Upgrading your lighting doesn’t always need to break the bank. By following a few basic rules, you can achieve the look you want. And for those looking for something a bit different or wishing to experiment, there are a number of exciting options now on the market — think 3D printers!
We sat down with interior designer and light planning expert Gerhard Burckhardt to find out more. With over 25 years’ experience in the lighting field and as an object designer and planner for clients including international fashion store Escada, he is certainly a man in the know.
“For any lighting project, whatever the budget, you first need to take a step back,” says Burckhardt. “Today almost anything is possible, so you need to know what you want.” Things to consider include the purpose of the space being lit, the atmosphere required and the items or areas to be put in focus. Whether a family home, an industrial space or a one-bedroom flat, such information should form the foundation for any concept. “These basics help define whether lighting should be warm or cold, direct or indirect, dispersed or reflected,” explains Burckhardt.
Also important is the layout of the room and the type of furniture. “Light planning and interior design seamlessly overlap,” he tells us, demonstrating his background in two disciplines, “you can’t consider one without the other.” Take the influence of upholstery and materials for example: “Dark furniture absorbs light, whereas brighter items will reflect it,” describes Burckhardt. In other words, a room with heavy curtains and mahogany furniture will need greater illumination than a room with beech fittings and pale fabrics.
Regardless of how much you want to spend, for Burckhardt there are certain things that are always worth investing in. This includes dimmable lamps. “A dimming function maintains a great level of flexibility and can easily change the mood of any room,” he explains. According to Burckhardt, being able to adjust the level of lighting is much more important than being able to adjust the color. Here again, his interior design roots shine through: “Rather than switching illumination from red to blue, I would instead recommend varying the color of the accessories and fittings upon which your lamps are focused.”
On the subject of color, there is one part of a room that Burckhardt advises to keep neutral: the ceiling. “One of my top tips when it comes to illumination is to paint or repaint your ceiling bright white,” he says. Why? To enable homogenous lighting. “All too often, the main source of light is a lone lamp hanging from the middle of the room,” he outlines, “but this commonly leads to uneven, often insufficient, light.” As an effective alternative, Burckhardt suggests directing light onto the (freshly painted) ceiling and allowing it to be reflected throughout the room.
“LEDs have opened up a world of possibilities when it comes to design!” This is particularly the case when it comes to lamp shades. Due to the wider selection of materials that can be used – given that LEDs emit no heat – and improvements in technology, it is now possible to experiment with more forms and shapes. “Using software programs and 3D printers, I can offer individually tailored lamps shades,” Burckhardt explains. As a result, he can cater to ideas and suggestions from clients more than ever before.
Another exciting option is lighting that can anticipate your behavior. To explain this idea, Burckhardt provides the example of a dining room. If there are lamps installed above a table, as well as general lighting in the room, the two systems can interact with one another. For example, as the general lighting is dimmed, the lamps above the table can automatically become brighter, thus putting the table in focus. “Definitely something that is fun to have, but of course not an essential!”
For any budget, high or low, Burckhardt recommends always considering the long-term costs. “I speak from personal experience when I say that LEDs provide huge savings,” he tells us. Explaining that many people can be put off by the slightly higher price of LEDs at the outset, he points out that with time the difference in initial outgoings will be more than compensated for in energy savings. “There are even a number of online cost calculators that can do the maths for you.”
As a closing remark, he reminds us that “regardless of design, a tap provides water. And the same applies to lighting.” Ultimately, it is the quality of the water, or indeed the light, that should come first: “In my opinion, keeping it simple is often the best way forward.”
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