The art of lighting design

Lighting has the ability to make or break an interior scheme. From setting the mood and creating the desired ambience to fulfilling practical needs such as those of adequate illumination or defining boundaries in open plan spaces, lighting needs careful consideration and planning, preferably at the beginning of any interior project. Jo Plismy, founder of Gong, offers her insights

One of the first things to consider is how the space will be used, as this will determine the kind of lighting needed. For example, task lighting is best for close-up tasks such as reading or applying makeup and this can be achieved using table lamps, floor lamps or wall lights that can be specifically angled. Take time to think about shadows when placing lights and using two or more fixtures can often help to overcome any problems with this. Wall lights are ideal when space is short, for example on a bedside table, and can still be used even when it is not possible to install cables inside the wall. You can now find many attractive wall lamps that come with a plug, perfect for those where drilling into walls is not an option. 

Ambient lighting refers to the main light for practically illuminating the whole space. Too bright and the room will cause discomfort to the users, and too dark and the room will appear smaller and unwelcoming. Brighter light can also make the face appear older, something particularly undesirable in a dressing room for example. The size of the room will help to determine how many lights are needed and the brightness of the bulbs.

For pieces of interest in the space, i.e., a favourite piece of artwork in the home, accent lighting should be used. As the name suggests this is used to draw the eye to certain parts of the space, as well as keeping the attention focussed away from other less desirable areas. The fourth and last lighting type is decorative, which is where my passion lies. I advise my clients to add drama with their lighting, choosing bold statement designs that really make an impact in the room. Although decorative lighting places the biggest emphasis on visual appeal, the illumination still plays a big role and I love to experiment with the way certain materials, shapes and colour diffuse the light. Shades with a golden interior provide a warm and welcoming hue, while metallic finishes create beautiful reflections on the wall which add interest and drama. 

Decorative lighting is also a great way to bring texture to a room and a stand-out central ceiling pendant is a great way to do this. I love the use of fabric with lighting to achieve a romantic and tranquil atmosphere. Silk is particularly timeless and luxurious for creating a ‘soft’ light and fabrics such as linen, cotton and jute work beautifully to add depth and texture to a room. Using a light as a ‘centre piece’ to me is like adding the final make-up to a room, creating a real style statement. It’s best when used with a dimmer, to enable soft, warm lighting for times when more relaxation and comfort is required. 

For most projects, a combination of all the different lighting types will work best, allowing for flexibility, depending on the room’s different uses at different times of day.