Nicola Holden Designs – Contemporary Interior Designer, London.

I have talked quite a bit recently about how using colour in our homes can affect the way we feel, and how we behave.  But there is one vital element that needs to exist in order for us even to see colour, and that is light.  Without light, everything is just black.  It is light reflecting off the surfaces that enables us to see colour in the first place.  As Ingrid Fetell Lee puts it so succinctly, “Light is colour’s power supply”.

Except in very hot climates, people naturally gravitate to sunny spaces.  Sunlight brings us joy, and helps to keep our circadian rhythms regulated.  The blue colours found in morning sunlight stimulate the production of serotonin (the ‘happy’ hormone), and the red light that we get at sunset stimulates the production of melatonin (the ‘sleepy’ hormone).  Getting the right balance of serotonin and melatonin is linked to sleep quality, mood, alertness and depression to name a few things, and so it’s vital that we light our homes correctly so that they support our circadian rhythm, rather than working against it.

Our first priority for light is, of course, natural light, and so it is important that we design our interiors around our windows to ensure we can take full advantage of them.  Make sure your curtain tracks are long enough that your curtains don’t overhang the window glass when they are open.  And mirrors are great for bounding light around our spaces.  And if the light streaming through your windows is too bright, then consider ways of diffusing the light to create a more dappled effect.

Sunlight streams through this window

However, in the absence of sunlight, we need to have alternative lighting options available – to provide lighting that stimulates us, and produces a positive psychological or physiological response.  And to achieve this, we need control over our lighting so that we can vary its intensity at different times of the day.

The design of lighting schemes is one of the most common aspects of an interior design projects that I get asked to help with.  So, when it comes to lighting we need to think of it terms of the four ways that lighting is used:

1. Ambient Lighting

This is the essential basis of lighting for any room, and is there to produce general illumination.  Ambient lighting should fill the room with a glow of light and soften the shadows, and is best achieved by reflecting the light off walls and ceilings to soften and diffuse the light.  Think about uplighters, and an LED strip around a coffer ceiling.

2. Accent Lighting

This is where you are lighting a specific object, for example a piece of art, a textured wall or some beautiful drapery.  The focus becomes the art, the wall or the curtains, rather than the source of the light itself.  Accent lighting can also be used to great effect in bathroom niches, or within shelf displays.

The lighting of this niche puts the focus on the patterned tiles

3. Task Lighting

Task lighting provides light for carrying out specific tasks, such a reading, cooking, desk work, and putting on your make up / shaving, etc.  The positioning of the lighting here is important to get right, as the light should ideally be between your head and the book / work surface in order to illuminate the task at hand.  For reading and desk work, choose a light with a solid shade that will give out a focused beam of light.  In the bathroom, position lights either side of the mirror to give you a shadow-free reflection.

This bedside wall light provides task lighting for reading

4. Decorative Lighting

Often referred to as ‘architectural jewellery’, decorative light comes in the forms of beautiful chandeliers, wall lights and table lamps.  These lights provide the glimmer and sparkle that bring us joy.  Chandeliers can also be offset, to add a sculptural element to the space.  Decorative lighting in itself doesn’t emit much light in a room, but is great for providing that low level glow of soft warm light in the evenings when you want your body to start getting ready for sleep.

An off centred decorative pendant adds a sculptural element to this living room

Good lighting requires more than just thinking about the different types of lighting.  It is also about how we control our lighting. Putting your lighting on different, dimmable circuits will give you maximum control, allowing you to set the mood for different occasions.  Lighting is also a great way to zone an open plan space

And don’t forget to think about layering, balance and proportion.  Small lights can look lost in a large space, so introduce oversized lights, or hang smaller lights in multiples.  Having different types of lighting will also help us to layer our lighting, using a combination of ceiling lights, wall lights and table lamps.  Also think about the colours and shaped in the room, and choose your lighting to work with these.

Layers and zoning work to complete this lighting scheme

So that is lighting in a nutshell.  Please do get in touch if I can help you with your lighting scheme.

“In nature, light creates the colour. In the picture, colour creates the light.”
Hans Hofmann   

  • Posted in Interior Design | Comments Off on How to Bring your Home to Life using Light


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Happy 2020 to you all!  I hope that you’ve had a good and restorative holiday season, and are ready to tackle this new century head on!

Whilst 2020 is still shiny and new, I thought I’d share with you some design resolutions that you can adopt in 2020 to make a positive chance to your life, as well as to our planet, to make 2020 your best year yet.

Less is More
In a world where our seas are full of plastic, and our land is suffering from ravaging wild fires and devastating floods, it is time we all looked at what we are spending our money on, and to buy wisely.  We need to be considering quality rather than quantity.   We need to be choosing sustainability over depletion.  And we need to adopt an environmentally conscious mind set.

Upcycle and Reuse
Vintage pieces are imbued with nostalgia and memory, and help to create more interesting spaces. And of course they come with the added advantage of reusing something old, rather than just buying new.

A reupholstered chair, and a mix of new and old pieces create a homely feeling in this living room

Get Personal
Personal collections are one of the best ways to turn a house into a home. Moments that draw you in and add narrative to your space – telling your story. These are the little things that make you smile.

Objects collected over time are displayed on this mantle piece

Add Some Colour
Adding a splash of colour to a room can instantly liven up the space, giving it a new perspective and completely changing the way that we FEEL and BEHAVE in the space.

Play with Pattern
If you’re nervous of adding colour, or unsure what colours to together, then look to patterns instead. Mix up geometric prints with florals for balance and harmony.

Brightly patterned curtains bring this living room to life

Flower Power
Don’t underestimate the effect of flowers on our well-being.  Flowers signify renewal.  They add colour, shape and texture to our spaces.  They help us to connect with nature.

Fresh flowers add the finishing touch to this dining room

Choose Natural Materials
The air quality in our homes is generally 10x more polluted than the air on a busy high street, largely down to the invisible off-gassing of the products that we fill our homes with.  It’s time we started placing as much emphasis on what we put into our homes as what we put into our bodies.

Wooden floors and a wool rug bring natural materials into this space

Banish the Clutter
Clutter creates stress, filling our homes with negative energy.  There is something gently meditative about sorting through our excess stuff, while turning chaos in to order.

Invest in Relaxation
In the fast-paced world that we live in, it is so important to give as much weight to downtime as to action time.  We need to design spaces in our homes where we can unwind, relax and recharge our batteries

This bathroom provides the perfect relaxation space

Let’s make 2020 the year where we transform our homes into spaces that support our health, happiness and well-being!

“The home should be the treasure chest of living.”
Le Corbusier

  • Posted in Interior Design | Comments Off on Nine Designer New Year’s Resolutions You Need to Adopt