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  • Writer's picture Ella Goodsell

How to Design lighting for Heritage Buildings: 'A lighting Journey' with Sally Storey

I am always learning, Interior designers are required by the British Institute of Interior Designers to keep up to date with our knowledge of the industry and something that I realised I needed to learn more about is lighting design in interiors especially when it comes to heritage buildings. I decided to join a webinar recently organised by Wildwood PR with Sally Storey, creative director of award-winning John Cullen Lighting.

Sally Storey has 35 years experience as an architectural lighting designer, she is most notable for her lighting design work on many luxury hotels, offices, and residences of historical significance around the world, such as The Berkeley, Claridge's, Four Seasons Hotel George V in Paris, Hotel Hermitage in Monaco, The Alpina Gstaad in Switzerland, and The Ritz-Carlton in Hong Kong. She studied architecture at the University of Bristol during the early 1980s and then worked with lighting designer John Cullen, whom she met during her second year at university. After Cullen died in 1986, Sally Storey became the Design Director at John Cullen Lighting, and also Design Director of Lighting Design International.

The webinar was focused on a project designed by Louise Bradley Interiors, a Grade 1 listed property overlooking Regents Park designed by Sir John Nash. As it is a Grade 1 listed building, every aspect of the lighting designs had to be submitted for approval and fit within the building guidelines. There were several restrictions imposed for the project due to the nature of the listing which protects and retain the historic aspects of the property. For example, in the main rooms, it was not permitted to use ceiling recessed downlights. Here are the key points I learnt:

1. In these type of spaces, with these type of restrictions, the design team had to creatively introduce lighting into features that were being newly added to the building. For example, in the image below lighting was added into the doorway and bookshelves because it was an added feature of the design and also, up-lighting could be added to the fireplace because it was also not an original feature.

Image source: (Photography credits: James Balston)

2. Lighting must be incorporated into the joinery of the final design and collaboration between the Interior Designer from the beginning is vital to develop a decorative lighting scheme. It is important to do this from the beginning and not after the joinery has been installed as light fittings will be harder to hide.

3. Floor recessed uplights can be used if downlighting is prohibited to provide accent lighting by highlighting various features such as window reveals and door architraves. However, make sure they have suitable anti-baffles and is less than a 10 degree to stop glare from the uplighting.

4. Create fake shelves or coffers below the ceiling so that uplighting can be used to illuminate the ceiling from below. This is a really nice effect of creating the illusion that the lighting is being reflected from the ceiling.

5. Use all three types of lighting; Task/function, accent/feature and lastly ambient/source. In the image below we can see the use of the three types here. Firstly is the ambient/source which is the main pendant lights over the island, second is the task/functional lighting which is the lighting under the cupboards highlighting the worktops so that it is clear to see. Lastly is the accent/feature lighting which is anything that is creating a mood such as the downlights on the cupboards, the uplighting on the ceiling and the window. Lighting can often have secondary functions such as the pendants having a secondary task function.

Image Source: (photography credit: James Balston)

6. If in a small room with lower ceilings, direct the eye to the widest part of the room using lighting as this will make the room feel much bigger and when designing a bathroom always use two lights on either side of the mirror to illuminate the face in the best way.

7. When using uplighting, always use 27,000 on the Kelvin scale and 24,000 for bookshelves and decorative lighting. This determines the temperature of white or yellow in the lighting. Using these different tones creates layering to the lighting which creates the atmosphere, however, it was mentioned never to use downlighting above a table as this creates too many shadows.

Image Source: (photography credit: James Balston)

8. When designing lighting with joinery, recess the LEDs into the front profile and use an anti-baffle in order to hide the fittings. Be sure to pick the best direction of the lighting to highlight the objects on bookshelves in the best way, don't just use downlighting.

And there you have it! a few simple guidelines when designing lighting in historic buildings. I took a lot from this webinar and have an appreciation of all the skills lighting designers have. Lighting really can help set the interior and it is a really great idea to hire a lighting designer alongside having an interior designer.

Thanks for reading,


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