“Light manipulates volume” – Inspired by Light Sally Storey

As you may have seen on our Instagram stories, we recently attended the Inspired by Light workshop. Hosted by Sally Storey and her team of expert lighting designers at the John Cullen Studio, London.

The event included a fantastic studio tour with live demonstrations showing the impact of carefully considered lighting, and indeed the impact of poor lighting comparatively. The tour was followed by an insight into Sally Storey’s new book ‘Inspired by Light’. A vital guide for all those looking to add a little magic into their homes.

Q: How does lighting impact our interior spaces?

A: “Interior designers use textures and things you can feel. But lighting is more [immersive], it’s all around you and it affects how you feel. Cold lights or warm lights, it affects you and as much as I can try to demonstrate that through pictures, we set up the demonstration studio here as it was only by seeing it, can you believe it.

I also believe that the whole understanding of lighting is all about light and shadow. Without shadow, you don’t have emphasis. For me, you must understand what is lit and what isn’t. In a way, when you’re designing an open-plan room, you design the areas into 3 separate areas (or however many), you light each space, but it’s the shadow in between that’s the invisible wall. So, to me, light and shadow intertwine the whole time in one’s design philosophy.”

Q: Where do you draw inspiration from when it comes to lighting?

A: “There is an old monastery (on page 15) where natural light came in through the window highlighting some African art, and you might also modulate the way that it enters the house. That’s how training as an architect I was thinking first, and then I came on to the idea of, how can I modulate it when it’s dark?

We’ve all been in those places where you walk in, and it feels grey and dull, and you don’t know why, but then there are others that just feel nice. So, [in the book] I run through the different elements of lighting, and where my inspiration comes from – natural light.

I still to this day, travel down the countryside and see those grey clouds. Then suddenly, they break open and you see those spots of lights coming through. That still makes me feel happy and I just feel like gosh that’s such an inspiration. In a very small way, I feel that when I throw a spotlight on to some flowers, I’m trying to reproduce that effect.

Q: Can you tell us more about what we can expect in your new book, Inspired by Light?

A: “I’ve done lighting for quite a while now, and I was very flattered when the RIBA asked me to write this book. Mainly for architects and interior designers to give them the basics, but it’s also for any homeowner who is interested.

To me, lighting is always in layers. It’s a bit like the interior designer playing with velvets and silks, suddenly we’ve got a palette or a vocabulary of light.”

Understanding Colour Temperatures

“The first part of the book is understanding LEDs. Starting with the colour temperature. There’s a very simple way to think about it as the lighting over the course of a day – because I think that means something to people.

So, in dawn and dusk, the colour temperature is around 2000k and 2200k, and it goes up to around 5000k (if not even whiter) during mid-day. When LEDs first came out, they said – oh it doesn’t matter them being cold we’ll just get used to it. All the filament lamps suddenly became of age, or the fire, and candles. Because at night we want warmth.

When you’re having to make lighting decisions, if you’re looking to create lighting effects, you might find that during the daytime you like the cooler lighting effects. It’s more matching to daylight.

But at night when it’s dark outside you actually want a warmer colour temperature. Therefore, what you must think about is when are you using the light? If you’re supplementing daylight – let’s say in a basement for example – I might have a double option. Like a cooler light during the day and a warmer light at night. So, choosing the right colour temperature is important.”

Understanding CRI

“In addition to the colour temperature you‘ve got the CRI for LEDs, which is colour rendering. The reason a room could be flat, dull, and lifeless is that cheap LEDs have a low CRI. Which means that they’re not picking out the true colours.

It’s a sort of muted palette. But (on page 35 of the book) you can see what it does in these images with about 75 maybe 80 CRI, compared with about 90/95 CRI.

You can see you could be living in a flatness.”

Highlighting Texture

“The next thing is highlighting texture and architectural features. (On page 7) Ambient Light on the textured wall gives a flat appearance.

Linear Light is offset by 150mm, which starts to show the texture. It’s a very even, light, grazing. However, the texture is not revealed to the same extent as the narrow beam up lights close to the surface, which emphasise the texture.

So, we have another tool available to us – the ability to highlight texture.”

Q: How can all of these things ‘manipulate volume’ within a space?

A: “So as you can see downlighting, wall washing, and focus lighting, can totally change one’s space. (On page 12) When the corridor is lit only with downlights, the walls remain dark and the narrow pools of light create focus and a transitions through the space. The corridor appears different when the walls are uplit, providing reflected light; the space seems larger and taller. The use of both uplights and downlights brings the best effect.

Lighting design harnesses light to manipulate and transform space, and that’s why I say light manipulates volume.”

You can order a copy of Sally Storey’s new book direct from the John Cullen website by clicking here.