Paul Davidson, Aurora Group’s Technical and Project Manager, advises on how to design lighting schemes that will wow your clients.
Escalating house prices, especially in the south, often outstrip affordability so many families choose to increase their living space by extending their current homes rather than “upping sticks” to somewhere bigger.
Dividing walls between kitchens, dining rooms and lounges are being demolished in favour of open plan, integrated spaces. Newly popular bifold doors and glass walls are increasing natural lighting, connecting the property with its garden, and in doing so, making traditional lighting schemes seriously redundant!
For the electrician, the challenge is just how to illuminate such diverse living accommodation. The lighting scheme has to work well aesthetically and functionally for each individual space as well as illuminating the whole. Natural lighting will reduce operating times of artificial lighting and south facing elevations will derive the most beneﬁt. LED schemes really do drive down energy costs and residents won’t be constantly ‘changing light bulbs’!
“The lighting scheme has to work well aesthetically and functionally for each individual space as well as illuminating the whole.”
Elements of style
So how do you set about designing a great lighting scheme for the modern styled kitchen-diner family room?
First off, which direction does this room face as this or extensive glazing may reduce the need for artiﬁcial lighting? South facing rooms tend to beneﬁt from direct light all day, east and west gain from direct light in the morning and evening respectively, while north facing accommodation gets little or no direct natural light.
Then, what legislation does the scheme need to comply with? Part L1 of Building Regulations is there for a reason; it helps deliver an energy efficient and controlled solution which optimises lighting in a building and minimises energy costs.
Next, discuss with your customer how and when they propose to use the various spaces to help shape your design. Of course ‘One size doesn’t fit all’, so consider every project by its own needs and merits.
Artiﬁcial lighting for the home is usually categorised in three ways. The ‘Ambient’ lighting function is to provide light to the space to an accepted level. ‘Accent’ lighting highlights certain features and/or attributes. ‘Task’ lighting illuminates speciﬁc working areas so users can see what they’re doing.
The kitchen area will require all three categories and lighting design should always start with the ‘Ambient’ component. This usually means LED downlights recessed into the ceiling to provide a level of illumination across the space.
To add accent and ambience, consider low level strip lighting or recessed ﬂoor lights around the plinths of the kitchen units. High level strip lighting on top of the kitchen units can be used to illuminate the ceiling and ceiling based spot lighting will illuminate cupboards or free standing furniture. Internal lighting within glass-fronted units creates aesthetic focus.
‘Task’ lighting usually takes two forms. Strip lighting or spotlights under the wall cupboards are used to illuminate the worktops; and either suspended or recessed fittings over central islands or the breakfast bar will illuminate the job in hand.
The dining area often needs to serve a multipurpose function; eating, working at home or maybe educational study. Again start with ‘Ambient’ lighting to provide a cohesive fit with the kitchen and ‘Accent’ lighting can illuminate display cabinets and bookcases. Task lighting could comprise ceiling-recessed lighting over the dining table or simply a well-positioned reading lamp.
Living room space is multi-use for relaxing, watching television as well as social entertaining. The single pendant is best replaced with recessed dimmable downlights, supplemented by ambient ﬂoor and/or table lamps.
Again ‘Accent’ lighting has a feature role to play, but should you plan to recess LED uplights or downlights within say a ﬁreplace, always consider the heat that a ﬁre generates. ‘Task’ lighting for living rooms is not generally required but if residents are avid readers for example, you should consider an increased level of direct, focused illumination.
Now look at your design and ask yourself; will the fittings work in their speciﬁed area and within the space as a whole; and will they allow a seamless transition between the separate areas? Remember that less is more and you are lighting a home not a car showroom. Your lighting design really does need to help your customers achieve their aspirations for enjoying their home.