An Enlightening Lesson

Lighting is sometimes a forgotten part of interior design. Time and care is taken over fabrics, wall coverings, and furniture, but lighting is often just about shades and spotlights. The difficulty is that few of us can effectively visualise how light will behave in a space.

In practice, lighting can enhance a room or cause problems for those living or working in an area. It is a powerful design tool that has become more complex in recent years as regulations have changed. No longer can bulbs (or more correctly, lamps) be selected simply on the wattage required. Today, it’s about lumens, colour render index and colour temperature.

To help designers, John Cullen Lighting hold regular masterclasses at their Kings Road, London, showroom. On a drizzly March evening I joined a class and was welcomed with a glass of wine and a platter of sushi.

2016 03 08 John-Cullen-Showroom-kitchen
The kitchen in John Cullen’s showroom is rigged with different lamp arrangements that show what effects can be achieved.

The session started with the division of the group of around 30 attendees into two groups. My group, led by designer Holly Park, was the first to enter ‘The Pod’.

The Pod is a small enclosed white room rigged with different lamp arrangements. It has been designed to demonstrate how light acts in different positions, colour temperatures, beam angles and strength.

Holly started the demo with a simple grid layout of LED spotlights. The light pooled directly on the floor below the lamps. It was immediately apparent that standing in such a space would not be flattering nor did it create a warm environment in the room.

Holly switched to angled led spotlights. Now the light fell onto the walls and reflected back into the room creating a soft, warm glow around the space. The difference was immediate and apparent.

We progressed through a number of different arrangements: up-lighting, backlighting, wide angle lights, narrow beams and so on. Seeing how light behaves in practice was an effective way to learn. It is now much easier to visualise how a light arrangement would work in specific room.

After the pod, we were taken first to a mock-garden, then a living area and kitchen. In each space, Holly demonstrated the effects of different light positions, strengths and angles. She also pointed out effective tricks to achieve certain looks and things to consider at the planning stage.

The session ended with a slide show presentation by design director, Sally Storey. There were some very effective before and after photos clearing demonstrating the impact lighting design had made to various projects. The show included images of open plan living spaces, home-cinema rooms, wine cellars, swimming pools, gardens and drives.

2016 03 08 Shelving-lit-John-Cullen
A second demonstration area at the John Cullen showroom. Lighting on the shelves in placed in different positions so you can see the effect. Over the seating area there is a feature overhead light and the fireplace has feature lighting.


Ten Masterclass Lessons

1. Lighting design is about light and shadow. Shadows in the right places can be dramatic, in the wrong place they are unflattering.

2. Layer lighting so that different effects can be achieved for different times or day, or uses. A digital control can be programmed with settings for different uses.

3. Don’t set LED spotlight in regimented grids. Instead use angled spotlights and point the light at something. Either light a feature, artwork or object, or direct the beam at a wall or cabinet from where it will reflect back into a room.

4. LED strips are useful for creating feature lighting. In joinery – bookcases, shelving, cabinets – wiring for the strips can be hidden in the woodwork. Use strips at the front, the back or the side for different effects.

5. Think about glare: does the spotlight catch your eye with glare? For example on an open tread staircase, LEDs can be placed into the skirting to light individual treads. However, when people are standing by the stairs at eye level does the spotlight cause glare.

2016 03 08 John Cullen Olivers Wharf
A completed John Cullen project where spotlights are used to light the artwork, uplights reveal the texture of the brick wall, and recessed lights create pools across the ceiling. Overall the effect is warm and inviting.

6. The best LED colour temperature for general use is 2700. This results in the truest colour rendering. For a warmer colour closer to traditional filament lamps use 2400.

7. John Cullen produce a one watt LED spotlight called a Lucca. The low energy usage makes it a perfect tool for soft background lighting or low level feature lighting. The low energy usage means it can be left on overnight to create a feature or as night lighting.

8. Do not forget to light the outside. Sally’s presentation included some dramatic images of the difference lighting a garden made to the adjacent room. In one case, lighting a row of columns outside the window of a spa made them appear, at night, as if they were inside the room.

9. In kitchens with a space of at least 200mm between the wall cabinets and the ceiling, spotlights or strip lights on top of the cabinets pointed at the ceiling creates a wonderful feature.

10. Over a kitchen island and worktops use overhead double spotlights to create effective task lighting.

These are just some of the lessons learnt at the John Cullen masterclass. It is a good starting point for anyone interested in lighting design.

Useful Links: John Cullen Lighting Masterclass






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