Must-read Tips and Tricks for Lighting Your Home

Lighting your home

It wasn’t that long ago when lighting your home meant installing one central light fixture per room, putting in a bulb and adding a lampshade. How times have moved on – thank goodness. Now there’s a whole host of looks you can go for and atmospheres you can create.

There are plenty of lighting designers and interior designers you can hire to create a lighting design plan for you and – for large, complicated spaces – they are well worth the money.

If your budget won’t stretch that far, there are still some simple guidelines you can follow to get the best lighting solution for your space. Here’s our low-down on lighting your home.

Think in layers
One common mistake that homeowners often make is that they use too much overhead lighting, which leads to a lack of atmosphere, warmth and drama.

Every lighting plan should take into account three layers of illumination: ambient or general lighting, accent lighting and task lighting. Our Residential Lighting Guide explains how to incorporate these into your plans.

Avoid shadows and glare
Overhead lights can cast downward shadows, so avoid these in kitchens and bathrooms in particular. You can create more of the appropriate light you need if you use under-cupboard lighting for food preparation areas in addition to overhead pendants (as in the image below).

Layered lighting in the kitchen

Equally, in bathrooms, introduce a wall light either side and at the top of a vanity mirror to make it easier to see when shaving or applying make-up. The light at the top of the mirror should be directed into the mirror to bounce the light back out at your face.

When light comes from three directions, shadows are eliminated. That’s why the showbiz-style mirrors of bygone days tended to have lights running along the three edges for perfect illumination of the face.

Bathroom vanity mirror lighting

Here, the mirror also helps to reflect the light back out and helps to make this small bathroom look bigger.

For work spaces, position a desk lamp so that detailed work becomes easier to see. Avoid glare and eye strain by directing the light downwards onto the workspace and not towards your face or screen. It’s best to buy a desk light with a long stem and a moveable arm, so that you can direct the light to where you need it the most.

How to light a workspace

Use dimmer switches
They are the best-kept secret in residential lighting schemes. You can control the mood, intensity of light and energy use by installing dimmer switches where possible. Dimmer switches, in conjunction with layered lighting, help you to avoid ‘lighting fatigue’ – where there is just one light level and no shadows in the room.

Layered lighting and dimmer switches

Here, layered lighting, controlled with dimmer switches, creates a warm atmosphere with a touch of drama while incorporating focal points for reading and dining.

Size matters
Yes, really. The last thing you want is your lighting fixtures to look disproportionately small or large – easily done when you view items online or next to other items in a store.

You can avoid this mistake by taking measurements with you when shopping in stores. At home, use a tape measure to imagine the size of the light in its intended place or (if you find that difficult) cut out an approximate cardboard version of it.

How high?
The last thing you want is an incorrectly hung light for someone to walk into or one that’s so high up that it creates long shadows. As a general rule:

  • the bottom of the shade for a table lamp should be at eye level when you’re seated next to it to avoid glare from the bulb;
  • a chandelier should be 165cm from the dining-room floor;
  • and the bottom of a pendant light over a kitchen island should be 75-90cm directly above the work surface.

Safety first
Staircases tend to have awkward angles to them. Having just overhead lighting will create shadows and dark corners, which will make your staircase unsafe. Include wall sconces and floor-level spotlights directed along the treads of the stairs to make them safer and glamorous.

How to light a staircase

There’s a plethora of fun designs for children’s lighting, but don’t forget to choose ones that can be updated as your child grows older. For babies’ and toddlers’ bedrooms, a nightlight provides a soft glow that they’ll find comforting while they sleep and will allow you to see during visits in the night to feed, change or comfort them.

Lighting design for a child's bedroom

Here, layered lighting has been used to create a soft look for a growing-girl’s bedroom in a fun, cosy and child-friendly way. Note how the accent lighting fixture behind the headboard attracts the eye to its musical design. It also provides a soft light for watching television without having any of the other lights on.

If you have any questions about lighting your home, leave us a comment here or contact us via FacebookTwitterInstagramGoogle+ or Pinterest.

