What the Dickens? Have Great Expectations …

  • March 29, 2019
  • Sarah Connolly

“It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light and winter in the shade.”

It suddenly struck me. I put the book down. It was almost as though Dickens was referring to light itself.

Good lighting is critical as part of any design scheme but one that is so frequently a second thought when building and designing homes and buildings and one that so often gets it wrong. The challenge is about getting the balance right and creating a space that is a pleasure to be in.

Lighting your home can be compared abstractly to the seasons of the year where there are four key elements that are necessary in how to approach lighting your home: ambient, accent, task and decorative, each being necessary in collaboration with the other to provide different effects within the same space. The rule of thumb in deciding how to light a room is that it has to be optimum for that room’s particular function.

I love to cook and I’m a serial book buyer; some might say fanatical but that’s how I like to relax at home. I sometimes think that I should have bought shares in Amazon. I put on my Sonos player, pour a glass of wine then pour over my cookery books whilst deciding what meal we might be having tonight from any of the four corners of the world.

My kitchen is bright and airy by day mainly thanks to the dual aspect windows and high ceilings in our Georgian house and it has a calm and relaxing atmosphere at night. This isn’t just by chance, it’s because of the carefully positioned lights, how they are spaced out, and dimmable so I can control the light output to suit my mood. I need my task lighting to read and prepare food (I also need glasses which I threaten to buy every week and don’t) but I also need my kitchen to be an inviting space when the meal is ready and it’s time to eat and see how everyone’s day was. I’ve designed the lighting to fit how we as a family want that space to work and that it is somewhere we like to hang out together.

I always think a good starting point when initially deciding how to light a space is to look at each room in natural light, observing how it falls and what it highlights at different times during the day and see which corners lose the light quickly as dusk approaches. Then you need to assess how you want to feel when you are in that space and design your lighting accordingly. It’s from here that clever lighting decisions can be made. Consider its function, the placement of furniture and how you envisage using the space before you decide what lights need to go where. Think how you like to live. Think outside the box – the days of having to have a central pendant are long gone and aren’t even necessary as you can illuminate the space instead with down lighters, table and floor lamps instead for instance. You don’t have to play it safe or to convention, you can be as creative as you like. This type of lighting solution can create pinpoints of light to accentuate features of the room and illuminate nooks and crannies creating textured lighting. Good lighting solutions in a room gives you the scope to control the desired ambiance.

Think about how light is in nature; its layered, creating drama and atmosphere in so many different ways. Envisage the extreme shades cast by tall skyscrapers in cities that block out the sun (and therefore light) and who doesn’t like to feel the sun on their face? Did you know that they cast shadows as long as 0.8km at sunset robbing people of the precious remaining light that others who don’t live in this environment take for granted. This issue is being addressed by clever engineering in new high rise buildings through using curved and angled facades to direct light towards opposing buildings, making urban life more bright. A change in building principles which reflect an important acknowledgment of our need for light. All I know is that I always crossed to the sunny side of the street when I lived in London. It seemed instinctive to move out of the shadows. Conversely consider how calming it is to see the light dappled when looking up through a forest canopy  – natures perfect mix of light and shade and one we should try to emulate in our own homes.

That quote popped into my mind yet again.

As humans we react to all sorts of different light around us every day so why shouldn’t we think about creating those feelings in our own homes? We are so sensitive to how transformative the light around us is emotionally; how it can dictate our very mood. We can’t control the seasons and weather, or how urban or rural living makes us feel, but we can dictate the light in our homes. Play around with light, it will change a space.

Never before has a quote made me think about how important light is and the emotions it evokes in us.

“It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light and winter in the shade”

  • Design
  • Comfort Lighting, Emotional Lighting, Haberdashery, Home, Interior Design, Layers of Light, Light Design, Lighting
Sarah Connolly headshot

About Sarah Connolly