Planning lighting takes forethought, and it can help to know of possible pitfalls before they happen. I hope these crucial lighting lessons will help when planning your next lighting project.
Avoid Lighting Grids
Downlights have their place, but their placing is important. Positions of downlights should be dictated by where the light needs to fall and not planned in uniform grids. In addition, you don’t want all the light coming from overhead. Mix it up with layering of lighting.
Focus on Light Quality
The quality of light emitted from your downlights or bulbs is dependent on three main factors – output, tone and colour rendering.
Output: This is gauged by lumens (or lux). Brighter is not necessarily better. You don’t want the highest output lights if you can’t dim them, especially if the light source is exposed. This will end up glary.
Tone: Some lamps/bulbs will specify ‘warm white’ as 3000K but in fact this is a bit cool. They can work okay in kitchens and bathrooms, but ideally you should go for 2700K in main living areas. There are even some bulbs you can buy now where the tone will warm as they dim which is lovely for a cosy atmosphere in the evenings.
Colour Rendering: If you’re buying an item of clothing in a store and you want to see the true colour, you’ll often take it to the window so you can see it in natural sunlight. This is pure natural sunlight – a CRI of 100. Check the colour rendering of the lights or bulbs you buy. The closer you can get to 100, the better. This will give you a purer light.
There are some beautiful feature lights on the market but many of them are dedicated LED lights. In other words they don’t take changeable lamps (bulbs) but come with integral LEDs that are fed via a ‘driver’ which is often built in to the product. Always check that the fitting is dimmable. Many are not. Some will dim but will need special wiring in place to do so. Always check before ordering. Don’t kid yourself that dimming doesn’t matter and you can live with it. Dimming is one of the most important elements of lighting design.
Pay for Quality
There’s a saying ‘buy cheap, pay twice’ and I’ve seen several examples of this. Lighting products have become more and more technical over the years. Be sure that, when you order several dozen LED downlights for your new build, you won’t need to replace them within a few years. This will not only be irritating but costly as you’ll need to buy the replacements and bring the electrician in to change the fittings.
Always Check Building Regulations
Rules and regulations for lighting efficiency and safety can change so make sure you see the most up to date building regs. Check when planning and double check before ordering the products.
Order in Time
Manufacturers may indicate a certain lead time on their specifications or websites but this is often ‘best case scenario’. There’s nothing worse than the work being held up because a few elements of the design haven’t arrived. Be particularly wary when ordering lighting from the continent during the summer months – some factories close in July and some in August. And then there’s the backlog in September…
Double Check Stair Positions
I’ve designed lighting for countless newbuilds and, in my experience, the key areas where clients have problems are with their windows, doors and staircases. Often the stairs will need to be tweaked on site and this can impact the positions of stair lighting. Double check the positioning of the treads before marking up the step lights.
I’ve had clients who have dismissed any form of smart lighting control systems because they thought it was too complicated. While I do agree that it’s not necessary throughout an entire building, it can be invaluable in open plan living areas. It’s not complicated for the user – it makes life easier. There are some simple solutions available that won’t break the bank and you’ll be grateful you installed it once you’re living in the property.
Lighting is becoming more integrated into the fabric of buildings, and this is particularly true of linear LED lighting. This means that the build may need to incorporate recesses to house hidden lighting profiles, or shadow gaps to weave in smart slots of light. This can have a big impact on the ultimate design of the property so it’s a shame to miss this trick by designing the lighting at the last minute.
Plan for Feature Lights
Some pendant lights are large and heavy. Always ensure you create a solid fixing that will take the weight of the chandelier or lantern – you definitely don’t want it to come crashing down on your heads and it’s been known to happen.
Make sure your dimmers are compatible with your light fitting or bulbs. You can’t always assume that you can replace a light fitting and use the original dimmer. Always check before placing an order.
There are all sorts of ways you can weave in lighting without it actually being in the form of a light fitting – such as lighting in shelving, reflecting lighting back off a painting or recessed lighting profiles. Allow for lighting in media units and niches. Not only do they help give depth and interest but this technique can work well for balancing natural light when it’s coming in from only one direction.
It’s a luxury to be able to find your way to the bathroom at night without disturbing your partner, or waking you up too much. Allow for low level lighting in the bathroom and a very small marker light to guide you to the bathroom door. A tiny red LED can work well as this doesn’t disturb sleep.
This is only a selection of pitfalls you need to watch out for but I hope it helps!
Did you know this about LED Spotlights and Downlights?