 

Residential Lighting Design Guide: Lighting in Layers

Accent lighting using picture lights

Lighting is one of the most important aspects of interior design and yet it is frequently overlooked. Quite rightly, much time, effort and money is spent on putting together the right collection of furniture, fixture and fittings for a room, with the appropriate colours, styles and textures. However, if you only install one or two pendant lights, you may end up losing the overall effect you were trying to achieve. Get it right and everyone in the room will feel comfortable and look good, too.

Lighting in layers by Jizaro

When it comes to decorating or redecorating a room, lighting in layers is extremely important for avoiding a flat, two-dimensional effect. Interior designers use three layers of lighting for a space: ambient lighting forms the base layer, accent lighting is used for the second layer and task lighting creates the top layer. These three layers form the basis for a lighting design plan. They help to create atmosphere, mood, contrast and, therefore, drama, while providing enough light (without glare) to move safely and comfortably through a room.

Ambient or General Lighting
This is the uniform wash of light that sets the mood for a room. Ambient light includes daylight/moonlight, down lights that provide uniform lighting and some decorative lights such as pendants and chandeliers.

Ambient, accent and task lighting

In this image, ambient lighting is provided by daylight in one direction, the lighting in the coffered ceiling and the chandelier overhead. The artwork above the drawers is highlighted with accent lighting and the table lamps provide task lighting beside the sofa and the chair. The crystal in all the lighting co-ordinates the look and allows the light to bounce around the room, making it look comfortable, light and airy.

Accent Lighting
This layer of lighting usually illuminates a space vertically and creates drama in a room by highlighting the contrast between brightness and light – as in the image below. It allows you to highlight the architectural features and artwork in a space. The lighting fixtures for accent lighting tend to be inconspicuous so as to emphasize the feature rather than the light source.

Accent lighting in a hallway

 

Accent lighting using picture lights

Picture lights are a good example of accent lighting. They are placed above a painting at an angle that sheds enough light to cover the full width of a painting so that it can be seen clearly.

Accent lighting, such as along one side or at the end of a hallway, can also be used to accentuate flow and movement through a space.

Accent lighting in a hallway

Accent lighting in a hallway

Task Lighting
This is lighting that helps you to perform a specific job in a particular area of a room without glare and shadows. When considering the design for any room, you should include how you’re going to use it. Will you have a place for reading, working, preparing food or putting on make-up? These areas will need pockets of light to allow you to do the job in hand.

Down lights, desk lamps, table lamps, floor lamps, wall lights, vanity lighting in bathrooms, and chandeliers or pendants make up some of the usual sources for task lighting.

Ambient and task lighting

Here, daylight and the overhead lighting fixture provide the ambient lighting. The table lamps provide task lighting and a soft glow for the sitting area. The black lampshades add a little drama to the room by contrasting with the light-coloured sofas.

Depending on the type of lighting fixtures you use, you might find that some forms of lighting can be used for two layers. This means that you won’t need a separate lighting fixture for each layer. A pendant in a small living room with a low ceiling, for instance, may provide general lighting and task lighting at the same time. And don’t forget that dimmer switches will give you extra control over the intensity of light and mood throughout the day or night.

If you have any questions about lighting for your home, leave us a comment here or contact us via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+ or Pinterest.

Vivian Maier: Street Photography

Images from 1953 to 1966

A fully clothed man asleep on a beach, children playing with water from a hydrant on a hot day, a man doing a headstand outside a striptease club, a couple arguing in the street: these are rare glimpses of street life caught on film by a then-unknown photographer.

Maier’s Art
On many levels, Vivian Maier was an ordinary woman of the mid-twentieth century: a sweatshop worker and then a nanny who lived in New York and Chicago for most of her life. But she was also extraordinary. She had a photographer’s eye, knowing how to compose pictures beautifully and powerfully and how to use light to its best effect. The images of the sailors at Grand Central Station and the businessmen in bowler hats show how lighting and the contrast it creates is integral to the atmosphere and composition of the overall pictures.

