Fabulous Lighting Design Enhancing Beautiful Buildings
I’ve just spent an indulgent hour looking through my beautiful glossy Lighting Magazine Special Issue for the Lighting Design Awards 2019. So much that is beautiful, so much that is now linear.
What struck me most of all is the indelible fact that neither architecture or lighting stand on their own but are intrinsically entwined. A beautiful building can be enhanced by taking advantage of natural light or by the addition of clever and artistic artificial illumination. And whilst a dull building can be enhanced by beautiful lighting the full panoramic beauty of perfect lighting design only comes to the fore when the quality of architecture and lighting are brought together in perfect harmony.
And that’s what these awards illustrated. Here are a few of my favourites.
Hotel Project of the Year – Winner – Muh Shoou Xixi Hotel
Ethereal and delicate. Wonderful use of linear lighting where the magic of the night is retained and the lighting would complement a full moon. Lighting design by Prolighting
Integration Project of the Year – Shanghai Sunac Sales Center
Where would the building be without the lighting? How could this fabulous lighting design have been created without this stunning building? Design by Bradston Partnership
Retail Project of the Year – T2 Luxury Mall, Melbourne Airport, Australia
Reminds me of origami – perfectly folded. Perfectly lit. Lighting design by Electrolight
Heritage Project of the Year – International Presbyterian Church, Ealing, UK
Soft linear lighting combined with the rhythm of conical uplights accentuating the fabulous shape. Lighting design by 18 Degrees
NB There were many other fabulous designs. For further information visit Lighting Design Awards
How Lighting Affects our Mood and Productivity
Lighting Affects Mood and Productivity according to a survey of 1000 adults carried out in the UK by LED Hut. But do we really need to have a survey tell us what we already know?
According to the survey 77% felt that lighting in their workplace can affect productivity and 32% said they would be happy to work under artificial light that was designed to aid productivity. Regardless of the survey this is already happening in many factories and offices with the colour and output of lighting changing as the day progresses with positive reports of the results.
Take a morning walk for example. Even on a cloudy day this exposure to the high lumens and blue-enriched light can help to make us feel more alert and get our body clocks into sync. This helps to suppress melatonin by stimulating a pigment called melanopsin in the retina’s non-visual photoreceptors and remarkably it has been found that even blind people’s circadian rhythm can be affected by exposure to this light.
Keeping our body clocks well-tuned is important, not only for our mood and productivity but also for our health, illustrated by studies that have shown that there are greater incidents of cancer and diabetes in night workers as well as the effects it can have on a wide range of hormones and sexual development.
In Britain during the winter months many of us can feel ‘down’, some people even more so if they suffer from SAD (Seasonal Affected Disorder). This is hardly surprising when the average office worker will see little daylight during the months of December and January, spending hours in front of a computer and then, often in the evening on their laptops or cell phones or sitting in front of a television. So can ensue a vicious circle of disrupted sleep patterns which can affect not only our productivity but also our health.
Human-centric lighting may seem frighteningly ‘New Age’ but, when we are so far removed from our natural environment, just think how it could benefit us in the future? By finely tuning the lighting in our working environments to enhance our body clocks we are not only healthier, happier but more productive which, in turn makes the investment by companies more attractive. It can only be a positive move for all concerned.
How to Light your Bathroom
Bathrooms are becoming more and more important to self-builders these days. Clients who are renovating properties often turn a whole bedroom into a family bathroom or will split one room to make two ensuite shower rooms. Gone are the days when a single pendant hanging from the ceiling of a steamy bathroom would suffice.
Look further than Bathroom Lights
If you can’t find what you like in the way of bathroom light fittings how about looking at exterior lighting? In both the bathrooms below we used exterior lights that met the IP rating criteria. These bathrooms were designed several years ago and nowadays it is easier to find similar products specifically made for bathrooms.
Bathroom Downlights are not always appropriate
So many houses these days have bedrooms and bathrooms built into the eaves with sloping roofs and insulation. This can create drawbacks. Firstly, you will need to ensure that the downlights will be able to tilt the light downwards, or at least are frosted so that they don’t dazzle. Secondly, to avoid the downlights, or even the GU10 LED lamps from overheating the insulation will need to be pushed back around the fitting. This will compromise the insulation qualities which isn’t ideal. I often use surface mounted exterior spotlights in this case which means that the light falls where you want it to and ceiling and roof remain intact.
