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August 11th, 2013

The power of light…

Here are some display shelves in the C&C Milano and Lewis & Wood showroom in the Design Centre, which provide the perfect example of how light, both natural and artificial, can completely distort colour, in particular paint! This is the same paint colour on the entire wall, with the lighting turning it from a warm deep yellow at the top and bottom to a lemony tint on the middle shelves.

C&C Milano and Lewis and Wood Showroom, Design Centre Chelsea Harbour

Shades of yellow…

C&C Milano and Lewis and Wood Showroom, Design Centre Chelsea Harbour

More shades of yellow…

(thank you to the showroom manager, Jasmine Nealon, for allowing me to take the pictures)

It got me thinking that I must post some thoughts on “lighting” at some point, especially when I visited a client’s house the next day, where she had painted around 15 different paint samples onto a wall in a difficult north-facing room, but none of them were working (been there!).

paint colours

The light playing tricks with shades of beige/taupe… and none of them are right?

So here are some dos and don’ts to help get lighting (and therefore also the paint/wall colour) right:

  • First and foremost (in terms of natural light) is to work out which way the room faces, if desperate using the compass on your Iphone! Often a colour, which looked great in a friend’s house in a sunny south-facing room, doesn’t work when you try it in a north-facing room on a grey winter’s day in your own house. Most paint companies are good at explaining which neutrals are “warm or cold” tinted, so “red”, “yellow” or “grey” based etc. and this is a good guide to getting things right. As a rule use a red or yellow based “neutral” in a north-facing room and a “cooler” tinted colour in a sunny south-facing room. I often find that slightly darker warm based colours look best in north-facing rooms (avoid very light tones) as they eliminate dark shadows and the greyish tinge so prevalent throughout the British winter.
  • Once you have the natural light (and paint colour) correct it’s time to focus on the remaining lighting as early on in the scheme as possible.  Low level lighting can be intimate, but it can also remind you of dingy student accommodation and encourage a quick exit from most rooms. Likewise, it’s difficult to have a relaxing bath or intimate dinner for two if the ceiling above is filled with recessed downlighters, also not flattering to most complexions!
  • As a general rule, identify what to light, as well as what not to light. The best lighting schemes then work on three to four levels (I always find it incredible how many homes there are with just a single pendant hanging in the ceiling), so that you can vary the light throughout the day and for different functions: General lighting, task lighting, accent and then the all important atmospheric/decorative kind.

General: the essential basis for a room, it should fill the majority of the room with a glow of light, glare free.

Task: allows you to fulfil a specific function or activity such as reading etc.

Accent: for defining a space or object, such as a painting or collection of objects on shelving

Decorative: “architectural jewellery” such as chandeliers, wall sconces and table lamps

And finally, there are now so many suppliers in the market that lighting can be as creative or functional, as cost effective or expensive, as you want it to be…

Here are a few of my favourites:

Pinch lights

For a relaxed look, possibly beachside, the “Beata” light from Pinch Design:

BTC "drop linear" light

For a contemporary feel it is hard to beat the range at BTC, “Drop Linear” light shown here

I’ve always had a weakness for these George Nelson “Bubble Pendants” (below left), in the right context, and chandeliers in general, try the Vintage Chandelier Company.

George Nelson "bubble lights"

George Nelson “bubble lights”


The Vintage Chandelier Company

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