THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN GOOD AND GREAT LIGHTING
What is good lighting?
When you walk into a room or a property as a whole and the lights are a consistent style and finish, that is good lighting
Or maybe you’re looking at a period property where all the fixtures seamlessly integrate with a specific era. That is good lighting.
You look around and each fixture has clearly been selected for its specific application, and it works where it’s placed, its enhancing a piece of art, or casting its glow substantially over the kitchen island, that is good lighting.
Or perhaps the vision was to move as far away from an era, or the existing style as possible. Here the uniformity of the chosen style, and the finish of each item, is ever more important. When the eye is satisfied that this task has been achieved, and when there is no gross clash of materials, or in the basic aesthetic details, that is good lighting.
However, more often than not, this is achievable with a good eye and attention to detail. Websites abound with material, fantastic imagery of period properties where one can establish the correct picture light or chandelier for almost any application. Good lighting outlets will have as many products on display as they possibly can, in ‘real life’ scenarios to further assist your selection.
Lighting incorporates elements that many of us consider as straightforward as making the right choice when we purchase the bulbs, mostly relying on our understanding of wattage. Is it too bright? Perhaps a bit dull? Or just too clinical? This has changed somewhat with the introduction of LED in the last few years, essentially making it easier (that’s still open for debate! This links might help some – http://www.philips.co.uk/c-m-li/choose-a-bulb/need-help ) for the consumer by adding more off-the-shelf options. There is enough general knowledge out there to enable us to pass the scrutiny of friends and family. At very worst it entails having to buy three or four bulbs to sample them in situ.
So really, why use a lighting designer? http://www.xavio-design.com/download-checklist/
Lighting is the ethereal partner of architecture and interior design, and thus can be either its uplifting or its downfall.
By its very nature light is intangible until it strikes a surface, you actually only see any object that it alights on once it is reflected. It’s the understanding, and controlling of this elusive force of nature that gives the artist control of its limitless potential.
Utilised well, whether interior or exterior, or to specifically illuminate a figurine or a tree, it can cause its object to transcend its ordinary stature. We’ve all seen a building that looks much more spectacular at night than during the day, columns glowing with stark contrasts of shadow created by a carefully trained beam.
What can be achieved with architecture is forever breaking new ground. Without light we’d not see these creations at all! Architects and designers have always used light to great ends, not only for visibility but for effect. However, it’s only in more recent times that it’s actually being conditioned so dynamically into design and construction, from office blocks to bridges, statues, and even into our living rooms. The realisation that it can be used to so manipulate what we see means it’s becoming ever more of an art form, a technical ability which is in increasingly high demand.
Light has dimensions inherently within it. Unlike something that has a solid format however, it’s not just about mixing in more ochre or green! Experience and talent are huge forces behind any individuals’ ability to create pattern, hue or dimension.
Words such as solemnity, gaiety, warmth, activity, restfulness and coolness are all commonly used. And this is just the actual medium itself! The lamps can introduce lines, form, colour, pattern and texture as well! The options can become overwhelming if you’re not careful, hence the benefit of someone who is able to create combinations utilising an accumulation of knowledge, that will maximise the potential, not only of your space, but your investment too – that’s great lighting.
Let’s look at intensity for a moment. It is an extremely difficult thing to achieve ‘natural’ lighting. Technology plays a big role, and it can be hugely successful. It may never be exactly the same as the natural light intrinsically, but it’s very possible to replicate the feelings and emotions that it can evoke. Skilful lighting application can affect the experience of a viewer more than any other one element in a given architectural environment. It can be used for so much more than just illumination, indeed it is, and it is regularly observed that it achieves particular emotional responses from whatever it illuminates when used in a specific way. Illusions created within a performance, for want of an example, give a spectator the feeling of participation, that it is a real experience. It is always notable how low intensity lighting creates drama, and as it changes, so does the mood of the audience. To carry an individual, or a collective audience, through a range of emotions, by cleverly managed ambience, that is great lighting.
Sometimes lighting is classified as ‘soft’ or ‘hard’.
Soft Lighting – Too dark is somewhat self-explanatory but it’s vital to note that shadow plays a hugely important role in creating a light-scape too. Soft or diffused light minimalizes shadows, is more relaxing, and much less visually compelling. Too much diffusion though can cause a lack of ‘edge’ and remove interesting aesthetic dimension.
Hard Lighting – Too much brightness can force out all texture, a bit like an overexposed photo – inasmuch as the light in a crevice is so powerfully invasive that it renders little or no shadow. Careful usage of hard lighting, commonly called ‘direct’ lighting, can provide excellent highlights, model form, or emphasize textures. Direct light sources are best used as supplement lighting, picture or artwork enhancements for example, or particular focus areas such as a cooking prep work surface. We all know an area with no shadow or context creates the look of a doctor’s office, or a surgery room. And let’s face it, most of us wouldn’t choose to recreate these in our homes. Let’s leave those memories where they belong!
The successful utilisation of these two very important elements brings about great lighting. This is the sort of experience that a lighting designer has the knowledge and ability to reproduce time and again in a wide variety of applications. That’s great lighting – It really isn’t just about the bulb, promise!
And it has an effect on your wellbeing too! High levels of lighting are reckoned cheerful and stimulating, whereas a relaxed ambience is commonly produced using lower levels. Who doesn’t like the feeling of relaxation, intimacy or restfulness created by a soft glowing bulb? Both these moods achieved within one space can be difficult to achieve. Zonal lighting that looks natural, and really works, is an art form. What about if you want to read whilst another occupant wants a snooze? It’s not just about dimming the lights all of a sudden. And who gets the controls!
When you both can, now that’s superlative!
Read Richard Kelly’s Three Tenets of Lighting Design – Written in 1952 but the basic principle of light hasn’t changed since then (at least I didn’t think so?), and this is full of diamonds – https://goo.gl/Jmmljw