Layering light to enhance the home


Here our Creative Director Sally Storey shares her knowledge to bring you tips on how to achieve layered lighting in your home.

“Layering light is as important to a Lighting Designer as playing with texture, colour and materials is to an Interior Designer when it comes to enhancing a scheme

Layered Lighting (1)

Layering light to build up a scheme effectively means combining different effects. These can be separated into general light, feature light and task light. Each of these types of light can be achieved in different ways, for example, downlighting, uplighting, wall washing and specific highlighting. Combine these effects with decorative light sources for a more ambient, less specific lighting design. To develop a scheme one has to use at least two elements and the best schemes may involve three or four elements. Each effect can be considered as a layer of light.

Layering light in a living room

Take the living room above. The ambient light may be a table lamp. This is also the general light. The Feature light could be a directional spotlight, such as our Polespring LED downlight onto a wall or focused on the centre of a coffee table. Combine this with the added highlight of an uplit fireplace, an uplit window reveal or a backlit bookcase and now we have different layers of light.

Ensure that each layer of light is controlled independently. This enables different scenes or mood of light to be created. Usually bright scenes will not include the highlight such as uplights that come into play once the general light is dimmed and they then add the evening magic.

Layering light in a bathroom

In a bathroom the general light could be from downlights or an uplit cove above. Task lights could be a pair of wall lights either side of the mirror. Feature light could be a low level floor washer, a lit niche or an uplight behind a free standing bath.  By balancing these effects individually it is possible to transform a bathroom from practical during the day, to an evening spa.

Layered lighting in a bathroom

Layering light in a corridor

Corridors can be so boring, but layering light will transform these spaces.

Layering light by John Cullen

For a standard narrow corridor, you could just use downlights. Think of off centering these and use to light artwork on one side and potentially uplight a textured wall on the other. The asymmetry adds drama. A narrow corridor could have a row of downlights. This would just provide arcs of light half way down the wall.

Layering light by John Cullen

Uplight the end wall, putting a sculpture in silhouette and use a narrow spot of light as a focus. Light the corridor with low level floor washers such as our Cazalla LED steplight. These literally decorate with light.

When it comes to a wider corridor, use decorative wall lights and add a lantern to provide general light. Create a feature focus using narrow Polespring LEDs. A highlight is achieved with uplights to the door reveals and windows. Combining these effects will layer light and dramatically change the mood in the low lit settings so that the uplights almost appear as night lights.

Layering light in shelving

LED’s have revolutionised the way we light shelves. They are smaller, lower in heat and offer endless solutions with imagination. Lit shelves can provide a window in the room and transform those rooms that receive little daylight by providing a focus. Integrated joinery lighting is one of the key ways to layer with light

In the past a set of shelves could be considered only as storage, but now they have the ability to become an art feature when lit and styled correctly.

Layering light in shelving

Shelves can come in different finishes, and each finish, whether lacquer, mirror or swede backed, will call for a different lighting solution. The simplest solution is to front light using an LED strip concealed behind a baffle at the front of the shelf.

Layering light in an office

Another simple solution is to create a backlight effect. This is a more of a dramatic effect, creating depth in the room.

Layered light in a niche Layered light in a shelf

If the shelf has a great deal of depth, John Cullen Lighting’s new miniature Luccini (above left) is perfect. The fitting appears as if a jewel, providing stunning focus of light.

For a shallow shelf, downlight John Cullen Lighting’s Eyelid undercupboard light (above right), which will give off a soft wash of light. The eyelid feature shields the light source so no downstand is required to hide the source or minimise glare.

John Cullen Lighting’s footlight is another unique way to use a small fixture at the front of a shelf. This fitting directs light back at an object, which is particularly effective with glass finishes as the patterns of the lit object are projected to the back.

Control of layered lighting

Each layer of light is an individual effect, but can be combined to create a magical overall design. Put each layer on a different circuit in order to change the effect from day to night with maximum impact.”

For more information on layering light, contact us.

For more inspiration, visit our Project Showcase.