To understand the basic psychology behind interior lighting design, think about daylight. A cloudy, gray day causes people to feel listless; people feel more energetic and positive on a sunny day. That difference between dreary and bright is the quality of light. If you simply introduce general illumination into a room to permit vision, you created a cloudy day.
That may sound bad, but the truth is this: identifying the activity that will occur in a space is the first step in lighting design process. If you’re designing space for work or learning, home office or any space for some kind of complex task, the environment should be simple. If you think about it, it is easier to work on a cloudy day because there is much less distraction.
The simple environment is a low-contrast environment, with a large proportion of diffuse light and a small proportion of focused light – without crisp shadows. The simple environment has organized luminaire pattern on the ceiling that minimizes the effort required to discover regularity. It conserves our energy for the demands of more productive tasks and activities.
Tasks that are simple or routine, like paying bills or making a shopping list, benefit from a stimulating environment. It’s almost as if the light has a role of music in the interior. When you’re bored with a task, you turn the music on, but when you have to focus on something difficult, you instantly turn it off.
A stimulating environment is a high-contrast environment, produced by a small proportion of diffuse light and a large amount of focused light. High-contrast lighting systems create patterns of light and shade and a hierarchy between foreground and background. Have you noticed how in cocktail lounges or fine restaurants, people are separated visually by light (shadow) since it is impossible to separate them physically by distance? Feeling of privacy or even intimacy is a result of background shadow.
Lighting design process is integrating light into the architectural concept as much as into physical structure.
It is possible to integrate lighting equipment into the physical structure of the room by selecting visible elements that harmonize with the design or by incorporating hidden elements within the architectural forms and surfaces.
Lighting concept should enable the activity in the space (we already wrote about task lighting) but also highlight main areas while leaving others subdued in comparative darkness. That brightness contrast, the relation of bright foreground and dark background, is what creates the environment that has attributes of a sunny day. That’s what evokes moods and emotions.
There are three fundamental elements of light: ambient light, focal glow and sparkle. The proportions of these three elements determine an emotional setting of the space.
Ambient lighting is the general-purpose light in a space. Ideally, the ambient light source comes from different fixtures that can be individually controlled and dimmed depending on the time of day or amount of natural light available and the amount of light needed. It is the interior equivalent to the cloudy day.
Focal glow are objects like chandeliers and lamps, objects that draw the eye to themselves and basically serve as focal point of the room. Most successful lighting design solutions balance ambient light with the focal glow.
Sparkle adds the highlights that contribute to feelings of well-being. It brings excitement and creates a certain atmosphere in a room. Candlelight is the simplest kind of sparkle. Do you agree it instantly creates intimate, relaxing atmosphere? Sparkle is so irresistible that it’s not unusual to see fairy lights (also known as Christmas lights) as a part of interior decoration all year long (we don’t know if you’re familiar with cozy lifestyle trend called hygge, but the sparkle is very hygge).
Interior lighting design is a complex process – we didn’t begin to talk about illuminance by which light is measured or color temperature, even though professionals have to consider those details. It may seem we only show the pretty side of interior design, the side without math and physics. We try not to get too technical but to present as many aspects of good interior design as possible. Lighting is defiantly one of the most important aspects of interior design, something that can upgrade the most ordinary room but also if done badly, something that can ruin the otherwise great design.