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Why is Interior Lighting Design Important?

Why is Interior Lighting Design Important?

Lighting high ceiling

Self-builders often reach the point where they’ve agreed the architectural plans and chosen the flooring, kitchen and bathrooms for their building project, then realise they need to plan the lighting. This involves some decision making. Should they get their electrician to work it out? Will their architect plan the lighting? Or should they have a stab at it themselves?

Here are some answers which may help.

Will Electricians Plan Lighting?

There’s an enormous range of electricians out there and some of them may well be more interested in the aesthetics of lighting. But many electricians, whilst good at their job, have no qualms about running grids of downlights throughout a house, oblivious to the fact that the effect will be flat and lifeless.

Clients sometimes send me through the initial M & E plans that were done in the early planning stage of the project. It was often these plans that made them determined to hire a lighting designer!

Lighting is a combination of science and art, so you can’t just work out the lumens for the square footage and bung in some lights in a grid. This might work for a standard office but doesn’t really cut it for an interior lighting design.

I originally trained as an interior designer, then went on to specialise in lighting design. Many lighting designers originate from architectural design. Very few will just focus on lumen output alone, which will often be how the electrician approaches it.

In addition, electricians probably won’t be quite so discerning when it comes to choosing downlights and accent lighting. Often, they’ll use their ‘go-to’ downlights which they supply for all their jobs. They may well get a good deal on them and won’t analyse the light quality, i.e. colour temperature of light as well as CRI (colour rendering index).

I liken it to cooking. Would you get a food technician to cook for your silver wedding anniversary party? I doubt it. You would probably prefer a chef.  

Do Architects Deal with Lighting?

If clients decide that it’s best not to get the electrician to do the lighting plan they’ll then ask, “Do architects do lighting plans?”

Short answer is yes, technically they can do lighting plans, if they are willing. But will they do the best lighting plan?

I think architects are great at incorporating natural light into a building and this will be their key consideration in terms of lighting. But architects can look at the plan in a very structured way.

Take a kitchen/living room plan, for example. I view the interior in my mind’s eye and consider the layout of the kitchen and the flow of the space. I’ll also assess that the lighting needs to be flexible. On a gloomy day you’ll want to whack up the lighting, but during an intimate dinner you’ll want the lighting subtle. Monday morning rushes for school require different lighting to sunny summer evenings when you’re filleting fish at the back of the kitchen.

This means various circuits and dimming protocols. This isn’t really an architect’s speciality.

What Does a Lighting Designer Do?

Self-builders will often ask, What does a lighting designer or lighting consultant do? Of course, it will vary from designer to designer, but first they’ll need to learn more about the following in order to do the best job.

  •                 An idea of your lifestyle and any specific requirements
  •                 Interior design style so that the overall look is cohesive
  •                 Kitchen plans, bathroom plans
  •                 Furniture layouts
  •                 Flooring
  •                 Any features to be incorporated, e.g. artwork, textured walling, joinery etc.

If you’re hiring a local lighting designer, they will often meet you first and go through your requirements. They will then submit an initial design, make the necessary alterations, and then meet with the electrician on site, preferably before first fix.

My online lighting design service works similarly, apart from the meetings with electricians.

Is my remote lighting service as comprehensive as other local lighting designers? No, but it will be more cost-effective. With Luxplan, I don’t aim to compete with top lighting designers who offer a fully comprehensive service. Ultimately, the extent of the service is reflected in the fees.

To find our more about my service please visit Architectural Lighting Design Process

Why Do I Need a Lighting Designer?

Another question is ‘can’t my interior designer do my lighting design? Why do I need a lighting designer?’

Interior designers specialise in spacial design, finishes, fabrics, wallcoverings and bringing in mood and texture to a project; it’s rare that they know that much about lighting design.

I originally trained as an interior designer and loved my work, but it was when I was working on a project on the banks of Lake Geneva that a renowned lighting designer was brought in. This was going back quite a few years, when residential lighting designers weren’t such a thing, but it certainly opened my eyes. That changed my career. To me, there is nothing so magical as being in an ambience bathed in soft light – where you feel calm, and where areas are zoned, just by the use of clever lighting.

Think of the beautiful spaces you’ve been in, where you’ve felt good. Was it just the décor? Think back. I bet the lighting played a large part.

What is Included in a Lighting Plan?

Lighting plans will show the position of the lights linked to a key so you can see what the symbols mean.

The circuits and light fittings will be marked on the plan and listed on the specification. This should make it easy for the electrician to look at the plan and connect it to the specification with any additional notes giving further information.

In essence, the lighting plan can look rather boring, but a whole lot of thinking will be behind it. The positioning of each light will have been carefully thought out, so if any changes are made to the layout of the interior, the positions will need to be re-jigged.

Is a Lighting Designer Worth It?

Building or renovating a house involves a certain expense, but we can appreciate the rewards for many years to come. There’s nothing worse than scrimping on certain elements in the build and living to regret the compromises that have been made along the way.

It’s always worth spending money on good quality flooring, heating, bathrooms and kitchens. Self-builders will often use bathroom designers and kitchen designers. Why not use a lighting designer?

