An Understandable Guide to Great Lighting Design

Life in Southern California is split between the interiors of our homes and the exterior. Blessed with sunshine and blue skies, warm days and cool breezes, our homes becoming living breathing entities of our lives. As you look up into the hills of LA each night or down from the airplane window as you land at LAX, take a moment to see the lights coming from all the homes and stop to take it all in. Los Angeles appreciates great architecture, great design, and great environments—but there is one element in design that we often forget about—electric lighting and lighting design. Lighting design is apart of our everyday movements and it is crucial to curating great design.

Lighting Lesson #2: Principles of Good Lighting Design

Focal Glow

Focal Glow refers to accent lighting. This level of lighting is used deliberately to convey information by visually accentuating significant areas and allowing the insignificant areas to recede into the background. Focal glow is the type of lighting that attracts us to the menu board at a café, a painting hanging in a gallery, or our grandmother’s china sitting delicately in the cabinet. Focal Glow, like Ambient Lighting, should be a controlled lighting level. However, Focal Glow will most likely remain as a constant in a space with the ambient lighting dimming and adjusting to bring more or less attention to an object or zone.

How to use Focal Glow to direct attention in a design

We have already stated the purpose of creating a lighting design goal and working early on to create the mood and feeling you wish to create—this initial stage includes understanding where in the space you wish to draw focus. It can be as easy as calling out a painting in a grand room, or creating additional lighting over a work space for task focused lighting—but do not forget about pathways and circulation spaces.  Circulation spaces should not be left in the dark. Pun intended.

Work with your designer to call out important moments in your space, places where you want to call more attention, create a pause or a moment of contemplation. This can be an art wall or a part of the architecture. Up lighting a ceiling with exposed beams can change a space completely, or adding a wall wash of light can bring out the verticality or texture. Cove lighting, down lighting, up lighting, recessed lighting, task lighting, art lighting…the list is endless, but remember, you are trying to create a moment of emphasis in a space.

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