17 Cool Aesthetic Lighting Techniques for Architects

Aesthetic lighting will drastically change the feel of a space, and quite often you won’t realise how much you want it until you have experienced it. It began in fancy restaurants and classy hotels which helped give it a luxurious embrace, and people have started to realise how simple it can be to recreate this pleasurable environment in their homes and offices.

Architects are reacting to the trend and considering the fact that a sustainable and efficient lighting plan is important for their clients. Lighting is a fundamental element in the design of architectural spaces as it affects volume, perception, shapes, and textures. Aesthetic lighting can also help aesthetic features way past the decorative level. The quality and amount of light also affects the comfort of your clients in their new space.

aesthetic lighting design

Lighting options

The main lighting options for architects are utilitarian, dramatic and aesthetic, all three of which can be used together if done correctly. We will explore the various techniques that can be applied to these pillars a little later on, but for now, let’s understand what we are working with.

  • Utilitarian lighting is best used for activity spaces and is often referred to as ambient lighting. The idea is to low light the areas around the spaces where the primary activity takes place. This means the feature section of the room is providing the main light source, a good example may be the dining table area in a dining room.
  • Dramatic lighting utilises concealed light; you see this when light sources come up from the the floor onto a column, or from the ceiling onto a particular painting or print. An important note for dramatic lighting is the fact that it cannot work in rooms that are exceptionally heavily lit.
  • Aesthetic lighting makes the actual light fixture into a feature often to identify a specific area.

The value of well-designed lighting should be fully integrated into your projects from the beginning to account for basic aspects like the aesthetic quality of the design and the design preferences. Technical aspects like legislation compliance and energy efficiency are also vital to consider as is the enjoyment of the space.

Aesthetic lighting techniques

Ensuring a home is well-lit seems to be the default setting for most designs which can lead to a flooded lighting layout that is not efficient, sustainable, or even comfortable. To combine utilitarian, dramatic and aesthetic lighting in an effective way, let’s look at seventeen aesthetic lighting techniques that you can offer your clients.

  1. Ambient lighting in main rooms

    Activity rooms like living spaces, kitchen and bedrooms feel more comfortable when the light focuses on a particular area of the room, often the most used section.

    Keep your clients comfortable in the rooms they spend the most time in by avoiding the overlighting problem with too much strong or direct light. When adding ambient lighting to a main room, don’t over decorate the space. Treat the light like wall art and use it wisely to highlight a particular element, or to draw attention, to a specific area or item.

  2.  Only use one to two utilitarian lighting options per area

    Provide just enough illumination to fill a medium-sized room then add task lighting to the areas within the room that require a narrower stream of light. The goal should be to create a contrast between the light in the center of  the room, the perimeter and the dark spaces in between. This subtle interplay creates appeal.

    As an example, place downlights on the sides of a sofa, or above the coffee table. This technique provides just enough light for lounging while keeping the ambience comfortable without the use of too much harsh light. The Deep Cover Adjustable and Deep Triple Cover Adjustable Downlights from LALounge will achieve this perfectly.

  3. Enhance features with decorative lighting

    Aesthetic or decorative lighting is easily achieved with pendants which can be used as the feature element in a room. You don’t want to overdo it though; we recommend one pendant light in the space as a feature piece with dramatic lighting in the surrounding areas.

    To achieve this technique, use LED strip lighting as an alternative source of light to create a more modern effect. When applied to walls they can create the illusion of a higher ceiling which is great for homes with low ceilings and feature walls.

    The goal with aesthetic lighting is not making the actual light source obvious and LED profiles make this easy to achieve. If you are looking to light artwork, you want to make the art, not the light source, the focus.

    Spotlights that direct light onto the art via ceiling fixtures which are recessed or surface-mounted are a great way of doing this. They allow the direction of the light to be adjusted but should be placed so that the beam hits the center of the artwork.

    You want to avoid the light pointing straight down as it can cast long shadows below the frame, taking away from the print or painting.

  4. Create balance with downlights

    Another great aesthetic effect can be achieved with downlights that are installed parallel to each other, 30cm to the wall. This creates a shadow effect that can be used to highlight artworks.

    This is an excellent technique for lower-budget projects as it creates an air of sophistication with a relatively simple design. It also works well in dressing room lighting where you need to introduce several layers of light. Downlights are affordable, easy to install and are a low-energy, sustainable option that many people favour.

