“Light is the magical ingredient that makes or breaks a space, it is one of the most important elements in a room…’- Benjamin Noreiga-Ortiz
And we could not agree more.
Good lighting is integral to the success of any space, it is functional and most importantly it sets ambiance, mood and tone of the space. Look at a comparison between a surgical operating theatre lighting and a hotel restaurant lighting. On one hand there are pure white lights, bright, unforgiving determined to illuminate everything with precision- the feeling of intimidation, fear, and practicality searing with intensity of the sun, and on the other hand, warm, relaxing lighting creates a sense of privacy and comfort and flatters the space and the people in it, creating romantic moody spaces with a seductive atmosphere. Lighting design- is the mood setter, the ‘something’ that sets one space apart from another, the ‘je ne sais quoi’, if you will.
Having said that, there are many types of lighting that serve many different purposes. It is important to understand the various types of lighting, their purpose, and the effects on the space and the people in it- it would then be wise to pair appropriate lighting techniques with the function and atmosphere needed in each room.
‘’A room is not a room without natural light’- Louis Kahn.
Natural light is one of the first considerations when planning a lighting layout- as the day light progresses and as the seasons change the room takes on a life of its own as sunlight or reflected daylight moves around the room. Natural light is one of the single most important lighting types to have in your home and office as it is vital for your health and well-being.
Having loads of natural light will:
· Lower Expenses: lower your electricity bill
· Spaciousness: make your home or office feel larger & spacious,
· True Colour: colours of furniture and finishes will appear to be truer and more natural
· Fresh Air: Natural light will make the room fresher- diminishing stale smells & growth of mould, mildew & bacteria that cause dank smells.
· Comfort: Over-lit & artificially lit spaces can lead to anxiety & discomfort; natural light aids in calming and naturally harmonizes your sleep-wake cycle.
· Nature is always timeless: A naturally lit home and space cannot go out of fashion- unlike artificial lighting.
How can you add natural light to your space?
· Make the window bigger (if you can).
· Add more windows- but be cautious that you do not add so many that you space becomes an oven
· Use skylights
· Remove objects that obscure lights- move very tall furniture away from obstructing windows.
· Change your window treatments- remove heavy curtains from blocking natural sunlight, remove the voile layer of curtains, use roller blinds instead- they take up less visual space than curtains, keep your curtains open as wide as they can go
TOP TIP: Always buy a curtain rod up to one meter longer than you need- or the absolute full length of the wall, this way curtains can wall against the wall and not block the actual window.
Ambient lighting, also known as ‘general lighting’, refers to the lights that create overall illumination of the entire space. The goal is to create even lighting throughout the space without obstruction. It is usually a central source of light in the form of chandeliers, ceiling or wall-mounted fixtures, downlight, recessed or track lights. We have had many clients who have been convinced by over-zealous salesmen at lighting shops to use blue daylight globes for ambient lighting- as they consider it closer to a representation of sunlight. We always advise against this.
Even though advise is given it is not always followed- both clients who went against the advice and used LED cool daylight globes within their homes had the unfortunate realisation that the colour of that light physically hurts. They then both embarked on the awfully expensive exercise of changing all the downlighters to LED daylight bulbs with a slightly warmer glow. Calculating the lighting requirements of a space can be quite complicated; but we will summarise for you. Light bulbs have three pieces of technical information on them that determine their brightness and purpose:
Lumen ratings determine the brightness of the bulb- this is one of the more technical aspects of lighting in that lighting specialists usually determine and calculate the amount of lumens needed within the space to achieve the desired illumination; however, the brightness of a space can be gravely affected by elements such as natural light, light reflective surfaces, dark surfaces, the size of the room and the placement and amount of lights within the room.
Wattage refers to the amount of power a bulb consumes- electricians specialise in calculating how many of a certain wattage can be placed on a single wire connection and one switch before the power source trips. Incandescent (or old fashioned) bulbs draw more power but produce less light, LED lights generate more light and use less power- if you have already switched to LED lights then your concern should lie in the lumen rating of the bulb.
