Interior Design – light

Natural and artificial light

Lighting and light fittings

Interior – Natural Lighting

Before beginning to devise a lighting scheme in a home, house, or any building, consider the amount of natural light entering the various spaces.  Natural light should be the starting point of any lighting scheme.

When looking at space layouts, the orientation of rooms are also important.  Main living areas and kitchens should be south facing to benefit from its warm and bright light all day long.  West facing light provides sunlight at the hottest part of the day, therefore these spaces are ideal for late afternoons and early evenings use, thus absorbing the softer light at this time.  East facing spaces get much sun early in the morning and almost no sun for the rest of the day, and north facing spaces receive a cool to harsh light.  Therefore, the choice of specific spaces should be made, keeping their use and orientation in mind, in order to make the best use of natural light that can play an important part in the overall ambience and feel of a building.

Interior – Lighting and the Building Regulations

According to the EU building regulations low-energy light sources should be installed, as a building should be ‘energy efficient’.  And an energy performance certificate EPC certified by an architect has to be produced to validate this.  Fluorescent / Compact fluorescent lamps (CFL), LEDs or discharge lamps fitted with low energy screw or bayonet bulbs are some examples.

So how much light is needed?

The first step is to calculate the square meters of a space; then each square meter is multiplied by 25 Watts (25 Watts = 250 Lumen), giving a total amount of the wattage.   This light wattage need not come from a single source, it can come from a combination of different lights distributed around the space.

Interior – Light sources and their purpose

There are three types of light sources; namely ambient lighting, task lighting, and accent or mood lighting, where a combination of all three may exist in one space.

Ambient lighting is the general illumination of a room as a ceiling hanging light or wall lights.  Task lighting provides targeted illumination where a specific activity takes place, as a reading light, cooking lights or any specific lights required for work.  Floor lamps, table lamps and desk lamps, specific kitchen lights or mirror lights are all typical examples.  Accent and Mood lighting are used to highlight an object.  A spotlight directed to a work of art, or special feature, and an LED strip, are some examples.   The latter are not a necessary source of light and can be sensor operated to light up only when in close proximity.

General illumination and well being

Well being can be gained from the good use of artificial lighting.  Glare-free and uniform illumination can improve productivity and avoid headaches.  Daylight is perceived as a bluish white light and has a temperature range of 5000K* or higher.  In artificial lighting, a light bulb produces light perceived as yellowish-white at a temperature of 2700K, and as the light temperature increases to around 3000K to 3500K, the light colour appears less yellow and more white.  The different light temperatures can impact our moods.  Soft white as opposed to bright and cool whites light temperatures are the key to our better wellbeing.  The former works better in living rooms and bedrooms and have a calming and relaxing effect, whilst the latter are better in kitchens and bathrooms creating an energetic feeling and invoke more contrast to colours.

Placing mirrors within a space does appear to enlarge that space.  However, placing a mirror across from a window helps reflect light around a room maximizing the light.  This scenario, the reflection of the window on the mirror also creates an illusion of never ending windows and light…and space.

Natural and artificial light source fittings

In modern times, both natural and artificial light source fittings, apart from enhancing the light source in a given space, also form part of the interior design theme.  These fittings have to blend into the design mood and style.

Natural Lighting

Skylights, large windows, bay windows, french windows/doors and mirrors, bring in natural light to an interior space.

Artificial Lighting

Chandeliers and wall lights are the two main sources of illumination of a space.

Floor Lamps, table lamps, desk lamps, and bedside lamps, under kitchen under-cabinet lights, fan lights, and mirror lights are the main sources of task lights.  Spot lighting, LEDs are typical examples of accent or mood lighting.

Lighting as part of an interior design theme

Lighting should play an important part in interior design.  Both natural lighting and artificial lighting should be well selected and blended, and be positioned carefully in spaces to attribute to a harmonious Deco mood.

*K for Kelvin is a unit of measurement used to describe the hue of a specific light source.