The pendant light above was a fitting from Artemide although sadly it’s no longer being manufactured.
Creating Atmosphere in Bathrooms
Shower rooms generally do not need a great deal of atmospheric lighting but most people like to soak in a bath at some stage, sometimes with a drink to hand – or music or even a screen to watch. Always create various circuits and ideally build one circuit that will be purely atmospheric. This can also double up as soft lighting to come on when visiting the bathroom at night – much kinder on the eyes.
Lighting near Basins
Bathroom wall lights either side of a mirror will give the most complimentary lighting. Beware illuminated mirrors as some of them will give out very dazzling and harsh light; it’s advisable to see them lit in a bathroom showroom before purchasing.
In summary, although bathrooms may be some of the smallest rooms in the house they are definitely not insignificant and as much care and attention should be paid to their lighting as all the other rooms throughout.
How to avoid the Pokemon syndrome
Many years ago when our son was young there was a huge Pokemon craze and Charlie and his friends were obsessed. Not so for many parents – my husband and I would draw straws as to who would have the task of accompanying the kids to the cinema. Normally we loved taking the children to the cinema but we both disliked Pokemon. In fact it was the only time that I was almost pleased if our son misbehaved as I would have no alternative but to carry out my threat: “If you misbehave you WON’T go to the Pokemon movie!’ But as we parents know these phases come and go.
To get to the point – one of Charlie’s best friends was treated to a bespoke hand painted bedroom by a local artist. The walls were covered in Pokemon action scenes. All his friends were green with envy, his parents were happy and proud despite their lighter pockets – and the room was repainted a couple of years later.
The moral of this story: your child’s life is a progression. What your child needs today in terms of decoration or lighting in their room may change in the years to come. That’s why I will always try and be flexible when lighting a child’s room.
Here are a few recommendations.
My favourite ceiling fitting is the Ethel Lampshade by One Foot Taller. This merely fits to a ceiling fitting (either a pendant or flush light fitting) and gives a lovely soft light out. It’s one of my favourite lighting products. I’ve used it in a dental surgery in an old converted warehouse where the ceilings were low and I’ve put it in countless bedrooms and living rooms. One client recently praised it saying it’s a light that’s there but not there. It’s also practically indestructible and will withstand numerous pillow fights. Also you can literally take if off the light fitting and wash it in the bath with a shower hose. Easy.
Over the course of the following years the furniture may vary from cot to single bed to bunk bed to double bed so the room has to be flexible to accommodate the future changes. My favourite method of incorporating this is to use plug in wall lights. The Scandinavians use these far more than we do in the UK and their lights often will come in with a lead but can be hard wired if preferred.
I love the Radon wall light by Fritz Hansen. A wonderfully flexible fitting that can be flipped up for reading or can be tucked in to give a soft ambient light so very useful if your child needs a light on before going to sleep.
Original BTC also do several wall lights that can come with a plug in flex, available in fun funky colours. Also, if necessary you can order additional length lead and different variations but this would need to be done by phone rather than via the website.
If you’re on a budget it’s worth looking in Ikea as they have quite a few plug in wall lights.
Fibre Optic Starlight Ceiling
One magical addition you can make to your child’s bedroom is creating a twinkling star ceiling – this will be enjoyed for many years, right up to adulthood. But… before you get too enthusiastic about the idea you need to assess the access to the ceiling of the room. If there’s a loft about the ceiling, or you’re in the early stages of a new build then this is a feasible option; if there’s no access from above you should drop it like a hot potato. I use Starscape fibre optic kits. Your child will love them but your electrician will curse you – they are time consuming to install and there’s quite a bit of thought that needs to go into creating random perforations that are random in a balanced way. I know – I’ve spent many hours at the top of a ladder!
If you have any questions about your ceiling do give them a ring as they are incredibly helpful.
The final tweak you can make is by adding colourful lamps. Don’t like the colour of the lamp base? Why not paint it with an Annie Sloan paint?
