4 Jul 2014

Lighting Re-re-design...

The lighting design has been a lot of fun and games. Mat, my electrician (Aspey Electrical),  has shown a lot of patience and support as I have had to very quickly change almost everything related to the lighting design.  We definitely wanted to use LED lights (low energy house!) and we wanted to keep costs down so I had asked for loads of LED strip lights to be concealed behind wooden plank pelmets which would wash the walls with light.  I wanted to avoid spot/down lights as much as possible.  However once we got to site everyone in the business was quick to tell me that LED strips just wouldn't provide enough light!  Very quickly I had to change the designs and specify exactly what would replace it and where it would be located.  

Lighting is a nightmare as there is so much choice out there.  It is very technical and definitely user unfriendly. Unlike bathrooms there aren't really any showrooms you can go to, to get your eye in and see what the choices are. I browse the internet and find a fitting I like, but then there will be 4 different versions and I don't really understand what the differences are, and I still am none the wiser as to whether it will be suitable.  Also, lighting is where, if you are looking for non-standard items, the budget can be blown - it's silly money mostly.  The difficulty is finding what there is out there.  At the moment I'm just browsing the internet, finding what I like and want to do and then passing it over for technical support.  

In the living area I'm having a pendant light over the kitchen island.  I love this light, Plank,  and think something inspired by this would look amazing in our birch ply kitchen.  As it is £600 it's just not within our budget.

Plank, Northern Lighting

Over the dining table there are a triplet of pendants.  The exact light fitting hasn't been chosen yet.  I've been quite taken with some reclaimed glass funnels from Retrouvius.  I like the way they are small and elegant with a bit of extra quirkyness and, for £65, affordable.

Small glass funnel light, Retrouvius.com

But then I was browsing the internet and came across these DIY concrete pendants and think that I'm not going to be able to stop myself - plus I can make a matching one for the upstairs loo!!! I really like the way these will focus the light down in puddles of light which at night will look amazing.  I also like the way that concrete is already in the palate and they will connect with downstairs.

There is also going to be a pendant in the sitting room, so it was at this point that I said I don't want any other light fitting on the upper floor to draw attention to itself.  I want all other light sources to be invisible.

I do understand why downlights are so popular- they have small visual impact and provide good light.  But I find they often look very corporate and not homely, and some installations can make rooms look like landing strips.  My personal experience is that downlights can be unreliable and once one light goes, it seems to put everything out on the rest of the circuit. After doubts were expressed as to whether I would have enough light I conceded to installing down-lights almost everywhere instead of my plank wash-lighting. But after a night of sleeping on it - I retracted that decision! Everyone who has built a home has given us the same advice, trust your instinct.  And my gut was screaming - NO, don't do it!  

Lighting the stairs was our biggest challenge.  I have loved Dan Flavin ever since I saw an amazing exhibition of his work at the Serpentine Gallery.  So in the early stages of lighting design I was really keen on using some neon/florescence/led tubes and making the lighting look like an installation!  We had ended up with some light tubes in the window above the stairs. Charlie was keen they be fitted to the edges of the window, whereas I wanted them leaning casually against the sides (straight felt a bit too Star Wars). 

Mat said "No", and he is regrettably right (just like he is right about how my children would be swinging like Tarzan on the low-hung bed-side pendants).  Firstly they would not give out enough light in the right places, secondly they would become real life light-sabers for my young boys, and lastly when reviewed in the space rather than on plan, they would be too imposing in the dining area.  So what on earth were we going to do?  All sorts of crazy ideas were considered, and we went round and round trying to find an understated solution.  Eventually we found a way of using the bookcases to hold strips and allow the light to move from the upper ground to the lower ground without being too conspicuous - let's hope it works! 

I am going to have some LED tube lights in other places. In the office we will place one at the back of a high shelf so that it can bounce light off the ceiling.  And in the working areas, the pantry and laundry/plant room, I have been inspired by these beautiful fittings.

Ninebyfour light, Waarmakers

Are you detecting a theme yet?  I like wood.  So we are going to keep the idea of the LED lights hidden behind a plank.  We've changed the design slightly so that the plank is lower on the wall so a strip can be on top and underneath to send light in both directions.  This is mostly happening downstairs in the hallway and bathrooms.

Specifying LED in itself hasn't been an issue but using the LED strips is more problematic in that they require drivers and it is the placement of these drivers that has driven us all a little potty.  You don't want to see little boxes everywhere when the idea has been to simplify and reduce visual clutter.  For each length we've had to calculate how many drivers will be required and where they will be hidden.  The LED tube lights are actually a lot easier insofar as they have built-in drivers, you never know in the 2nd fix we may end up with more of these than we thought!

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