Cover A living room by Design Intervention that features custom-made furnishings such as a desk, coffee table and planters that incorporate built-in lighting

Nikki Hunt of Design Intervention discusses the importance of lighting design and how it can influence our mood

I often say that lighting is like fairy dust—sprinkle it right and you can create magic. The aim is not to have someone walk into a home and think that the lighting is great. In fact, if this is the case, then we haven’t done our job well at all; it’s all about subtlety and the design of the space as a whole.

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Most people are aware of the importance of good task lighting to help improve our concentration. But strategic lighting choices can also help us relax and even sleep better, thereby improving our health.

Lighting that works with our bodies’ sleep cycles can influence how we feel and behave. Understanding how and when you will use a space is therefore the first step to good lighting design.


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Consider multi-functional pieces

Instead of introducing additional pieces that could clutter the room, consider having multi-functional furniture pieces that incorporate lighting elements. We have wired custom-made pieces such as a console, desk and coffee table, so that they effectively function as oversized lamps, bringing low-level lighting to the room.

The light sources are set at different angles so that in addition to light from above, we have light at eye level as well as below eye level.

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Size it up

The right lighting can affect the feeling of space and change our perception of dimensions. The eye is always drawn to the brightest point in the room, so we can play with how we perceive the size of a room through strategic light planning.

For instance, when we place a chandelier in a corner, we draw the eye to the back of the room, thereby increasing the sense of space.

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Play hide and seek—keep architectural lighting elements discreet

Downlights are a pet peeve of mine; they are like acne on the face of a beautiful girl. Our ceilings are such a key feature of the design, so why ruin them with downlights? My view is that architectural light fittings should not be seen. Instead, I keep the ceilings as unblemished as possible and let the other design elements shine.

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Try it before you buy it when shopping for ambient lighting pieces

Another common mistake I see all the time is homeowners choosing fixtures because of how they look without ever turning them on. Good lighting shouldn’t be glaring.

I always recommend that lighting should be incorporated at the onset of any project so that wiring can allow for multiple circuits, and switches incorporated for maximum flexibility.

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