Design | Let there be light – expert tips on highlighting your home’s best features

As we welcome crisp autumnal evenings, homes around the country are being lit up from within as we reach for light switches. There’s nothing like a chilly and dark evening to make you realise how big a difference good lighting can make to your home. Lighting is not merely functional – it is a vital part of creating atmosphere and making a space feel welcoming. But just how does one go about achieving the perfect lighting scheme?

This month, we are delighted to catch up with Sally Storey, the design director at John Cullen Lighting, whose work has lit up London’s wealthiest homes and its top hotels. Having collaborated with Sally on previous projects, we were curious to know her take on this key facet of interior design.


Why is good lighting design important? 

Everything we see is determined by the way it is lit. A small room can be made to seem more spacious by the use of light and a large room more intimate. We can choose to emphasise and focus on what we think is important, for example a piece of art or a favourite piece of furniture or simply the architecture of the room. One can conceal areas by not focusing on them and allow other areas to be more predominant. The eye is always drawn to the brightest point.

A lighting designer can create different moods, brightness or drama with different applications of light. Beautiful fabrics are complemented under good light or lost under bad quality light.  


What are the different types of lighting?

On describing the various types of lighting we should firstly consider the different applications. Each type should be on their own circuit so they can be controlled independently to change the mood of each room.

Ambient/general light - this provides the background light allowing us to see. It could be a pendant in the centre of a room, or an elegant pair of table lamps.

Task lighting - this allows focus on the task. For example in a bathroom the wall lights either side of the mirror are the task light. In the kitchen, this could be a set of downlights over the kitchen island.

Feature lighting - this highlights or creates a focus on the main feature.  This type of lighting is often be used for example above a favourite painting or piece of antique furniture. You could also look to use this type of lighting to focus attention on a fireplace or table.

The next thing to consider and understand is the light source. There are so many very white non dimmable light sources available that often will not have the lifespan outlined.  It really is worth spending a bit more to ensure quality. 


When should I start thinking about lighting if I am doing an extensive home renovation?

It really is one of those items that needs to be identified right at the beginning of a project. This means certain decisions that you thought could be left to later need to be considered at an early stage as good lighting needs to relate to the interior.  It is not just a grid of down lights that one sees so often in a developers finish. Always allow extra supplies as it is much easier and cheaper to get the cables in at the beginning of the project than when you have finished.


We’ve read you say “light your walls” - can you explain what you mean by this?

I often describe that I paint a room with light just as an interior designer would apply finishes, colour and texture. My job is to make lighting look their best. One effect is to light the walls, often referred to as wall washing.  This can make a room look bigger and usually achieved with recessed directional fixtures like the Polespring between 60cm -80cm apart and directed at the wall.


What are your lighting top tips?  

1. Always consider the layout of the room along with the furniture arrangement - if there are a number of possibilities, ensure you allow the sockets for all options.

2. Always layer your lighting effects. Just as the interior designer plays with colour and texture, I use light to create different effects.

3. Emphasise texture by positioning a downlight or uplight close to the surface.  This will highlight the horizontal elements and strengthen the shadows. 

4. I always recommend that at a minimum, lighting is controlled by dimmer switches as this creates the mood.

5. Pre-set scene control systems are the ultimate where lighting scenes can be changed at the touch of a button. Deciding on the best technique is crucial.


What are the key lighting trends for this Autumn / Winter?

We are definitely seeing more use of coloured flex for decorative fittings.  These can look fun over a kitchen island or in a bathroom. 

We have seen a lot of unusual materials making their way into decorative light fittings at the moment. Hard surfaces such as marble, wrapped bamboo, punched metal and steel girders not usually associated with lighting, however when lit from within, they create beautifully soft washes of light.

There has also been a trend for harder lines in lighting, with traditional shades taking a back seat as linear LED strips are hidden in architecturally striking wooden and metal structures. This is the ultimate sensation in lighting design.

For more information and lighting inspirations, visit

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