Colour temperature is an important element when choosing light bulbs- you can change the colour temperature of lightbulbs in different rooms or spaces throughout the space- although we would recommend that if you have an open plan space one colour temperature should be used in that space. Colour temperature is usually indicated either in descriptive terms like ‘warm white’, ‘day light’, ‘cool white’ etc, or by the kelvin rating.
Soft white (2,700 to 3,000 Kelvin): Mimics the colour range found in incandescent bulbs (or old fashioned bulbs)- it is an intense yellow/light orange glow but sets a great atmosphere for creating comfortable, warm and cosy settings such as living rooms, bedrooms or dens.
Warm white (3,000 to 4,000 Kelvin): Is a much brighter white but has a slightly warmer glow; this kind of bulb should be used where there are many reflective surfaces such as kitchens and bathrooms, as it is bright but easier on the eye with all the hard surfaces reflecting light- this light is also recommended for interiors with a lot of white, just to avoid a clinical feeling within a lighter whiter space.
Bright white (4,000 to 5,000 Kelvin): Bright white is a white light with a very light blue tinge; this creates what some would describe as an ‘energetic’ light- the kind that keeps you buzzing, the kind that keeps you awake- it is for this reason that it shouldn’t be used in the bedroom, but rather in task oriented spaces such as an office or study.
Daylight (5,000 to 6,500 Kelvin): Daylight is a bright light that has a blue tone- this light creates greater contrast between colour and finishes on the interior of a building; this colour when used on a large scale for general lighting makes for an uncomfortable space= it is best used as task lighting for very specific spaces- like an office desk ;lamp or make-light rather than to illuminate an entire room.
We need to be mindful of the function of the room in order to determine what light and what light bulbs to use within a space.
Task lighting is used in extremely specific areas to perform tasks. It is usually only in a handful of areas for tasks such as reading, dressing- make up & eyebrow plucking, cooking food, doing homework, working on hobbies, playing games, office work, or it could be that one area of light you go to when you’re darling gets a nasty microscopic splinter & you don on your bifocals whilst navigating the tweezers. This lighting can be achieved using recessed and track lighting, pendant lighting and under cabinet lighting, as well as floor and desk lamps. Room function should be well considered during the electrical and lighting plan phases when renovating or building- rooms should always be designed for multiple functions and provisions should be made for various types of task lighting with the space.
Decorative lighting is often used as the focal point in a room. The main goal is to be so beautifully magnificent that you cannot help but take to it like an insect in deep summer. Examples of decorative lighting are the ones that give you that awe-inspiring ‘must have’ feeling and can be found in the form of chandeliers, decorative candles, light from a fireplace, and stunning decorative floor lamps, decorative table lamps, dramatic pendant lighting and cluster lighting. Decorative light is no essential in a design, decorative lighting is the jewellery of a home- smart designers will always integrate a task or accent light as an aesthetic focal point- for instance a designer can create task lighting above a kitchen counter but using aesthetically stunning pendant lights.
Accent lighting is a specifically directed light that highlights a specific object. Art galleries are the best example of spaces that use accent lighting- the same techniques can be applied to artwork in any given space. Accent light usually have a cover of some form to direct the light to a pot plant, a wall texture, a picture, a sculpture or up lights for wall textures, dramatic ceiling designs etc. The most important function is to highlight something specific in the design of an interior. Often this can be achieved by using spotlights- to illuminate and object or artwork, and uplighter in the garden or along a pathway to illuminate wall textures, or a set of LED strip lights that illuminate the boarder or shape of an object such as a ceiling design or under a kitchen counter, and even under a set of stairs. The main function of this light is to highlight a design feature instead of the light itself.
Not every room in the house needs all types of lighting. The key is to be specific, keep it simple and plan, plan, plan! It will take some time but if you get the lighting in your house right- the space will sing! A quick trick to achieving any mood in the room is to make sure that most lights are connected to a dimmer- that way light sources can be moderated to set the scene however you like, when you like!