Want a unique lampshade? Why not make your own shade with a kit from Dannells.
All the above leave a flexible room for the future when your children grow up and come back to stay as fully fledged adults. And not a Pokemon in sight!
Think Safety on a Building Site
Several years ago I visited a client who was renovating a Victorian property which had been completely gutted and we were walking around the first floor, discussing various options for the lighting. I was distracted, looking up at the height of the ceilings and beams that were exposed when I turned to walk into a bedroom only to find that there was absolutely no floor at all! No barrier, no tape, no police cordon indicating ‘human about to die here’ – just a sheer drop to the floor below. My emotions ranged from shock to relief to disbelief that anyone could be so stupid and gung-ho with people’s lives!
It only takes a second. Literally! An interior designer friend told me of an incident she witnessed whilst working in South Africa when a workmen dropped a screwdriver from some scaffolding which proceeded to slice through a worker’s head like butter. He died on the spot. Always wear a hard hat!
A government report shows that there were 38 fatal injuries to workers in the construction industry in the UK during 2017/18. The majority of deaths were from workers having fallen from a height (48%), 12% being trapped by something collapsing, 11% being struck by an object, then down to 9% being struck by a vehicle and 6% dying from contact with electricity. Apparently the annual average is 39 – a terrible number of precious lives and grieving families.
The number of non-fatal injuries is phenomenal – 58,000 in 2017/18 although this will range from a mere scratch to extreme breakages. Apparently, though there were more injuries in the Agriculture, Forestries and Fishing sector than construction. View the full report here.
We can’t go around living in terror that we’re going to fall off the perch at any moment but we can at least take precautions. When a foreman on a building site asks you to put on a hard hat and wear a high-viz jacket please thank him and shake his hand. They may not be the flattering or fashionable items of clothing but they are there for your protection and could save your life.
How do I light my hallway?
A question that is often asked when planning lighting for the renovation of a home or a new-build project. For a relatively small percentage of a house this area will have a great impact on the feel and flow of a building.
I start by looking at a lighting project as a journey. It may help to literally close your eyes and imagine opening the front door. What are you greeted by? What is the feeling you want to create?
Analysing the following points can help you get it right.
Main Entrance Hallway
Is this the main entrance to your home that your visitors will see first or is it a transitional space or back hallway? Is it situated on the ground floor with ample natural light or in a dark basement?
Think of how the space is being used. It’s often useful to have a console table which allows for a surface for placing necessities, perhaps with a mirror above for checking the tilt of your hat before leaving the house. If the space is large enough a lamp or two can work well to soften the area; if the hallway is tight then a wall light, or two wall lights either side of a mirror can help to lower the lighting to create warmth.
How high is the ceiling in proportion to the length and width of the space? What greets you at the end? Over a decade ago I did the hallway (left picture) in a basement leading to a playroom/teenagers’ den. Would I do it differently today? Absolutely!
These days we have some wonderful LED profiles which can either be incorporated into a shadow gap or could be placed centrally to cast light on one or both walls. The downlights were not the ones I specified and should have had wide beams to create an even flow of light on the wall.
What I wouldn’t change is having some focus on the blank wall ahead. Here we put a Large Button wall light by Flos as this picked up on the theme of a further row of buttons in the den. The wall lights are the Pochette also by Flos
The corridor on the right was a lower ground floor area which would be used for parking bicycles and surfboards so had to be robust and serviceable. There wasn’t any void in the ceiling above so we created boxing to accommodate downlights on one side and exterior bulkhead wall lights on the other which could withstand being knocked a bit. (Unfortunately these are only snapshots and were taken when my clients were moving in so a huge amount of stuff was lined along one side of the space.)
Artwork and Artifacts
These bring individuality and personality into a space and lighting can be incorporated in a display area if there is enough depth. Light can be washed onto paintings or family pictures which in turn will bounce light back into the hallway and this can be done either with angled downlights or picture lights which can be very slim an unobtrusive these days. For the best contemporary picture lights that I know visit Hogarth Lighting. They supply a fabulous array of picture lights and will even tweak the tone of light to compliment your painting.