Added to this was Maier’s ability to catch, what Henri Cartier-Bresson called, ‘the decisive moment’. Timing is everything. Knowing when the different elements of a shot are going to come together perfectly is crucial to the success of any picture. The boys playing with water has the group decreasing in height, with the newly sprung jets of water spraying up away from them against a backdrop of tall buildings. The circle of children around the boys is looking inwards. It’s all perfectly timed.

Photography as Interior Design?
One could argue that Maier was an interior designer on the move. Framing a picture, like furnishing a room, involves an understanding of composition, light, colours and contrast and how these elements can be best put together in a balanced way that works. Creating a design out of life in motion – if only for an instant – is a skill that truly great photographers possess.

Who was Vivian Maier?
Where and how did Maier learn this art? She was born in New York in 1926 to a French mother and an Austrian father. Some of her early life was spent in France, living with her mother and near her mother’s relations. When her father left the family temporarily in 1930 (it’s not known why), a successful photographer, Jeanne Bertrand, lived with them. Perhaps his presence introduced a need to capture fleeting moments on film.

Up until 1951, Maier lived in France and America. When she was 25, however, she moved to New York, where she worked in a sweatshop for four years. This tough existence may have influenced what she caught on film later. Some of her more famous photographs are of those on the fringes of society: down-and-outs, poor children, women on the breadline and affluent women in their furs and finery.

Maier then spent most of her forty-year career working as a nanny and a carer in Chicago’s North Shore. She often took the children with her on her photographic excursions to the city, showing them the less affluent side of life.

Apart from her one trip around the world by herself in 1959-60 (possibly financed by inheritance money), Maier seemed to have lived on a relatively low income. Despite this, she never published any of her material while she was alive. When she could no longer afford to keep up with payments on rented storage space in 2007, the auctioneer sold off her material.

Maier’s New-found Fame
One of the three buyers was John Maloof, a collector who blogged about her images and shared them on Flickr in October 2009. Her work went viral – six months after she had passed away. Like Van Gogh of the art world, she never benefitted financially from her new-found fame. A private and shadowy person who observed life from the edges, it’s difficult to say if she would ever have published her work herself and how she would have reacted to the limelight if she had.

Maier’s legacy is a vast archive of over 150,000 photographs (not including the rolls of films that she never developed) and audio tapes of interviews with some of the subjects. Her collection of work is unprecedented, not only because she documented twentieth-century life in such detail, but because she captured women and children’s lives in a way that hadn’t been seen before.

To see more of her work, go to vivianmaier.com. (Photographs are shown here by the kind permission of John Maloof.)

 

Bending the Future: Joseph Walsh and his Iconic Furniture

Enignum VI Canopy Bed

Serendipitously following on from the last post is this one in a similar vein. A good introduction to Joseph Walsh might be ‘wow’, followed up with questions such as how far can the human imagination extend? Does a creative muse lie behind these designs? What else does the future of modern furniture design have in store?

That Joseph Walsh is a self-taught designer-maker is an accolade in itself, given the mastery of skill and the revolutionary bentwood designs he has engineered. He has travelled extensively to Europe, America and Asia and clearly benefitted from his visits to museums, galleries and other designer-makers. Naturally, his team includes a fellow Irishman and craftsmen from France and Japan.

Joseph Walsh Lilium II

Lilium II

Walsh’s work was once described as belonging to a world of ‘functional sculpture’ and he himself talks of his work as a merging of art and design. He designs each piece as he and his team are making it. Slim, 2mm sheets of ash are glued together into a possible shape that is then carved by hand to create the final design.

The Enignum Collection
The Enignum VI Canopy Bed (above) is part of a series of furniture items that he has been developing since 2008. The Enignum name comes from a merging of the Latin words enigma (meaning mystery) and lignum (meaning wood). The range started off with a dining table and now includes a host of other tables, consoles and chairs. It takes nine months to make the Enignum VI Canopy Bed, so it may not come as a surprise that it retails at £120,000 plus VAT.

Enignum I chair

Enignum I chair

Walsh’s Enignum I and Enignum II chairs on an display at Chatsworth House, Derbyshire, as part of their Make Yourself Comfortable exhibition running until 23 October 2015. Walsh has also just finished his latest commission for Chatsworth, the Enignum VIII Bed, measuring over 6 metres high.

