Lighting design and interior design are not the same thing and require different skills. Complementary yes, but different.
People often think that lighting design is just a part of interior design but it’s not. I came to this realisation many years ago when I was working as an interior designer and witnessed the transformative effects created by a lighting designer brought in on the project. I never looked back.
So let’s look at the contributors to a building design project
Lighting Design and Architects
Architects can design fabulous structures and will aim to incorporate natural light to full advantage, but many architects will confess that lighting is not their forte. Even those who appreciate the importance of good lighting design are aware that their talents lie in the building structure itself and the effects on the inhabitants and surrounds.
Lighting Design and Interior Designers
Although lighting is incorporated in interior design training, the focus of most interior designers will be spacial design, furniture, fabrics and finishes. There’s a huge range of products and details that they need to keep abreast of, and unless lighting design is one of their big loves, the chances are they won’t know of the latest products and techniques.
See how I co-ordinate my design with interior designers here: https://www.luxplan.co.uk/how-i-work-with-interior-designers/
Lighting Design and Electricians
Electricians will concentrate on the execution of the work and, when asked to map out a lighting scheme will often calculate the lumens needed and go from there. This will work in an office perhaps, but just focusing on the light output can leave spaces looking flat and lifeless. The last thing you want in a living room is a grid of downlights. This is not meant to be disparaging to electricians as they can be brilliant at what they do. But then that’s the point.
Which leads to the question…
Is Lighting Design a Science or an Art?
I believe it’s really a mixture of the two. To me, most of all, light is emotion. Good lighting design creates good feelings – an uplift as you walk through the door. A sense of comfort and calm. It shouldn’t shout out to a new visitor. In fact, beautiful lighting design should hardly be noticed to the untrained eye. It should just give the impression of a lovely space, even if your guest can’t quite put their finger on it.
Along with the emotion of the design comes knowledge of the products. Lighting is changing all the time. During the years that I’ve been a lighting designer, we’ve moved from incandescent lighting to LEDs with a dodgy time in between of having to specify fluorescent lighting as the primary energy efficient solution. Integrated linear lighting has become very popular and allows for reflected light and technology is coming on leaps and bounds.
In large prestigious projects each design discipline will dovetail with others on the project. This frees them up to do what they do best.
First comes the architectural design, then the initial interior design concept phase. At this point, the lighting designer is brought in and there should be a flow of communication all round.
The main point to remember is that beautiful lighting design will enhance the entire look of the interior design. Colours will be emphasised; focal points will be hightlighted, and the flow of the interior will be woven in by accenting different areas with lighting. Similarly, a well thought out and uniquely designed interior will make designing the lighting a joy. Everyone can enhance each other’s work so it’s win-win all round.
Especially for the client.
Claire Pendarves originally qualified as an interior designer and is now a lighting consultant with over 20 years’ experience