Some LED downlights can have a sharp edge to the beam of light which means, if you don’t overlap the spread, the result won’t be smooth. By choosing ‘soft edge’ LED downlights you’ll avoid this jarring effect.
LED Colour Temperature
You need to choose the Colour Temperature of the light emitted. Some manufacturers will class Warm White as 3000K but this is on the cool side. Although they can work well in bathrooms and kitchens, it’s better to go for 2700K in living areas.
The light given out from the luminaire or lamp is also given a CRI index which indicates how true colours are under their light. For example, from 1 which is monochrome, going up to 100 which is sunlight. Fabrics, paint colours, food and even your face will look much better the closer to 100 you go.
How the downlights dim will be affected by a) the driver if they are dedicated downlights and b) the lamp used if they take retrofit bulbs. And then there’s the dimmer module itself. They need to be compatible to ensure smooth, silent dimming.
You can now select LEDs that will ‘dim to warm’ which will not only enhance your experience in the evenings but could also benefit your sleep. (See my article on How Lighting Affects Sleep).
Tips when using LED Downlights
Try and avoid glare from downlights. This is best achieved by ensuring that the light source is set up from the surface. A dark baffle will absorb the glare even more. A golden baffle will make the light warmer.
Don’t place downlights in grids when designing home lighting. This should be left to offices and commercial situations where a blanket level of light is required. In homes the downlights should only be placed where they are needed for the greatest effect.
If you select downlights that don’t blend into the ceiling your eye will automatically go upwards. You don’t want people to notice the finish of your downlights so try and avoid contrasting colour trims to your ceiling.
Even though some downlights can angle well, sometimes you’ll need a wider spread of light to feature a painting, for example. In this case surface mounted spotlights can work better. Again, go for a finish that will blend in with your ceiling.
Choosing the right beam angles of light emitted from the downlights will have an influence on the overall illumination. Wide beams work well for overall illumination whereas narrow beams will punch more lights down onto a kitchen island, for example.
Downlights will need to be fire rated where there’s living accommodation above (if the fire barrier has been perforated). There are fittings out these days that are fire rated without the fire canister and even LED GU10 lamps that are fire rated in their own right.
Downlights come in various sizes and there are some punchy little LEDs on the market that are excellent for including in an atmospheric circuit, for example washing down in front of a fridge in the kitchen or opening up dark areas along a corridor. You don’t always need a large full powered downlight, even dimmed. These micro downlights give a wider band of effects available.
Lighting technology seems to progress in leaps and bounds so it’s always good to keep up with what’s on the market. We do!
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!
Claire Pendarves is a lighting designer with over 20 years’ experience
Luxplan offers an online lighting design service ranging from one hour zoom consultancy – ‘Ask me Anything’ to full lighting design and specification. I design and spec; you buy independently
For many years now so many of us have revered Italian, Spanish and Scandinavian lighting without paying heed to the wealth of fabulous lighting that’s designed and manufactured in the UK.
Without being jingoistic I truly believe that now is the time we should open our eyes to what’s available within our shores. There are some wonderful British designers and lighting companies who employ a huge number of artisans using British products. It’s time for us to support them and this, in turn, will do a bit towards helping our national economy.
Over the next few weeks I’m going to cover some of these companies so you will be able to see what’s available and hopefully this will encourage you to buy British
I’m going to start my summary of British Lighting with one of my absolute favourites: Original BTC.
I’m particularly fond of Original BTC as I sold a huge quantity of their wonderful lighting when I had a showroom several years ago. In fact, I could honestly say that my lighting showroom, Illumina, was practically launched on the back of Original BTC.
I remember stumbling across their small stand at a trade fair in 2005 when I was sourcing products for my new venture. I was bowled over by their clean, unique style and I felt sure they would sell well in Cornwall so I placed a large order on the spot. At that time, I seem to recall that the majority of their sales was overseas, especially in France, but over the years they’ve gone from strength to strength with showrooms now in London, New York, Paris and Taiwan. They also export to over 85 countries
Founded in 1990 by Peter Bowles, Original BTC is a true family business with six family members being directly involved. They own six production facilities including a glass factory, ceramics factory and metal works with their headquarters and assembly factories based in Oxfordshire.
The company has also incorporated two other British brands into their empire. Beadlight and Davey Lighting (robust and stylish exterior lighting), which sit well with their interior range. Their service is excellent and they will always try to meet any specific requirements, such as extra length cord or in-line switches.
My favourite Original BTC wall light is the Hector
One of the other joys of ordering from Original BTC is that their packaging is perfect and I can’t remember ever having complained about breakages.