Enignum II chair

Enignum II chair

Enignum VIII Bed

Enignum VIII Bed

 

Chair Aware: Designed to Last

Chair Aware

Mass production is economical. It can be functional. It can even be beautiful. Our lives are surrounded by it: from the coffee we drink to the implements we use to the mattress we sleep on. They have their time and place and serve us well for the most part. But there’s an insidious quality to mass production. We barely notice its effect at the beginning. It creeps in over time. It dulls our senses. It makes us jaded. We see everything in the same light, with the same eyes and by the same rules. Deep down, ‘we know what greatness is. We just deny it in favour of banality.’ (Frank Gehry)

 

Chair Aware

And then something comes along that jolts us awake from this sleepy spiral of mediocrity. This is it. Or, rather, these are it. Have you ever seen such wonderful grains in the wood that have been masterly moulded into these sublime shapes? These are everyday items of furniture, but they have you looking at them again and wondering: why have these not been done before like this? So simple, so refined and so touch-me-feel-me unique. Like all true luxuries, this is sumptuous living at its very best.

Chair Aware

If these visions have shaken you from your slumber, give thanks your ability to recognise great design has not dissipated. For more information about the chairs, call us today on 08456 806786.

 

 

Seeing Clearly with the Axor Starck V

Axor Starck V

Even though there are plenty of appealing designs out there, taps aren’t normally things that grab one’s attention. This one has done just that – perhaps because, unlike politicians, we love transparency. Hansgrohe and Axor have partnered up with designer Philippe Starck to create the Axor Starck V. The minimalist design focuses on water in action. The crystal glass spout shows the water vortex into a spin as it flows up and out. Not only is it a beautiful design and mesmerising to watch (not so good if you’re on a meter), it’s functional too.

Axor Starck V

Axor Starck V in chrome

If the stylish nature and classiness of the design don’t move you, perhaps its other advantages might. It comes in fourteen colour variants, including chrome, high-gloss white, brushed nickel and sandblasted crystal glass – something for everyone. The click-in design and safety-stop function make it very easy to remove the glass body from its base to clean it – even without having to close the valve. What’s more, the crystal glass is dirt-resistant. The starting price is upwards of £750, depending on the finish. For more information, see hansgrohe-int.com.

Axor Starck V

Axor Starck V in high-gloss white

A Riot of Colour: The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition

Michael Craig-Martin at the Royal Academy's Summer Exhibition 2015

While the British weather may not correspond to the season we’re in, the Royal Academy of Arts has announced its arrival with its annual Summer Exhibition. One of the oldest exhibitions in the world (247 years), it is a parade of bright colours and a variety of the different forms of contemporary art. This year’s exhibition has been co-ordinated by Michael Craig-Martin (above), an artist in his own right and a teacher to such well-known names as Damien Hirst and Sarah Lucas (who both exhibited works at the Saatchi Gallery).

Conrad Shawcross and 'The Dappled Light of the Sun'

Conrad Shawcross and ‘The Dappled Light of the Sun’

Discover New Artists
As the exhibition is open to anyone to enter their work (12,000 entries this year), it allows new artists to be discovered and the proceeds from sales of the works mean that free tuition of emerging talents can continue. The steel ‘clouds’ by Conrad Shawcross in the courtyard and the technicolour stairs by Jim Lambie (see first image above) as you walk up to the Main Galleries give you a flavour of what’s to come in this year’s collection.

Matthew Darbyshire's Doryphoros in the Wohl Central Hall

Matthew Darbyshire’s Doryphoros in the Wohl Central Hall

There are 1,200 works on display, ranging from drawings, prints and paintings to installation art, sculptures and architectural design. Each room is full of works by both amateurs and professionals – all vying for your attention and perhaps your (or your clients’) wallet.

While not everyone is a fan of the RA’s exhibition, if you are looking for some design inspiration or something unique to hang on a wall, you could do far worse than a couple of hours of meandering through a new collection of artistic works.