Floor and Wall Surface
Do you know the finish and colour of your flooring and walls? This will have an impact on how much light will reflect within the area. For example, if you place inground LEDs to wash up a wall this will have a much greater effect if the surface is textured and a light colour.
Niches and Recesses
These can add a depth to the space and can often be factored into the build if the project is a self-build or a major renovation. Lighting can be incorporated into these areas to illuminate objects or can simply be architectural features that can bounce slots of light back into the hallway.
Above all it is important to make the hallway personal and although it can be useful to look at magazines and Instagram always remember that this space is your own and should feel like Home.
Bespoke Lighting could be just what you need
Around thirteen years ago a wealthy local landowner came into my showroom and drew a sketch of the type of wall lights he wanted for his courtyards and stable yard.
‘Can you find me something like that Claire?’ he asked showing me with his hands a size around 450 mm high. They had to be low energy (we were talking fluorescent in those days rather than LED) and, because his mansion was large in every sense, they had to be big.
Well, I replied, it wouldn’t be easy. I hadn’t come across a fitting matching his description and suggested that it would have to bespoke.
No, no, no, was the reply, he didn’t want bespoke, far too expensive, so I kept on looking.
On one of my trips to the wonderful Tyson showroom in London I came across four beautiful French antique wall lights that met the description and I sent pictures to my client who approved. There was only one slight problem – there were only four available and we needed fourteen!
Eventually my client relented and agreed that the bespoke route was going to be the best solution so we moved forward, basing the design on the proportions of the antique light fittings. It was agreed that copper was the best metal to use as it would withstand the maritime climate of Cornwall and we even incorporated the family emblem at the top of the fittings giving that final stamp of individuality. Once the craftsmen were selected and the drawings approved the whole process took around 13 weeks.
I can’t include photographs of the final fittings as my clients are very private but I have continued doing work for them over the years and every time I go back I see how the lights are faring. They have patinated gently and sit well against the high granite walls of the building- in fact they totally look as if they belong.
Were the lights expensive? Yes, quite. Luckily, the cost of the design was spread between the fourteen fittings so per unit it worked out less than having one or two individual fittings designed but the price was not horrendous and the result was wonderful.
Sometimes you need bespoke because it is just impossible to find anything that suits the situation and other times it is bespoke that will bring the drama and individuality that is needed in a space. For example, take the amazing Shoal installations by Scabetti
Check out the website for their amazingly individuality.
If the budget won’t run to the truly bespoke there are many ways to incorporate individuality into the light fittings of an interior.
At a recent Decorex exhibition I was very impressed by a new range of light fittings byDavid Hunt
Take the Hyde Wall light for example – these come in a standard choice of four finishes but there is also a bespoke lighting option of ten beautiful colours. David Hunt are also doing a wide range of shades in 23 different fabrics which will help to enhance any interior.
Jielde – one of my absolute favourite companies, although not advertised as bespoke supply their wonderful range of lighting in a total of 26 different colours that will bring individuality to any scheme.
Lampshades can do it. If you’re good at drawing to scale, just work out the size of a lampshade you would like, choose the fabric and get it made by a company such as Iberian Lighting
I’ve used them in the past, such as where we needed three oversized stacked shades for a large hotel lobby.
Don’t want to go quite that far? Check out the range of lampshades by Heathfield They come in a wide range of sizes and fabrics.
Or if you want lampshades that look truly individual and original check out Beauvamp
In fact I love their shades so much it’s almost worth creating a bespoke interior just to match!
According to Lux magazine there are radical new Ecodesign law draft proposals stating that ‘manufacturers and importers shall ensure that light sources and separate control gears in scope of this Regulation can be readily removed without permanent mechanical damage by the end-user’.
In other words we are returning to the good old days of being able to change the ‘bulb’ in our own homes without having to call in an electrician and purchase a completely new fitting.
This issue has been my real bugbear since LEDs came in, especially in the days before the retro-fit lamps became so efficient and therefore met the regulations for lumen output per circuit watt. So many times dedicated LED downlights would fail and the electricians would shrug their shoulders and say ‘it’s just one of those things.’