Original BTC has a strong presence online now as well as supplying many of the main retailers such as John Lewis and Heals.
CTO Lighting produce some stunning pieces which have a balance of form that comes with exceptionally skilled design coupled with perfect craftsmanship.
Founded in 1998 by trained engineer Chris Turner and his wife Clare who originally came from a fashion background, the company has gone from strength to strength; they have even been commissioned to create bespoke pieces for The Savoy Hotel, The Dorchester and St Pancreas Renaissance Hotel to name a few.
Quality is key and they place an emphasis on using premium natural materials such as hand-finished brass, mouth-blown glass and artisan-crafted stone which gives each piece an individuality of its own.
CTO Lighting has an online shop as well as a brochure. Their showroom is in North London, details on their website.
Bert Frank was founded in 2013 by designer Robbie Llewellyn and factory owner Adam Yeates. Right from the beginning they’ve manufactured their products in the UK, primarily in a factory in the heart of Birmingham where they combine traditional manufacturing methods with cutting-edge technology.
I first came across them at Decorex in 2014 and was immediately smitten by their Sheer wall light (photographed here) which has the makings on a true classic. Since their launch they’ve won several awards, such as the 2016 Elle Decoration British Design Award for Lighting and the Best Product Award at the Design et al International Design Awards.
Their products are definitely high-end and they certainly have luxurious price tags, but to my mind they are way up there with the best.
They have a good website and a showroom in East London, details on their website.
Jim Lawrence founded his business in 1994, originally as a way of supplementing the income from his Suffolk farm. He set up a forge in one of the farm buildings and started making specialist pieces for friends and neighbours.
Over the years Jim Lawrence has expanded enormously from metalwork to fabrics and soft furnishings, although the lighting now accounts for 60-70% of the company’s sales. I often direct clients to the Jim Lawrence website when they are looking for classical pieces that don’t break the bank.
The company is a true family business, still run by Jim and Sheena Lawrence and it employs up to three generations of local families as well as staff in its new showroom in Bath.
They have a really good website as well as showrooms in Suffolk and Bath.
Read more about my visit to the new Jim Lawrence Showroom in my article Bath Lighting Trip
Tom Raffield is one of Cornwall’s most notable designers having originally trained at Falmouth College of Arts. He now runs a 30 strong team of craftsmen in his country workshop in Cornwall, producing lighting and furniture sold in the UK and overseas.
All his products are not only made in the UK but are sustainable and environmentally friendly so tick all the boxes when it comes to sourcing with a clean conscience. They’ve recently gone one notch higher, having partnered with Ecologi to offset their employees’ carbon footprints.
Initially Tom Raffield became known, from the lighting perspective, for his signature bent wood Butterfly pendant lights, but he’s gone on to expand his range enormously. My favourite WOW pieces are the Skipper and Arame Wall Lights but I also love his new Loer pendants which are contemporary but with his own individual stamp.
Personally (especially as I live in Cornwall) I think it’s wonderful that Tom employs so many people locally as well as designing and producing fabulous natural products that add to the plethora of great products that come from Cornwall.
Purchases can be made online and there is also a new showroom in Falmouth, details on the website.
This is a small family business based in Yorkshire created in 2000 by Nigel Tyas and his wife Elizabeth Stocker. It has now been bought by brothers Daniel and Gareth Lowe who employ a small team of metalworkers and electricians. They also use the services of a local ceramicist and a glass company based in Somerset.
When an order is placed, all the metalwork is assigned to one craftsman from start to finish. This helps to ensure quality control as well as instilling a sense of pride and accomplishment so lacking in some of the larger manufacturing companies these days.
As they are based in Sheffield, the heart of British metalworking heritage, they try to source all their materials and components locally as much as possible. All their work carries the prestigious ‘Made in Sheffield’ mark (discreetly) which also gives a stamp of provenance.
Most of the products suit older properties but I do love the Cubley wall light which is perfect for bringing a contemporary light effect into a classical interior.
Prices are realistic and personalised adaptations of designs are also possible.
Well worth checking out.
Elegant Lighting Made in Britain
Wrought Iron Lighting made in Britain
Soane doesn’t just produce beautiful sophisticated lighting. They also design and produce a wide range of timeless furniture, wallpaper and fabrics. All these are made in the UK by a plethora of craftsmen who serve as the bedrock to this thriving design company.
Founded in the late 1990s by designer Lulu Lytle who has a passion for British crafts and classical architecture, Soane now boasts showrooms in London (Pimlico Road) as well as San Francisco and Manhattan in the USA.
