The Art of Lighting

Design Studio, Ayr

Amber Bass, Interior Designer

Most of us have that one room in our house, usually north-facing, which always feels cold or dark and lacks atmosphere and cosiness. This aesthetic can’t be fixed by any amount of redecorating or rearranging of furniture. Here is where lighting is key and where we can drastically change the overall ambience of a room. Lighting of an interior, particularly layering lighting, is critical in extracting the most from a beautifully designed room. Equally though, the wrong lighting can cause a room to feel uncomfortable and overexposed.

There are two main types of light: natural and artificial. Both are as important as each other. Interior lighting in particular has five areas we can touch on: general, task, ambient, mood and accent. All of which are crucial to consider during the design stage. We can take a closer look at the lighting in this featured project.

When starting a new project, one of the first things we do is survey our client’s home, not only to take all the relevant measurements but, importantly, to see how the natural light runs through the space and to give us a feel for the property. Natural light is fundamental and can affect the way we feel throughout the seasons. It’s essential to take advantage of that when we can. In this project we have removed an internal wall and added in new glass sliding doors. This has allowed more natural light in and allowed it to flow through the new open plan layout.

Interior lighting comes together further down the line once we know how the room is going to be used. It’s so important that we consider all the ways we can layer the lighting in the space to give our client’s home the perfect ambience and balance. Lighting a room doesn’t just have to be a few ceiling lights and the odd lamp, it can be far more adventurous.

First of all, begin looking at the function of a room and where you know you need light. This is the general lighting of the room, usually taking the form of a centre pendant or spotlights. We suggest popping these on a dimmer switch to give you full control and to allow the atmosphere to be softened.

Take a look at the areas of your room which have lovely decorative features e.g. alcoves, dropped cassette ceilings or decorative cabinetry. These would be ideal areas to highlight with accent lighting. Here we have used this type of lighting to showcase the ceiling and zone the two areas. The kitchen area and the dining area have their own separate feature ceiling with LED strip lighting. In the dining area we have added lighting to the glass cabinets, highlighting the client’s glassware.

Next, use lighting in an area where you wouldn’t naturally think to have it – this is the ambient lighting. This layer of lighting is a great partner to general and accent lighting and gives a room an extra lift. This is typically achieved with directional lighting. In this project we have added LED strip lights to the floating shelves, illuminating the bottles and accessories. The mirrored back also helps to reflect the light and create a glowing focal point to the room.

Another great area to consider is wall lighting, whether this be decorative wall lights or perhaps picture lights above your artwork.

Furnishing the room with decorative lamps, either table or floor standing, is a great way to add your personality to the mix. This would be your mood lighting, and possibly task lighting e.g. desk or reading lamp.

The most important thing to remember with layered lighting in a room is to ensure all the lights have the same colour temperature. This makes sure all the lights work in harmony with each other. It can be easy for a room to look and feel uncomfortable if there is a mix of warm or cool LED lights.

Lighting is a fantastic tool. In this Design Studio project, a combination of LED strip lighting, spotlights and decorative lighting have been thoughtfully layered to give a well-lit and well-balanced room.

Amber’s Top Tips

Try to light every corner of a room. This ensures you don’t end up with dark areas, plus it helps the room feel balanced.

Living in Scotland, I would recommend using warm white LED lights – 2700K is the ideal lamp temperature (you can find this on the packaging).

Don’t be afraid to mix and match different styles of lighting in the same room, it just adds character.

Use dimmer switches to give you more control and to separate your lighting into zones – not all ceiling lights need to be on the same switch.