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Guest Post: Residential Lighting Design by Paul Nulty

We're really excited here at Juice Electrical Supplies to introduce you to Paul Nulty of Paul Nulty Lighting Design. The company is an independent lighting design practice and, along with his award winning team, Paul has worked on numerous projects ranging from hospitality, retail and museums to residential and the work place. Paul was kind enough to write a guest post especially for the Juice blog all about residential lighting design. It's a great read so be sure to leave your comments and share! Don't forget to check out Paul's impressive portfolio of work on his website.

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Lighting plays a key role in creating atmosphere, mood, contrast and drama. It is particularly important in a residential context, where a positive emotional connection to our environment is integral to our comfort and happiness. We use our home as a place of refuge where we relax both mentally and physically; if executed well, light in our home space will encourage and heighten feelings of wellbeing.

Lighting has the ability to turn a beautifully designed space into a cold and inhospitable environment; it also has the ability to make a bleak space engaging and warm. But why is it that such an intangible substance exerts so much power and yet is so often overlooked?

The key word is intangibility – you can’t touch light, you can’t even see it, you simply see the surfaces with which light interacts. What is exciting for a lighting designer is that we all have the ability to control how light influences the emotional connection we have with our surroundings.

The common mistake made when designing light for a residential space is that too much focus is placed on the aesthetic of the light fixture, such as a chandelier or table lamp. Not enough consideration is given to the quality of light that the fixture emits, or more importantly the interaction of light with the surrounding surfaces. Only once we understand what the light needs to achieve and reveal do we start to think about the lighting hardware, fixtures and fittings.

Home Interior Lighting

The first two questions that a lighting designer will ask are, “How is the space going to be used and how do you want to feel?” Considering what surfaces should be illuminated and why, helps us paint a space with light, we peel away the darkness to reveal texture.

Quality and quantity of light are very different from each other and it’s important to avoid over-lighting; particularly within a home where dark is as important as light.

Contrast can aid permeability and create atmosphere; for example a table lamp will radiate an immediate, encircling glow but the light fades across space ensuring a room is not homogenously illuminated. The beauty of light from a table lamp can almost engender the feeling of a camp fire with light coming ’up’ towards the viewer, creating long shadows and intimacy.

Residential Interior Illumination

Remembering how light fades, illuminates and envelops a room is particularly important when considering garden illumination. Garden lighting increases the apparent size of an internal space as it extends the view through and beyond windows.

To maintain an extended, external view out of an internal space vivid lighting on the window edge should be avoided as the eye will always stop at the brightest point. A careful balance of light will draw the eye through rooms and into a garden. Often the key focal point, such as a tree at the bottom of the garden, should be the brightest element. All other lighting within the scene should be subtly darker.

Strategically placed interior and exterior lighting, working together has the power to extend space, simple illumination of a patio or outdoor seating area in the evening can extend the rooms within.

As lighting designers who work with many residential interior and garden designers, we believe that good lighting design should fuse boundaries between light and architecture; the best schemes are where it is hard to see where lighting starts and architecture ends. Nobody should ever walk into a space and think, “Wow, the lighting is fabulous.” If we get it right then lighting simply aids visual composition and the person instead should think, “This space feels great’.

If we achieve that then we’ve achieved a balance between light, dark and architecture.

Paul Nulty is Head of Practice at Paul Nulty Lighting Design – a creative lighting design practice specializing in residential lighting solutions: www.paulnulty.co.uk. You can also find Paul on Twitter and Facebook!

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