The exhibition runs from 8 June to 16 August at Burlington House in Piccadilly in London.

 

 

 

Sterling Work: A Bookmark of Note

A beautiful distraction?

For most people, it is the content of the book they’re reading that tends to occupy their thoughts while they’re reading it. We barely give that slip of paper that reminds us which page we last read up to a second thought – especially if it’s an old ticket, a receipt, or a torn-off scrap of paper. It serves its purpose and that’s enough – usually.

With the beautiful and concise version of Far from the Madding Crowd on at the cinemas at the moment, some of us here are reading or re-reading Thomas Hardy’s classic novel. The fine writing means that, on the whole, distractions are unwelcome. However, we have discovered Inhedited’s gold-plated bookmark and it is simply stunning. Who would have thought that a humble bookmark could be raised to such fine standards?

It isn’t cheap, but then well-designed and exquisitely made items of fine materials generally aren’t. At £138, we could purchase a library of classics to see us through the year – but what would be the joy in that if you couldn’t have this shiny piece adorning the plain pages of your book? The link-chain tassels are not only pretty, but a bonus for those with fidgety fingers.

Having written in detail of Mr Boldwood’s distraction, perhaps Hardy might be a little understanding of some of his readers being swayed by the charms of this little distraction. One for the Christmas list, perhaps? For those less patient, see www.inhedited.com for more information.

Inhedited's gold bookmark

Inhedited’s gold bookmark

 

Kit Miles: Surface Designer Extraordinaire

Kit-Miles-Birds-in-Chains-Wallpaper

Surface and textile designer, Kit Miles mastered his craft at the Royal College of Art. Having created stunning wallpaper designs that are lavishly detailed and opulent, he also designs textiles for soft furnishings and furniture and surface designs for accessories.

Miles is already accumulating accolades. Dulux have recently awarded him the prize for Best Use of Colour in the Young Designer category at the 2015 Dulux Let’s Colour Awards for his wallpaper design, Birds in Chains. The design, featured above, illustrates an exquisite use of colour in an intricate pattern that is technically marvellous. The detail is sublime. Miles’s other patterns, too, display a style that is imaginative and unique.

Look out for his new collection due to be launched later this year. For more information, see www.kitmiles.co.uk.

Kit-Miles-Emperor-Damask-Wallpaper

Emperor Damask Wallpaper

Kit-Miles-Black-Lodge-Wallpaper

Black Lodge Wallpaper

 

Stairway to Heaven: 6 Amazing Staircase Designs to Inspire You

A unique set of stairs

A unique set of stairs

For some, stairs are simply a means by which to reach one’s destination. For others, they are a fabulous display of ingenuity, creativity and craftsmanship. We’ve rounded up some of the best designs for your viewing pleasure, beginning with this ultra-modern staircase in New York’s Longchamp store (above).

A similar style has been used in a residential setting (below), where two steps are formed from one curved strip. The vertical curves also function as a handrail to the side.

Modern Curved Staircase

Modern Curved Staircase

The steps of this stunning circular staircase (below) match the floor and ceiling and are encased by a beautifully contrasting dark wood to highlight this architectural centrepiece.

Circular staircase in light and dark wood

Circular staircase in light and dark wood

The staircase below, in contrasting colours, has a geometric design that is a piece of art. It looks as though it’s hanging in mid-air, maintaining the room open-plan layout by allowing the eye to see beyond the staircase.

Geometric steps

Geometric steps

When space is tight, function and style can be enhanced by being partnered in this clever way. In this open-plan kitchen (below), cupboards have been incorporated into the stairs to maximise the space brilliantly.

Clever cupboards

Clever cupboards

The rails of this spiral staircase (below) defy belief: the wood curves round so beautifully, it’s reminiscent of a long orange peel. The central stem is a magnificent piece of sculpture by itself and the whole staircase takes up amazingly little space.

Spiral wooden staircase

Spiral wooden staircase

And talking of space, what better use to make of the redundant space beneath steps than to turn them into storage? This example below has bespoke cupboards and drawers for an integrated, classy look.

Below-stairs storage

Below-stairs storage

 

 

 

 

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