There’s no doubt lighting can make or break an interior scheme, but sadly it’s often only considered as an after thought once the more obvious elements of a room design have been put together.
If carefully planned, lighting not only provides functional illumination, it also plays a vital role in setting the tone and mood of a space.
Here at RWD, we always advise our clients to think about lighting in terms of layers. We believe the right use of the three main types of lighting – ambient, task and accent – can turn a beautiful interior design scheme into an absolutely showstopping one!
Ambient lighting should provide a good distribution of light across a whole room, taking into account the amount of natural light available. It can be achieved with pendant lights, chandeliers or downlights – any light fitting that can create good illumination without glare. Task lighting has a practical focus, providing illumination for specific functions in a room or to brighten poorly-lit areas. Examples include under-cabinet lighting in a kitchen, wall lights and table lamps. Accent lighting is used to draw attention to specific elements within a design scheme such as a piece of art or an architectural feature. This can be achieved via picture lights, LED strips or uplighters.
Drawing on our many years’ experience designing lighting schemes for a wide range of clients’ homes – from Georgian townhouses to contemporary penthouses – we share our advice on how to design lighting schemes for the key areas of the home.
It’s important to consider functionality and aesthetics as well as layout when planning lighting for the kitchen. In an open plan kitchen and living space, for example, you can use connected lighting to subtly divide the space by opting for crisp, white light in the kitchen zone and a warmer light in the living/dining area. Task lighting is crucial above work surfaces, downlights add an extra layer of drama, and LED strips can easily be integrated at floor level to ‘float’ specific elements of a kitchen such as an island.
In our Eaton Mews North project, lighting played a key role in bringing the dramatic faux living wall to life. With no natural light in this basement kitchen, the living wall is lit from above with LED strip lighting. The colour of the LED lighting was specified at 3000 Kelvin, which mimics daylight, to give the impression of natural light flooding down from above. Elsewhere in the kitchen, two box pendant lights supply task lighting to the island. The Elements MA15 Tom Box light fixtures from Chaplins are made from oxidated brass and were chosen to tie in with the other finishes used in the kitchen.
Task lighting above the worktops comes in the form of three black cylindrical Luceplan ceiling lights arranged in a row to create a strong visual feature. We specified the light for these to be 2700 Kelvin to achieve a warmer and more ambient glow for this section of the kitchen. All the lights in this space are controlled by an automated lighting system (RAKO lighting control) to allow the mood and ambience of the space to be altered according to the client’s wishes.
For the kitchen of our Belsize Park project, we chose an Array pendant light from CTO Lighting to create a dramatic focal point. This room has amazing, 3.8 metre high ceilings so the task lighting had to be powerful and fully directional so that light could be targeted onto specific working areas. The black cotton lampshades on this pendant light make a nod to the dark feature wall and the striped banquette. And the bronze and brass metalwork references the cabinetry in this elegant room.
The most important space to get right when it comes to lighting is arguably the living room because that’s where you want to relax and unwind after a long, hard day. It’s worth considering the colour of the ambient light, making sure you minimise blue tones and opt for warm hues to encourage a welcoming atmosphere. With the resurgence of architectural lighting as decorative objects, a striking ceiling pendant is a great way to provide ambient lighting while creating a focal point bringing a touch of glamour and sophistication to the room.
In our Richmond project, the open plan living area is a hardworking space combining a kitchen, informal TV area and dining area. In order to ensure optimal ambient lighting across the whole space, we specified a series of downlights across the room to provide a good distribution of light. We also commissioned a stunning bespoke contemporary light fitting featuring faux candles to hang above the dining table. It creates an amazing focal point and also ties in with the eclectic design scheme that includes a combination of modern and vintage furniture.
In the living room of our Antrim Grove project, the incredible floor-to-ceiling shelving is made even more dramatic with carefully positioned accent lighting highlighting the family’s books, albums and games. With limited natural light, this cosy basement space is incredibly inviting because of the rich textures we introduced such as the suede wall hangings, leather details and natural, hand-woven rug. The warm yet muted colour palette allows the accent lighting and design features to really shine.
