by Jack Miles.
Making use of good lighting techniques can transform a property for very little outlay. That’s because light can affect large areas of the inside of a property from simple installations that are relatively inexpensive.
LED lighting is certainly in vogue now. This has replaced the relatively (and ironically) short-lived long-life fluorescent bulbs and is considered more durable, even longer lasting, brighter and more economical than its prior-generation counterpart. LEDS are by their nature very small and although they have been around for decades, it is only recently that there was a drive to put together multiple LEDS to create large light bulbs. With some other advances in LED technology such as brilliant white light LEDS and some perfection of reflective surface technology, consumer based LED light bulbs have come into existence. These range in size from ultra small to as large as regular light bulbs of yesteryear. Even larger LED clusters are used now in place of super bright halogen lamps that used to be rated at 1000 watts or more. Multi-coloured LED lights are also available.
Still, some people prefer the more traditional wire filament lamps citing LEDS as too white and not warm enough. Unfortunately, it is likely that these relics of the past will soon go the same way as cassette tapes and become unavailable in the years ahead.
With interior lighting design in mind, it is now easy to have multiple spot lamps in various places and for these to be controlled by both wall mounted switches and a central computer switching system. Consider using ceiling mounted spot lamps as well as floor-mounted up-lighting to give a space an even look. If these spots can be angled towards a wall then the wall can benefit from direct light effects from both the floor and the ceiling and all of this will come at virtually no cost. Light coloured painted walls can accent the look of lighting that has been set up in this way with the colour of the wall being part of the look and feel of the overall lighting design.
A central computer can allow you to control lighting and store various settings for multiple light units all in memory for quick recollection of distinct mood settings. With even low cost systems you can set different colours for lights as well as their brightness to ensure that the atmosphere is just right. It used to be that an expensive control unit would need to be purchased but now many systems allow you to use a tablet such as an iPad or smart phone to control the various settings. This makes lighting automation much less expensive and there are a number of applications and hardware add-ons that can complete the system exactly to your requirements.
Shadow lighting is also worth exploring. For this you can use ornamental grates to project images onto a far away surface such as a far wall. You can change the shadow images quite easily by changing the grates periodically. For example a wire mesh grate may give an interesting bubbled look to a wall, whereas a grate with angled bars might give a nice striped look. Light boxes are another way to spread light over large surfaces. You may see these used in hotel bathrooms or bedrooms. Usually they consist of a walled area with various lighting set behind an opaque glass or Perspex surface. As the light disperses it makes the opaque surface light up evenly giving a more soothing feel as compared to a direct lighting unit.
Hidden up-lighting is an extension of this idea but instead of using Perspex or glass the light is bounced around wall or ceiling areas that are ordinarily hidden from view. This means that the lighting is smoothed out by way of the reflective nature of the painted surfaces and can give a nice glow effect in the areas where the light escapes. By dimming the light the area affected can become smaller so you can have control not only of brightness but also of the amount of surface covered. You can see hidden up-lighting in many places especially shopping mall open spaces and restaurants or coffee shops.
Strip LED lighting is simply a flexible strip that has LEDS mounted along it. This can be cut to any length and then placed in hidden locations or can be used in light boxes to provide similar effects as above. The good thing about this kind of lighting is that it is extremely small in size, is economical, and typically produces very little heat. Some experience of soldering may be required to join various strips together and to connect up a 5v or 12 v power supply but often you can easily find someone who can do this for you so that it can all be taken care of by an approved installer.
For those with grander styles in mind the word “chandelier” comes to mind. A traditional chandelier may well feature traditional filament lighting but increasingly there are LED chandeliers coming on to the market that are making their mark as the next generation of hi end lighting. Some people consider the LED chandeliers to look a bit gimmicky, but if you want to avoid that stigma then it is worth getting a traditional chandelier and then upgrading it to use LED bulbs in place of incandescent or fluorescent bulbs that it might have come with originally. Chandeliers typically sport crystals or cut glass to refract the light making the reflections on the ceiling more impressive and adding to the grandeur that they already have in place. Some LED chandeliers are made of Perspex or plastic, but you can find that certain models still retain traditional cut glass style aesthetics.
In a bathroom bright lighting can make the space feel uplifting in keeping with a refreshing morning shower. Look to use a mirror that has lighting installed in it. Once again LED technology has lead to many innovations in this regard and mirrors can now be bought with side lights or inbuilt backlights in them so that they provide an smooth white light emission around the edges.
In a kitchen look to use the above strip technology under shelves to light up workspaces and also be sure to have lamps in any overhead extraction fan units. That’s because these will light up the hob area and will make quite a difference when cooking. Spotlights in the ceiling will make the overall tone of the kitchen bright and clean.
In a bedroom or lounge, apart from the aforementioned up-lighting and shadow lighting techniques, it is worth giving some thought to the not so humble table lamp. Table lamps can be quite ornamental and by choosing the shades carefully you can use table lamps to produce some excellent mid height lighting effects. Desk lamps, wall lights and other mid height lighting can be added to make a more complex theme come alive.
Even after a good system is installed you can tweak it and add improvements to it over time to keep up with ever changing requirements. With lighting so inexpensive and yet so versatile, you can continue to experiment with different lighting techniques almost ad infinitum.