How to light up your home in 3 simple steps

Does this sound familiar? You carefully chose every piece of furniture, you perfectly combined materials and colours, you brought in just enough decorations and styled them like a pro. You completely transformed your bathroom and moved the kitchen fixtures to the opposite side of the room. You remodelled your home.

And luminaires? Well, you left them where they were. It’s not simple nor cheap to change the position of light fixtures.

We agree, it’s not. But interior lighting is such an important part of home design, it should never be overlooked. How to design interior lighting? We’re glad you asked!

1. Identify activities that will occur in the room

To understand the basic psychology behind interior lighting design, think about daylight. A cloudy, grey 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.

So, 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 – there is much less distraction!

Interior lighting | task light | IKEA desk lamp | workspace | MIEL Arquitectos - Piso Pere IV

Interior lighting | task light | IKEA desk lamp | workspace | MIEL Arquitectos - Piso Pere IV
MIEL Arquitectos – Piso Pere IV // photo: © Asier Rua

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. You see, as humans, we constantly search for regularity to understand the space around us. 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.

Interior lighting | stimulating enviroment | AKTA studio - Apartment in Basanavičius st.
AKTA studio – Apartment in Basanavičius st., Vilnius // photo: © Leonas Garbačauskas

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? A feeling of privacy or even intimacy is a result of background shadow.

2. Integrate light into the architectural concept and into the 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, 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.

3. Choose the right types of light fixtures

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.

Interior lighting | ambient light | ceiling lighting | kitchen | kitchen island Ralph Germann – Apartment SMT
Ralph Germann – Apartment SMT // photo: © Lionel Henriod

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.

Interior lighting | glow light | kitchen design | EO arquitectura - Alan's apartment renovation
EO arquitectura – Alan’s Apartment Renovation // photo: © Adrià Goula
Interior lighting | decorative lamp | table lamp | glow lighting | livingroom | AKTA studio - Apartment in Basanavičius st.
AKTA studio – Apartment in Basanavičius st., Vilnius // photo: © Leonas Garbačauskas

And don’t just settle for a pendant lamp in the middle of the ceiling. When you identify the activities in the room, you’ll be quite aware of where will those activities take place. Arrange the luminaires accordingly.

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?

Interior lighting | sparkle lighting | bulb lighting | bedroom design | Maayan Zusman & Amir Navon + mentored design graduate Eilat Dar - Airy and Open apartment, Tel Aviv
Maayan Zusman & Amir Navon + mentored design graduate Eilat Dar – Airy and Open apartment, Tel Aviv // photo: © 181 Architecture photography
Interior lighting | sparkle lighting | interior design | concrete | dining space | BLAARCHITETTURA - Portland / Beppe Giardino photography / concrete element / apartment remodel / dining space
BLA ARCHITETTURA – Portland // photos: © Beppe Giardino

Another example of sparkle is Christmas lights. They certainly set the mood. Since sparkle, as an element of light is so irresistible it’s not unusual to see Christmas lights as a part of interior decoration all year long.

. . .

As for illuminance by which light is measured or colour temperature, we advise you to consult a professional.  Rooms too dark, or too bright without the dimming possibility, definitely isn’t something you want to experience after you finish the remodel.

The fact is, interior lighting will affect your everyday life. So don’t wing it. These steps are so simple, they might just work.

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