Claudia Ludwig · June 30, 2021

Why Lighting Design Matters

LIGHTING IS ABOUT CREATING MOOD, VISUAL INTEREST AND ENHANCING THE EXPERIENCE OF A SPACE

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Lighting not only allows us to see the spaces we have created and the design and colour we have implemented but it also creates a mood, adds visual interest and enhances our experience of a space. 

For example, think about when you sit down in a restaurant where you have been drawn in by the beautiful interior design and the food looks delicious but there is no atmosphere and it just feels cold and a little dull. Or in retail for example, when you look at yourself in one mirror, you look all lovely, healthy and glowing. Then in another mirror where your reflection is rather too honest, you are lost for words on your complexion which makes you feel pretty miserable. This is usually down to poor lighting.

To create a nice ambience with flattering light, the light in a space needs to be layered. This can be partially achieved with decorative lighting. With a combination of pendant, table and floor lighting, with dimmable lamps, the right colour temperature and put on different circuits, some flexibility can be achieved by being able to change the intensity of the light and by having only some of the lights on at any one time. However, very often a layered effect, which adds interest and depth to a space as well as broadens the perspective, can only be achieved with architectural lighting. Architectural lighting is usually anything that is not decorative. It can be concealed within the architectural fabric of the interior or within the joinery, or it can be a surface mounted product. Examples of architectural lighting are wall washers which are fitted in the wall, ceiling or floor. They illuminate a surface by providing a soft and gentle glow. Uplighters can highlight a particular architectural feature, adding drama and interest to a space. Accent lights can highlight objects such as paintings and sculptures and linear lighting can create striking effects up and down walls, across ceilings and around key architectural elements. Decorative and architectural lighting should complement each other to provide a layered illuminated interior.

Whether you are using decorative or architectural lighting to create the desired lighting effect, it is important for the light source to be placed at exactly the right spot and at exactly the right angle. To effectively illuminate a feature wall or some artwork for example, the light source needs to be fitted at the correct distance, having the correct tilt and rotatability, the correct beam spread and, for artwork especially, the correct colour temperature and rendering. 

The different fixtures need to consider the design environment. There must be an understanding of the space and its use to be able to specify the right light output, the right colour temperature, the beam angles, colour rendering, and the compatibility between light fittings, drivers and dimmers etc. There is the element of design but equally, if not more important, there needs to be an understanding of the technical elements of lighting.

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HOW THE LIGHTING DESIGNER ADDS VALUE

Depending on these complexities, it can be crucial for the success of a project to appoint a Lighting Designer who typically works alongside the Interior Designer and Architect. The Lighting Designer has the necessary experience and expertise to make the required decisions and ensure visual and technical consistency throughout the project.

The Lighting Designer can speak the Electrical Engineer’s language and is fully aware of the lighting products and the control of them in a fast-developing market. While the Interior Designer and the Architect focus on their expertise on the built environment and internal fabric of a design and the Electrical Engineer maintains the electrical systems and components on the project, the Lighting Designer can specify new products with minimal energy use, which are of good quality, well-engineered or are simply better suited to illuminate the space or object.

The involvement of a Lighting Designer can be particularly helpful where the existing architecture of a building restricts the use of standard lighting fixtures because, for example, the ceiling is listed, made of concrete or there are a lot of architectural features or objects which need highlighting. 

In our experience, there is no question that the involvement of a Lighting Designer, especially for a project which is a new build or major refurb, adds substantial value even where there are no architectural difficulties in terms of lighting.  By working as a team with the Interior Designer and Architect from an early stage of the project, the Lighting Designer can ensure that lighting is considered from the outset, that the project is shown in its best possible light but also that the client and users of the space are drawn into the space and get to enjoy the mood and experience the Interior Designer and Architect were trying to create with their design.

So to maximise the experience of your space, create visual interest as well as the desired mood, ensure that your lighting is carefully considered and any design choices are intentional as well as stylish. If you require any further assistance and would like us to put you in touch with an expert then book your free telephone consultation today.

Co-written with lighting designer Machan Enever of Hawksbee Lighting Consultancy.