Southwood’s Guide to the Light!
Architecture and interiors are fundamentally about aesthetic and functionality yes but there is a growing interest in the psychological impacts a space can have on its inhabitants, sprouting new ways of designing such as Biophilic design (incorporating nature into architecture), ‘Conscious Cities’ and ‘Emotional Design’ (urban planning and architecture based on psychology and emotional response). Winston Churchill famously mused said, “We shape our buildings and afterwards our buildings shape us.” It is with this mentality that we consider the elements in a space, and none the less, the lighting.
Specialised cells in the hippocampal region of our brains are attuned to the arrangement of the spaces we inhabit. Whether it’s subconscious or conscious, we are all affected by lighting. Consider how you feel in a fluoro-lit bathroom compared to a warm, dimly lit bathroom…right?
There are a few really handy things to know about lighting design that will help you to see light at the end of the tunnel (sorry we couldn’t help it). Not sure how to light a new home? Want to change up your existing spaces? We’ll help you with the Southwood’s Guide to the Light! It sounds spiritual, it’s not really. We just asked the pros.
Southwood co-owner Val Curcic has been working in residential and commercial interior design and construction for more than 15 years. The Southwood team consider her to be a walking encyclopedia when it comes to design. We passed on the most frequently asked questions about lighting and she answered. This guide will help you shine a new light on your home so you create your ideal moods and looks.
When choosing a lighting colour for different rooms of the house, is there a general framework you follow?
For the practical areas of your home such as the kitchen, which you always want to be well lit, I use cool lighting whereas for rooms such as the bedroom I use warm lighting. I often use LED lighting as it’s a lot more energy efficient and lasts longer than incandescent bulbs with lower wattage. The angle of the lighting is important especially in practical areas such as the bathroom – bathroom tip – always light the mirror in front of you, otherwise, you will create a shadow on the mirror and no one wants to shave or put makeup on in the dark.
How can you transform your living room space from the functional, family dinner space to the cool, calm collected, having a wine on the couch scenario?
You can really transform a space with dimmable pendants and standing lamps. It’s good to give yourself options with overhead lights. There are some great pendant options that hang beautifully even when not in use. You can use warm standing floor lamps to frame a space, such as a couch area in a large and minimal living room, to draw people to relax in that area.
When lighting a bedroom, it can be tricky to find the balance between functional and restful light. What are your bedroom lighting tips?
In bedrooms, I tend to use overhead lights less and go for wall lights and statement bedside lamps. For reading use warm, low-level lighting.
How do you organise lights around a feature or use lights as a feature?
I use low profile, spotlights or track lights designed to match the style of the space so as to not distract the piece they are accentuating – these are usually dimmable and on low. It’s important to make sure the lighting doesn’t take away the focus of the feature, so finding the right angle and brightness is key.
Pendants add to the style of your home and can be a really effective feature and highlight in a space. You can have one oversized pendant or a cluster above tables and benches to suit the ceiling height (I love to order objects in groups of three).