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6th Dec 2016

Enlightened and Empowered; Courtesy of Sally Storey's Master Class at John Cullen Lighting

StuartBarr Interior design (SB//ID) sent a very keen contingent to London last month, to learn the tricks and secrets of a perfectly lit space. 

Walking into John Cullen’s fabulous lighting showroom on the Fulham Road on a chilly November evening is like being enveloped it a visual blanket.  Uplighters draw the eye to a Victorian fireplace and down-lighters bring focus to a stunning floral arrangement.  Softly lit bookshelves allow books and object d’art to subtly reach out for attention.   A perfectly lit island offers red wine and canapés and provides to perfect gathering space for friendly chatter. The reason for everyone’s visit… a lighting master class, from the lighting masters themselves.

Sally Story founder and director of John Cullen Lighting, flanked by her expert lighting designers and sales team, was there to greet us and deliver her expert knowledge personally to a delighted audience.  Sally originally trained as an architect at Bristol University and is considered one of the country’s leading lighting experts.  Even with her beautifully understated manner she had the whole room hanging from her every word. 

The 30 eager ‘students’ were divided into two groups and guided us around their installations by an expert lighting designer.   The showroom includes separate simulated lounge and kitchen areas and as well as a basement ‘garden at night’, complete with front door, living green wall and stunning planting schemes!  There is also a ‘lighting pod’, an isolated windowless space designed to demonstrate the effect of each different lighting type.

We soaked up a speed lesson on the incredible results which can be achieved from good lighting. There was lots of talk of layering textures, painting with light, creating illusions, depth, focal points and features. Who would have known that the dismal pendant light was up against so much competition!

The audience was a mix of professional designers, self-builders and home renovators keen to be shown the light.   SB//ID came away literally bursting with enthusiasm and excited about lighting up as much of Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire and the Home Counties as our clients will let us get our hands on.  We were also left the brow furrowing thought in the back of our minds that there may be a few lighting gaps in our own homes (thank goodness for the StuartBarrCDR team!).

There is no doubt that if you employ a dedicated lighting designer, of the caliber of the John Cullen team your home will be masterfully lit. For large renovation projects a dedicated lighting designer would certainly be worth their weight in gold. However understanding and applying the basic principles can, in itself, totally transform a space.  Any good interior designer should ensure they are armed with this vital knowledge.

For us the evening demystified the ‘science’ of lighting and reminded SB//ID that, like all interior or exterior design work getting the aesthetics right is very much an art form.

Here are our SB//ID Top 10 John Cullen lighting tips:

No.1   All lighting must be on a dimmer. Only utility rooms are the exception!

No.2   Never ever position your down lighters in a grid across the center of the room. This is better known as ‘developers acne’. They just accentuate the ceiling and the floor, which is rarely the highlight in any interior design scheme. Instead use the down lighters to highlight focal points. For example position around 150mm from the wall to highlight artwork or a textured wall. Use a beam spotlight over the dining or coffee table to highlight a tabletop arrangement.

            No.3   The most effective and flattering light for bathroom mirrors and dressing table areas is two wall lights, one either side. If you want to highlight the basin use a ceiling recessed spot directly above.

            No.4    In the kitchen position down lighters over the worktop and island, not in the standing areas, otherwise you’ll just cast shadows in the areas where you are trying to work

            No.5   Linen lampshades cast a much nicer glow to a room than card shades, which create hard shadows. Choose a naturally warm coloured shade to increase the glow

            No.6   In the bathroom position a down light above your towel radiator to highlight your towels. That soft fluffy texture is much needed in an otherwise hard space.

            No.7   Use the same manufacturer of LED bulbs in all your down lighters for continuity of colour. Use tungsten bulbs, if you can get them, in lamps for a warmer glow

            No.8   Large sliding or bifold doors are all the rage with modern extensions but just create a large black mirror at night. Place some outdoor lighting close enough to highlight the immediate area outside the glass, and by that you shift the focus through the glass and beyond.

            No.9   Make LED tape your friend. It’s affordable and easy to install and gives a gorgeous glow to joinery. Place it inside a recessed channel at the front to highlight books or at the back to highlight objects. Can also be added under kitchen shelves, above tall larder units or behind the headboard for backlit Hollywood glamour!

            No.10   Have your lighting on different circuits that can be controlled independently. This way you can have that bright ‘where the hell did I leave the keys’ light through to candle style, ‘don’t notice me smuggling a bar of chocolate onto the sofa’ low level lighting.

If you would like to know more about how lighting can be employed to enhance your space look no further than Master class at John Cullen Lighting. At £35, including wine and nibbles, it is not only a truly enlightening evening but also great value for money. There is no hard sell and the John Cullen team is genuinely passionate about what they do and sharing their knowledge.

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