The use of rattan is taken to extraordinary heights giving a fresh twist to some classical pieces, both with lighting as well as chairs, sofas and tables. I love their pendant fittings and I don’t know anywhere that you would find such original and well-balanced rattan pieces. Table lamps are lovely also. Everything is individual, original and beautifully designed.
Their products have serious prices. Don’t expect to see them on the website – you need to enquire. But they are beautiful, they are high-end and there is the option for bespoke.
I absolutely love the Alice in Wonderland title of this fabulous lighting company. As original as Lewis Carroll’s book, they take us on an enchanted journey where the only boundaries are limitations in the production process.
Curiousa and Curiousa was founded in 2010 by Esther Patterson who was first spotted by Liberty London during a ‘Designer Open Call’ that year. Liberty went on to retail some of her products which goes to prove what good taste they have.
All the pieces are designed and manufactured in C&C’s factory in a historic mill in Derbyshire and all the glass is free-blown, without the use of moulds, which means that each piece is totally unique. Every order is custom made in any combination of 21 different glass colours which vary from transparent to semi-opaque. There’s also a range of different ceiling fittings and flex colours as well as the incredibly useful option to produce certain fittings to IP45 so they can be used in bathrooms.
The pendant lights are fabulous and above you will see how stunning they can look in a stairway, but I also love their Bass Siren wall light seen here giving a really unique flavour to a bathroom.
Curiousa and Curiousa have recently moved their London showroom to a large building next to their factory in Derbyshire so that, during the current pandemic, they can adhere to social distancing rules. However, they can do online virtual visits or will visit clients where appropriate. Hopefully, things will change very soon but in the meantime some of their pieces can be seen in the Martin Moore showrooms in Notting Hill and Fulham.
I adore Curiousa and Curiousa and it’s one of the highlights of such shows as Decorex to see what beautiful products they have on display.
Originally founded by Mike Stoane in 1995, and known formerly as Mike Stoane Lighting, this company started its life in a small lock-up in Scotland. They are now an employee-owned business based in a large workshop outside Edinburgh where a full team of product designers, engineers and technical staff all work together.
They make fabulous high-tech LED luminaires designed to last and if you’re into precision engineering then they will definitely appeal.
I’ve used them in a few projects – lighting some tricky artwork and also in a conference centre where the tiny diodes needed to be hidden within some classical panelling. Their products are excellent although they come with a price and would usually be specified for high-end commercial projects.
Stoane Lighting work closely with lighting designers and architects and are able to do special orders – a service which is invaluable to designers where colour temperature, beam angles and light quality is key. And they are made here in the British Isles. It has to be good!
Despite the Italian-sounding name this company is totally British and was started in a tiny London workshop by Andrew and Sara Hills in 1988. I seem to remember hearing that they named it after their favourite place in Italy and I suppose in those days if you wanted to make design products sound classy, an Italian name would have seemed an asset.
However, all their lighting and fine furniture is made here in England, in the countryside. They employ a large number of fine artisans, many of whom start with them as apprentices and they still retain some of the original craftsmen from their early days.
Porta Romana are now renowned for their unique designs and quality which doesn’t come without a price. But their products are quirky, timeless and original with a wide range of bespoke finishes and an impeccable service. I’ve supplied lighting from Portaromana on many occasions and each time my clients have been delighted.
Some of my favourites are the Llama wall light – I put one of these in a downstairs cloakroom to give an extra ‘lift’ to a rather dull space. Also, the Trailing Blossom wall light which a client loves in his tranquil meditating space, saying it reminds him of the Tree of Life.
Many of Porta Romana’s lights can be upgraded to be suitable for bathrooms which is a boon to interior designers and lighting designers and again, these can be produced in a range of different finishes.
New designs are constantly being launched which adds a freshness to the range, and each item is given a stamp of authenticity.
Looking at the wonderful selection of furniture and lighting from Porta Roman is rather like going to a fabulous restaurant. You know each course will be sublime but it’s so tantalisingly hard to make that final choice
Boatswain Lighting is the creation of Jason Boatswain, working from his studio in Wiltshire with his team of craftsmen. Boatswain creates beautiful biscuit-crisp porcelain lights which add a wonderful golden light to an interior. The effect of golden light emanating through the transluscent, porcelain is soft and understated so you can go for large pieces without them crowding the space.
Boatswain lights don’t shout. They don’t need to. They are soft, beautifully proportioned and organic in their own right.
I’ve used Boatswain in coastal properties – there’s something about the natural texture that lends itself to sand, beach, light. All my clients have been really pleased with the result.