By the way – why do dedicated LED downlights fail? Because they generate a good deal of heat – not usually at the front of the fitting but within the mechanism itself. Therefore the heat needs to be dispersed which is done with heat cooling fins but the cooling properties is often hindered by having a sealed fire rated unit which is so often required in new build properties today. Also, this is more likely to happen with poorer quality cheaper units.
But even quality fittings can go wrong and this brings back memories of a series of dedicated LED downlights that started failing on various projects I designed several years ago. These downlights were the new LED versions of good quality downlights I had used in the past and were supplied by a reputable manufacturer but slowly the fittings that had been installed in various projects started to partially fail. Not a happy scenario at all. Eventually the manufacturer conceded that the original motherboards had been faulty and even came down to Cornwall to replace the entire lighting of a three storey new-build property which was a huge relief to me and my client.
So this is why I am now wary of dedicated LED downlights and why I usually recommend good quality mains downlights that will take retro fit LED lamps, or if more output is required I will specify fittings where the LED part can be replaced separately. This ensures longevity and future proofs the fitting. It also saves a good deal of money both in purchasing the fittings and in the money saved by a) not having to call in an electrician every time a unit fails and b) not having to purchase an entire new fitting – if you can find it (and that’s another story…)
This new proposed regulation does make allowances for fittings where the LED cannot be changed separately, such as with smaller LEDs which are used for accent lighting. Generally I don’t find these to be a problem as they don’t generate so much heat and in addition I will always specify the best quality products here as I generally find it’s a false economy to cut corners in this area. In the end you get what you pay for.
So all in all I think it’s a good plan for this new proposal. It seems bonkers that an entire fitting is removed (and put in landfill!) just because part of the fitting has failed.
It looks like someone somewhere is seeing some sense and I only hope that these regulations will be put in place in the UK when we’re not part of the EU.
Claire Pendarves is Design Director of Luxplan Lighting Design
How much will it cost to light my new build? ask self-build owners. How do I budget for my lighting?
There’s not an easy answer to this but you, as the instigator of the project, probably hold more answers than you know. Here are a few personal observations from my years as a lighting designer.
Architectural Design of the Build
The design of your building will determine how much natural light you can take advantage of – position and size of the windows and surrounding landscaping will have a strong impact on the interior illumination. The more you can benefit from natural light, the fewer light fittings you will need to purchase and the lower will be the running costs so it’s worth bearing this element in mind during the initial planning phase.
Initial Cost versus Running Costs
There are two elements to bear in mind – the cost of a) purchasing the products and b) installing them and then there’s the price of running them over the years. Incorporating a home automation system can be quite a hefty outlay initially but there are economical features that can be integrated and an installer will be able to arm you with the figures to help you make an informed decision.
Keep it in proportion to the rest of the Build
If you are looking for a high end finish throughout the building the quality of the integral fittings should be in line with the standard of building materials and other fitments. I’ve seen projects let down at the eleventh hour by clients saving (the tiniest proportion of the complete build cost) by using plastic light switches or cheaper LEDs giving out glary cold light. And I’ve even had a client who presumed the cost of lighting the entire house would be equivalent to the price he was paying for a rather luxurious bath tub. As the saying goes “Don’t spoil the ship for a ha’p’orth of tar”.
What defines expensive?
Everyone holds an approximate price bracket in their heads and this is greatly influenced by what their priorities are. Several years ago when I owned a lighting and lifestyle showroom I had a beautiful ribbed nickel picture light on display in the shop front; the price was approximately £200. A client of mine admired the piece but baulked at the price and asked who on earth would pay so much for a wall light. This same client owned a designer clothes shop in the same town and there were only a few items of clothing in her shop that would come under this price bracket. I may be biased but if you factor in the enjoyment per day, per month, per year I would say that my wall light won hands down over a dress worn a handful of times but then it’s all a matter of priorities…
Get it right Now
I’ve had clients who say they like subdued light and want to hold back on the number of fittings. Whilst I am a great advocate of mood and ambient lighting an allowance for greater task lighting should always be borne in mind, especially as over the years we will need more light with our aging eyes. No one wants the hassle of adding more lighting once the build has been completed and whilst lamps can help add illumination to living rooms and bedrooms it’s not so easy in bathrooms and kitchens where more task lighting is needed.
So how much will it cost?
