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 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.
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
What’s the difference between a Lighting Designer and a Lighting Consultant
Your new-build project is progressing and you turn your mind to designing a lighting scheme. Who do you contract to do this work – a lighting designer or a lighting consultant? Here is a bit more background information.
Lighting Designer – Product Design
A Lighting Designer can be someone who designs the architectural light fittings and the luminaires that we include in our projects. For example Tom Dixon who has a wide range of his own lights as well as other products he designs, Marc Sadler who has designed several renowned luminaires including Foscarini’s Jamaica and of course our own Tom Raffield who creates beautiful bentwood fittings such as the Butterfly.
These lighting designers concentrate on product design and therefore their speciality is not designing lighting schemes.
Lighting Designers – Theatrical
Lighting Designers can also be specialists in theatrical lighting including opera and rock musical shows. These designers think big and bold and you can’t get much more impressive than Patrick Woodroffe and Adam Bassett http://woodroffebassett.com who made a lasting impact at the London Olympics and continue lighting rock concerts and classical productions throughout the world. Other notable theatrical lighting designers are Mark Henderson and Paule Constable to name a few.
Excellent lighting in theatrical productions is absolutely critical – get it wrong and the whole event is lacklustre and dreary no matter how impressive the production itself.
Architectural Lighting Designers
These are designers who primarily design larger projects such as offices, museums, shops, hotels, restaurants and larger residential complexes. For example Stanton Williams who recently carried out the lighting for Musée d’arts in Nantes and Maurice Brill Lighting Design who have done a plethora of international projects such as the Lanesborough Hotel in London and the Gritti Palace in Venice.
These types of lighting designers are very high end and any residential projects taken on would be exceptional as their work schedule is primarily taken up with the larger design jobs. All lighting designs would closely co-ordinate with other design mediums using BIM and their specialism is design only, not supply.
There are other types of lighting designers who concentrate more on residential lighting and generally work on the premise that they will design the lighting with the assumption that they will also supply the fittings. John Cullen Lighting for example have some of their own products manufactured to their specifications but also supply architectural lights from other suppliers to which they allocate their own codes. Although this means that ordering is relatively easy it also gives less flexibility for the client if the electrical contractor wants to supply direct from the manufacturer.
At Luxplan we work more as Lighting Consultants as we don’t supply the fittings and all our schemes are produced with full transparency so that clients can purchase the products themselves. However, we will also call ourselves lighting designers as that is the most general term used.
Scenario: You’ve just spent £600 on a designer pendant light for your new-build home and then you walk into your local McDonalds and see it hanging just near the stand for the ketchup and straws. How do you feel? Luckily I hadn’t just bought such a designer light and I hadn’t specified the light for a client but I did walk into the local takeaway to see this very much admired designer piece on full display and somehow, well, it just doesn’t feel the same any more.
So why do we buy designer items? Is it the form, the cut, the ergonomics? Or is it the exclusivity which is usually linked to the cost? In other words the pricier the item the more exclusive, ie fewer people can afford it so therefore seen less. But then large chain outlets will have big clout – they’ll be buying in quantity and, if rolling out the same design throughout the country, will undoubtedly be placing substantial orders with the producers which means that they can specify lighting without being overly concerned with the cost. But is it short-sighted of the design houses to supply to large chain outlets and does it ultimately have a negative impact on the way their products are perceived?
Above are some snapshots of designer lights that I have encountered on the high street. I love all these light fittings and I’m not here to name and shame any of them as they enhance our shopping and eating experience but to be honest I would think twice before specifying them for a client, or I would at least warn them!
What do you think?