A word of caution: don’t assemble the full lights until all workmen are out of the area. In the picture above we spent quite a while carefully hanging each of the flat porcelain slabs to the large central light, after which we stood back, had a cup of tea and admired it. Two days later my client phoned to say that the painters had come with their ladder to do some ‘touching-up’. They had written off a chunk of the lower section. Boatswain were brilliant and sent replacement segments which, of course, we paid for, but it was good to know that it could easily be restored.
Beautiful in most spaces – but not if you have rumbustious children!
J Adams and Co ticks so many boxes. Cutting edge design manufactured in a well-established factory in Birmingham using traditional techniques.
Although this lighting design and manufacturing company was only founded in 2016 the design world has seriously taken notice. All the designs are carried out by design director Will Earl, who adds a softness and elegance to a slightly industrial look.
Their lighting is robust and unique and, although their pieces have serious price tags, these are top quality light fittings designed to last.
J Adams & Co will also produce personalised versions of their range – bespoke to a certain extent.
See above for information on Bert Frank also produce wonderful lighting in the same Birmingham factory, and are similarly unique. I love them both!
Classical British Lighting
Christopher Hyde Lighting was founded in 1995 and produces quintessentially English lighting, perfectly suited to classical homes, although they do now design and manufacture some transitional contemporary lighting as well. They have a factory in Milton Keynes and altogether employ the skills of some 60 – 80 artisans at any one time.
One of their main strengths is the amount of customised light fittings they can produce – various metal finishes, coloured flex cables and bespoke lampshades which attracts owners of larger properties, hotels and yachts.
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.
Claire Pendarves is a lighting designer with over 20 years’ experience
Luxplan offers an online lighting design service ranging from one hour zoom consultancy – ‘Ask me Anything’ to full lighting design and specification. I design and spec; you buy independently
How do I choose downlights for my self-build project?
“What type of downlights should I use in my new-build?” This 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?”
“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.
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 GU10.
It’s not unusual, in general conversation, to hear people moan about the terrible light that energy efficient lamps give out but luckily the days of having to wait several minutes for the lamps to warm up and actually give out some form of decent light are rapidly passing.
Lighting technology has come on leaps and bounds since the original compact fluorescent came on the market with it’s grey undertones, and the every-day bulb is now being replaced with LEDs and making our lives clear again!
So how about a revamp? Given that the compact fluorescent lasts for such a long time, many of us will be still using lamps that were purchased several years ago and just think how things have progressed since then. Remember to dispose of your CFLs carefully (see Recolight) as these lamps contain hazardous materials so cannot be just thrown out with the general waste. Then how about investing in some quality LED lamps that have good colour rendering properties and a sharp crisp light.
There were some excellent examples on display at LuxLive in November, amongst them the new Philips Master LEDbulb; the clear 40 watt equivalent version seemed to give out the crispest light but at the moment only comes in an E27 fitting (large screw-in base) and may not be quite bright enough for every situation. Other, more powerful ones are available with bayonet fittings and greater output although not quite the same sparkle. Instant light though and well worth the investment.
Ideally there should never be less than two control circuits, three being the optimum and a fourth giving prime flexibility. The first will be atmospheric lighting close to the house, the second will be security and facility lighting (this will often be on a PIR with a timer and over-ride facility), and the third will generally be for landscaping beyond the immediate vicinity of the house, such as driveways and additional features. The luxury of the fourth can allow for an entertaining circuit such as illuminating a barbeque and dining area, swimming pool or hot tub if such indulgences exist.
Lighting a garden can be a functional exercise or an exciting adventure which will add a totally new dimension to a property. There’s no quick fix solution to creating it but with careful consideration and measured planning the effect can be a work of art. It’s a matter of choice.
The world or lighting design is not just about getting the planning and circuits right as lighting itself is so interwoven with our general health and circadian rhythms.
Many of us suffer from seasonal SAD disease but if we look at the influence of light on a daily basis we would be surprised how we are all affected by relatively small variances in light. And this is not just the amount of light but also the quality such as photopic and melanopic lux which can have an affect on our sleeping patterns and how alert we feel throughout the day.
We are now becoming more aware of how using computers and tablets at night, with their blue toned LED lighting can have a negative effect on our sleep which can then have a knock-on effect to our health and well being.
Certain lighting manufacturers such as Photonstar are producing lighting technology that mimics the patterns of natural light throughout the day and therefore works with our natural rhythms. This is a huge leap in the world of lighting and offers fascinating benefits moving the world or lighting design onto a totally new level.
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