.)
My favourite lights are Noguchi lanterns. The construction of the lanterns is a combination of intelligence and craft, the handmade traditional paper is such a beautiful diffuser, and the form is so minimally beautiful.
Architectural designer Harriet Pilkington is the director of Young + Richards, an architecture and interior design practice that views lighting as an essential factor to create ambience and different moods
The emotive power of lighting is huge. Bad lighting can really ruin a lovely interior. Great mood lighting can relax and welcome, focus the eye, wake us up in the morning and calm us down in the evening.
Lighting should be layered throughout a space, rather than taking the blanket functional approach we see so often. By layering, I mean using lighting to different effects — ambient, task and accent or focused lighting. Sometimes we want to reveal the lighting fixture and make it a real feature — such as a stunning pendant over a dining table.
In other cases, we want to wash the wall with light and hide the feature, which is where we use recessed lighting. Don’t forget about the colour temperature. I prefer warm lighting for homes. Dimmers are a must!
In family homes I love to use large pendants and surface-mounted spotlights with feature wall lights to create interest and mood as well as function. I also love to use recessed LED strip-lighting under high-level cabinetry and in balustrades to light stairs.
We designed a contemporary minimalist house in Omaha and used recessed LED lighting strips along the horizontal plane of the ceiling and then down the vertical plane of the wall, to create striking visual effect, a sense of entry and to use light as a form of art.
Treat feature lighting and wall pendants as the jewellery of a space, along with table and floor lamps. We love using New Zealand designers Douglas and Bec’s artisan fixtures. We’re using beautiful bronze fixtures in a current project which really adds to the materiality of a space.
Exterior lighting is often overlooked. I love to use wall-washing up-down lights to highlight facades.
I’m inspired by American artist James Turell, who uses light as his medium. James’ early works involved creating empty rooms into which he projected light.
I’m inspired by the way he uses light to wash walls and his consideration of natural light through the horizontal plane of the sky — for example in skylights which I’m really interested in using in our buildings to wash walls and frame sky views.
Light architect Sam Walle is the director of Dark Arts Studio, an independent lighting design consultancy that has worked with a range of private clients, commercial brands (Hilton, Estee Lauder) and designers (Tom Dixon, Ted Baker)
Lighting is the only way to change the appearance and behaviour of a space in an instant. Good lighting should transform a space like a dining room from a functional workspace for Zoom calls to a romantic dinner for two.
Focused accent lighting such as narrow-beam spotlights adjusted towards a table, seat or sculpture is a great way to create a feeling of intimacy and interest in a larger environment at night. Larger, holistically illuminated spaces can feel like you are sitting in a hall.
In smaller spaces, use less light. Uplighting to the ceiling, using wide-beam fittings and diffused lighting can make a space feel bigger. We usually complement this with focused accent lighting because bathrooms and bedrooms also require a relaxed environment for reading or soaking in the bath.
Lighting should come from different levels in a room, including the ceiling, wall and floor. This will help the space feel more natural at night as the sun also moves throughout the day from a higher to a lower level. Don’t be afraid of the dark — darkness provides a backdrop for accent lighting to your favourite chair or artwork and that important “pop” of interest.
Always ensure the lighting colour is consistent across the space. “White” lighting comes in many different colour temperatures in the same way that there is no standard “white” paint. Sometimes we design solutions that change in colour throughout the day, but this should be unified.
As for lighting no-nos, away with downlights! Lighting from above is unnatural at night. We love wall-lighting treatments, either in the floor, integrated at ceiling level or something unique mounted to the wall.
Wall lights are a great way to provide personality and a softer, more natural lighting effect at night because the light is coming from the side like the sunset or a candle. They’re also a great way to make your project feel more cohesive and luxurious by matching your favourite materials and finishes to floor lamps and pendants.
Another no-no is over-illuminated spaces with too many lighting fixtures. These will cost more to purchase, install and run. A better approach is to localise lighting where required and use simple controls like multi-switching or dimming to change the brightness during different times of the day and night. No one wants to relax at the end of the day in a brightly lit environment — this will also make it difficult to sleep.
Originally published in Viva Magazine – Volume Four
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