Lighting is crucial in bedroom design because a carefully chosen layered lighting scheme can really set the atmosphere of the room. Why not think about introducing smart, ambient lighting which can be fine tuned from day to night or according to mood? LEDs are perfect for sleeping areas because they are easily dimmable, can change colour and are energy efficient as well as long lasting.
For our Fitzrovia project, layers of light were a key consideration when it came to designing the bedroom. The client wanted his flat to be an intimate pied-à-terre in which he could escape from the world and unwind. In response to this, we gave the master bedroom monochrome and smoky tones, giving a sense of warm tranquillity. We teamed practical LED downlights with perimeter LED lighting strips hidden behind the edge of the bulkhead to create a gentle, ambient light. We then added bespoke brass bedside lights with red horse hair lampshades to provide warm accent lighting which forms a link with the rich textures of the bespoke headboard.
In the calm and elegant master bedroom we created for our client in The Bromptons, lighting was integral to the scheme. We chose two tall, fluted bedside lamps from Vaughan Lighting as task lighting on the bedside tables, and accent lighting was introduced via curved wall lights placed either side of the fireplace. In the cosy reading corner, a floor standing lamp has been positioned beside the armchair for additional task lighting in the evening (Heron floor lamp, CTO Lighting). We think the sense of sophistication we created in this room is down to the acute attention to detail applied to each and every element.
Layers of light are key to creating a successful bathroom lighting scheme. You could start with a beautiful pendant or chandelier to create a glamorous focal point and then add layers of light such as downlights and mirror lights. It’s also worth thinking about using several different circuits of lights so that the mood can be adjusted as desired.
Make sure you’re mindful of reflections in mirrors or in polished floors when it comes to bathroom lighting, as well as the colour temperature of the light. It’s especially important to ensure you install flattering lighting around the mirror. Because we all know that nothing lifts the spirits like looking your best in the morning!
The owner of our Palace Court bathroom favoured contemporary design with rich textures and glamorous finishes. Under-cabinet lights provides task lighting for the basin area and also serve to highlight the gold leaf wall and contrasting chocolate-coloured mosaic tiles.
In our luxurious Bromptons bathroom, the pitched glass roof fills the room with natural light, so the design scheme for this room had to be very carefully thought out. We decided on a soft palette of greens, golds and whites to create a calm, spa-like feel. Task lighting for the basin area comes in the form of a polished gold Faro wall light from Bella Figura. The gold finish complements the tones of the marble and gives a sense of warmth.
One of the challenges presented by this space was the unusual alcove at the end of the room. The solution was to place a daybed there to enhance the spa-like feel. Then we installed multi-changing, coloured fibre-optics in the ceiling to create a relaxed vibe and to add an extra dimension to the room.
It’s important for lighting in a hallway to be flexible so that it can serve both a practical function and a mood-enhancing one for when welcoming guests. The hallway tends to be used for practical purposes so make sure you keep it clutter-free and allow enough space to move around with ease. Why not consider task lighting to highlight a beautiful console table using striking wall lights or a pair of bold table lamps?
Our Holland Park project is a great example of how to make an entrance – and then some! A dramatic glass pendant light (The Hope Light from Luceplan) dominates the hallway, casting a soft, glittery light over the harlequin floor. Black contemporary Flos wall lights flank the mirror and tie in with the slimline, ebony-coloured console table. The monochrome colour palette here creates a timeless feel that is brought bang up to date with contemporary light fittings and furniture.
Over at our Broad Walk project in North London, the owners of this impressive, new build wanted to create a grand, elegant interior which would still feel warm and welcoming. For the entrance hall, we chose a striking brushed silver Smania chandelier to wash light across the circular table and the dramatic, monochrome floor tiles beneath. We then added antique brass wall lights from Porta Romana as accent lighting to highlight the textured silk wall paper and add a sense of warmth and sophistication.
Photography by Richard Waite