Of course, it will depend on who you use. Some lighting suppliers will say they carry out the lighting design but often it’s just a tagged-on service and their primary aim is to sell the products. Always worth checking their terms of service, and who is actually doing the design.

Other lighting designers offer an unbiased lighting design service where the client can buy their own lighting. This is how I work, although as my service is primarily remote, I don’t do so much hand holding as some of the larger or more local lighting designers. The amount of detail and contact, of course, would be reflected in the fees.

Ultimately, I believe a lighting designer is always worth it, but the cost would need to be balanced in keeping with the value of the property. Having said that, if the budget is running tight, it’s always worth getting the architectural lighting in place first. Feature lighting can always be added later.

In summary, I would say that getting a good lighting design plan in place is vital, by whatever means you achieve it.

But then, of course, I would be biased!

 

 

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.

 

 

 

New Build Lighting Costs

New Build Lighting Costs

Lighting new build by Luxplan

How much will it cost to light my new build? 

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 project

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 Costs 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”

Is it worth getting a professional lighting design plan?

It’s often a false economy to try and do things ourselves if we don’t have the specific knowledge and experience. Think about the plants that we’ve positioned incorrectly in our gardens, or the kitchen layout that we find irritating. If you get a professional in you’ll end up with a more cohesive and professional scheme and ultimately it can save you money. For further information check out Why is Interior Lighting Design Important? 

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.

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.

Claire-PendarvesClaire 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 to Stop LEDs from Flickering

How to Stop LEDs from Flickering

LED-bulb

If only life were simple! If only we could buy an LED fitting, or retro-fit LED lamp, wire it in, connect it to a dimmer and hey presto – a perfectly dimming light.  Unfortunately, as so many of you will have experienced, this is not always the case and lamentably, the answer is not always crystal clear.  So how to stop LEDs from flickering? The following explanation in layman’s terms may help you resolve any problems you may have or, even better, avoid them in the first place.

Speak the Same Language

All LEDs have electrical control gear known as Drivers – even retro-fit LED lamps have tiny drivers in the base of them. These need to speak the same language as the dimming module.  When using a simple Mains dimming switch there are two methods of dimming – one is Trailing Edge and the other is Leading Edge.  Trailing Edge tends to be better; the dimmers are slightly more expensive but they are less prone to buzz and are generally more compatible with a wider range of fittings.  The manufacturers of the LED driver or lamp should stipulate the dimming method recommended (some will say either) so then you can ensure that the correct dimmer is installed. Do check that the LED retro fit lamps are dimmable – not all of them are!

For large projects always check that the dimmers are compatible with the LED fixtures or lamps that will be used; I usually combine Philips MasterLED lamps with Varilight V-pro intelligent dimmers which currently work well together – please note the word ‘currently’ as specifications can change and  manufacturers will always state that testing should be carried out to ensure compatibility.  Forbes and Lomax combine beautifully styled fittings incorporating Varilight dimming modules but it always advisable to state that the dimmer will be used for LEDs when ordering

Don’t Overload the Circuit

A common mistake is to look at the maximum wattage on the dimmer, say 250 watts (in old money) and decide that, as the LED lamps are only 5 watts for example, you would be able to dim a multitude of fittings on that circuit. Wrong.  Ideally you should downrate by 6-10 times so in this case you would be best running  5 – 8 max fittings of 5 watts each.  It is possible to get larger load dimmers so it is best to check the number of fittings on each circuit before installation.

Don’t Underload the Circuit

Some dimmers, especially Leading Edge dimmers, need a minimum load in order to work, some as much as 40 watts before they will kick in. The more modern Trailing Edge dimmers will generally work from a lower load set point but be wary of trying to dim one or two LED fittings on one dimmer or you may need to incorporate a ‘dummy load’ to enable the dimmer to work.

Keep it Simple

Try to avoid using MR16 equivalent LEDs where possible when dimming as you then have three factors to bear in mind – the dimming module, the driver and the transformer which involves more ‘communication’ and more chances of incompatibility.  GU10 retro fit LED lamps or GLS replacement lamps are much simpler altogether.  However, on a positive note I have had success with using Philips MasterLED MR16 lamps with low voltage fittings on a Hamilton Mercury system but this was several years ago so may not be true today.  Always best to check.

Phase Adaptive Dimmers

If you don’t know whether you are going to use Leading Edge or Trailing Edge drivers then go for a Phase Adaptive dimmer; more high spec but flexible. Try Lutron for the latest in cutting edge dimming technology.  And if you’re wiring a new-build or self-build property it is worth considering a digital method of dimming such as DALI.

Favour Constant Current

Constant current LED drivers general work much better than constant voltage ones. The LED fittings for constant current drivers should be wired in series and your electrician should always check what products are specified before any wiring is done.

Dig Deeper

If you are still having problems with flickering lights and you have assessed all of the above then it may be time to check out the wiring in the property. Loose or faulty wiring or spikes and troughs in the electrical supply reaching the circuits in question could be having a knock-on effect so it is always advisable to check this out as well