The light fantastic: Creating amazing interiors with well-placed LEDs
- Credit: Archant
From decorative pendants to hidden LED strips, light can make or break an interior.
When the well-heeled set their sights on creating a new home, they rely on more than just architects and interior designers these days.
There’s a growing trend to bring in the sort of expertise that will add what can be more than just a finishing touch but a vital ingredient that can make or break even the most well thought-out rooms – light.
And these days it’s often about concealing it for the most dramatic effects.
Like underfloor heating, hidden lighting can allow a room to develop at its own pace, unhindered by the need to work around either bulky radiators or dangling pendants and chandeliers.
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And by using a subtle blend of different light sources, rooms, particularly large ones, can begin to break up the space and work in a way that enhances what the interior designer envisages.
Whether recessed in ceilings, running along the bottom of baths or hidden behind architrave, the concept has been around for some time. And pioneered by the likes of Sally Storey, the celebrity lighting guru behind millionaire mansions and super yachts, the trend is become ever more inventive.
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These days few architects or top-end developers would consider designing an interior scheme without a room-lighting expert on-board.
Design expert Mandy Chody tends to find that clients working on properties of £1.5 million and over will often consider employing a specialist lighting designer as part of the design team.
“Lighting is absolutely fundamental. Without good lighting, a room can appear really flat,” she says. “It’s something I focus on a lot. It’s one of things that, if you get it right, you don’t notice it. If you get it wrong you can’t work out why you don’t like the room.
“For example, the fashion for runway lighting – rows and rows of down-lighters - is no more. The feature these days is more about lighting around the outside of the room and things like hidden LED lights with coffers [false ceilings]. Techniques that give light and shade to a room.”
Mandy, whose company M and Y Interiors is based on Bricket Wood’s Munden Estate, added: “People often leave lighting until last when it should be the first thing they look at when you’re designing a room.
“I wouldn’t use a lighting designer for, say a two-bedroom flat. But if I was doing a six bedroom house with big areas that need to be split up but kept open-plan, that’s when the lighting designer really comes into their own. Especially in bathrooms where they’re doing thigs like putting lights at the bottom of the bath or underneath the vanity units as opposed to the sort of thing you’d in the past such as putting a run of spotlights in the ceiling.
“I think Boutique hotels have a lot to answer for. People go on holiday and get inspiration. The sort of looks they see in such places have steered people into the way of a future where it’s no longer just about putting in a centre light.”
One of the country’s best-known lighting experts is Sally Storey, Creative Director of John Cullen Lighting. She advocates being flexible with lighting schemes, particularly those that add different layers of light enabling you to change the mood at the flick of a switch. I asked her for a couple of tips.
“Decorative pendants and table lamps give your room the overall look, but it will be the hidden lighting that gives depth and interest,” she said. “Consider uplighting your fire surround or window reveals with 1w uplights.
“And place LED strips above cupboards to add an element of uplight or under kitchen islands to create a floating effect. Light up your shelving to create additional interest in any room.”
I’ve been lucky enough to piggy-back on filming tours of some of the most spectacular homes around and, while styles and tastes varied widely – if not the budgets – they all had one thing in common - the imaginative way lighting was used.
But far from the multi-million pound piles littered around Notting Hill and Kensington – including one that boasted a back-lit waterfall in the hallway - one of the most effective I remember was at the home of a former Arsenal defender when he lived in Chiswell Green.
As a new build with its luxury kitchen and attic media room, one of the most striking features was the way in which tiny lights had been set into the risers of the stairways.
It was a fabulous look, but better still was the one employed by a wealthy banker in Radlett who had the thinnest of striplights placed under the tread of each step. Lightly tinted glass balusters were added to showcase them.
Not all of us can afford the sort of design expertise that goes into the biggest and best homes, so here are a few basics cribbed from conversations with those who know:
-Know exactly how much light you need. On the simplest level, this means calculating the square footage of a space then multiplying it by 1.5 to get the total wattage required.
-Don’t forget there is more than one type of lighting and each has a specific benefit. Ambient is fine for general use but other spaces may need to incorporate task and accent lighting, for example.
-If you do want your fittings to go beyond surface level, don’t dismiss the advantages of a track light system, especially in hallways, where there may be pictures on show and you may want to be able to adjust where the light falls.
-Remember, when discussing LEDs, that they vary widely; from those that create warmth in your house to others that make you feel as if you’re sitting in a dentist’s chair. I’ve heard many experts talk of what they call the rendition and temperature of colour that light emits. Depth and warmth to the rest of us, but it’s an important science when making key decisions.
-Use 5 amp sockets wherever you can to give you more options on where you place added lights.
-Think creatively when the circumstances require it. A loft room with a sloped ceiling, for example, may not be best-suited to the spotlights you’ve used elsewhere. Better to run a recessed LED strip along the tallest wall allowing the light to wash down the slope.
-And remember - light doesn’t always have to go down. It can be effective going up, especially when coming from strips along the bottom of a ceiling slope where it can probe upwards, especially is used in tandem with wall-hung uplighters.