In short I’m afraid there is no easy answer but as a lighting designer I like to know more about the style and quality envisaged for the project and will propose the best, most cost-effective solution for the scheme in hand always bearing in mind quality and longevity.
By Claire Pendarves
Lighting Designer – Luxplan Lighting Design
“What type of downlights should I use in my new-build” is a question which raises its head in the early stages of a building project. “Should I go for dedicated LED downlights or use fittings that will take retro-fit LED lamps?”
Here are some tips that I can offer from my experience as a lighting designer.
Recently some clients had fallen in love with an LED downlight by a renowned design company and wanted to incorporate these in their lighting scheme. The fittings were beautiful with the light source set back (always recommended), a gold domed interior and a minimal trim giving all the benefits of trimless without the complication of needing to be plastered in. In addition the fitting had a wide variety of specialities that could be incorporated such as beam angle, colour temperature, CRI, light source and dimming protocol.
The fitting was a beauty but there was only one problem – price. These designer downlights don’t come cheap and although of prime quality, incorporating these in a full house design can drive up the budget exponentially so they are not usually the average self-builder’s first choice.
Dedicated LED Downlights
Whilst you may not want to blow the budget on the top designer downlights my ethos is that if you are going to incorporate dedicated LED downlights then you need to go for the best for these reasons.
Colour Temperature and CRI
These are not the same thing – Colour Temperature relates to the warmth of the light emitted and CRI (Colour Rendering Index) means how colours will look under the light. The higher the CRI the better the colours will look (more akin to natural sunlight) and lower the colour temperature the warmer the light. Generally the better quality downlights will allow for 2700°K and 90 CRI but you would be hard pushed to get this from a standard cheaper version.
There is nothing worse than dazzling glare from downlights so the light source should be set back, either within a dome or with a baffle such as these below. A dark baffle or dome will absorb more glare and a gold or copper toned dome will warm the light further.
The guarantee issued by the manufacturer is only as solid as the manufacturer issuing it and manufacturers can merge, reform or go into administration. Technology can fail and LEDs are no exception so try and ensure that you purchase dedicated LEDs from quality suppliers and don’t pay too much attention to the 10 year guarantee. Even when all is well with the manufacturer/supplier over the years your LEDs will change slightly in terms of colour and output and replacing one failed LED with a brand new replacement will often ‘jar’ in the existing overall scheme.
In residential situations this is usually more of an issue where ceilings are high as a more punchy amount of light will be required to travel the distance. Retro-fit lamps can’t get quite such high output as a dedicated LED fitting although in most domestic situations I don’t find this is an issue.
So, whilst good quality dedicated downlights may tick all the boxes in terms of function and design, the price and longevity issues make it worth considering the alternatives.
The quality of retro-fit LED lamps has vaulted in the past few years with excellent colour temperatures and CRI and even the facility to warm the temperature as they are dimmed – perfect for dining rooms.
Just caste your mind back to when lighting was easy. The ‘bulb’ died and you popped another in within a matter of minutes. Things have now come full circle but with a difference – the ‘bulbs’ are LED GU10s or MR16 lamps and the need to change them is rare though much easier than calling in an electrician to replace a dedicated LED fitting.
A good source for purchasing LED lamps online is: https://www.ledhut.co.uk/spot-lights/gu10-led-bulbs.html
Always ensure the lamps you select are compatible with the dimmers used.
Mains or Low Voltage Fittings
There are still many low voltage downlights available, particularly from Europe, although my feeling is why have a transformer when you can avoid one more link in the chain that could go wrong. When the budget is restricted my tendency is to specify good quality Mains downlights that take LED GU10s, most of which cost about £100 less than the designer light I mentioned at the beginning. Worth thinking about.
Avoid ‘runways’ of lights – concentrate on where the light is actually going to fall
Don’t have all downlights on the same circuit – this will help manipulate the ambience
Ensure that fire hoods are used where necessary if fittings are not Fire Rated
Avoid using downlights in vaulted ceilings – insulation will be compromised
Future proof your project – go for the best LEDs or choose standard fittings with LED GU10s
This post was written by
Claire Pendarves – Lighting Designer and Design Director of Luxplan
We offer a lighting design and specification service throughout the UK