  5. Wash the walls

    Wall lights, or wall washers, are available in various shapes and will wash light over a wall creating an illusion of a higher ceiling and longer wall length.

    Depending on which wall washer option you choose, you can have the light shine in one or two directions, depending on the size of the wall and the effect you are trying to achieve.

    In some cases, wall washers can be the only light source in a room, however, the effect is typically produced by lights mounted above, or on, the ceiling covering up to 8-9 feet of the wall space with light. It’s best to mount the lights at a sufficient distance from the wall giving a wider angle to the light.

  6. Light up a task

    We’ll use the example of a kitchen to explain this one. Kitchens, like other rooms, shouldn’t be flooded with light, but they do require a certain amount of light to ensure tasks are performed safely, like chopping vegetables.  Place a pendant light in the area where the function is being performed, say above a kitchen island, and you are achieving the practicality of lighting the necessary task while creating an aesthetic lighting situation in a high use area.

    lighting design

  7. Don’t overdo the aesthetic lights

    Keep in mind that aesthetic light fittings are supposed to be the center attention or the key feature in a room. Having too many in one room will defeat the purpose.

    To avoid this, consider the range of light each fitting provides to help determine the quantity of surrounding ambient lighting needed. How much is enough?

    Take a pendant light, for example, if the surrounding lighting is no longer making the pendant a feature, it’s too much. It’s as simple as that. Artificial light can create more than one kind of ambiance in the same space. It can adapt the atmosphere depending on the needs of the space. Warm lighting creates cozy and calm atmospheres, and cold light lends itself to mental and physical activity. This is applied to the lighting requirements of certain rooms, for example, a living room requiring dim lighting for a relaxing ambiance.

  8. Colour temperature

    You will find a few options for the colour temperature of a light, LED lights, for example, can come in warm, cool, daylight and natural. The feel of each varies significantly and is better suited for different applications. An ideal colour temperature for most cases is 2800-3000k which is close to natural daylight.

    Light fittings should be CRI95 which offer the ability of a light source to reveal the colors of objects. The light source of a room impacts everything in that room. The light source can also affect the colour of the walls; for example, a white wall under a 3200K light can look green. For this reason, you should choose the lighting elements before paint and furnishings.

    Select the color temperature you like for the space then let that dictate the home’s lighting uniform, this will ensure transitions from one room to another are less jarring.

  9. Avoid wearing sunglasses at night

    Wall washers are best to illuminate spaces at night as they provide a gentle wash when main downlights are switched off. As we mentioned earlier, keeping them as the only source of light in a bedroom or living area creates a stunning effect at night time and help your clients relax in their homes after a long day.

    Studies show that we should be wary of prolonged regular exposure to bright light at night as it may be having an adverse effect on mood and our ability to learn. It is recommended that you should only have the light that you need to be able to make things visible.

  10. Aesthetic light on exterior front entrances

    Aesthetic light fittings and exterior front entrances are a match made in heaven. For outdoor lighting, you can use IP (Ingress Protection) ratings which will define levels of sealing effectiveness and protect against dirt and moisture. For the best effect, position wall lights on columns or on either side of the door to light your front entrance.

    This will create a welcoming atmosphere while also sufficiently lighting the area. It’s important to note that exterior power sources for outdoor lighting need to be planned before the home construction or renovation (another reason why lighting design is vital for early planning inclusion). Energy saving LED or compact fluorescent lights are also available for outdoor lights to ensure sustainability practices can be adhered to.

    Exterior solar lights are a great option to provide soft lighting; however the batteries often only have a limited life span and will eventually need to be replaced. Keep in mind these are independent of the home power grid and easily stolen if in an unfenced area.

  11. Abide by the rules of lighting design

    The reason why aesthetic lighting is fashionable and functional is that it can be left on as the only source of light within a room during activities like a movie night. You can work to any budget and create a pleasing ambiance with only the use of downlights through positioning while also reducing the electricity bill.

    Consulting a lighting designer can be cost effective for your client in the long-run. Other rules to consider include:

      • Spread the light around by placing lights in several key areas to eliminate dark corners or to highlight focus areas
      • Use dimmers, timers, or motion detectors to control or automate your lighting conditions making it easier to create the desired effect
      • Buy quality light sources as they will offer a good temperature and colour
      • Use multiple light sources and layers to create different scenes
      • Direct the light and draw the eye to the important elements in the room
  12. Consider natural lighting aspects

    As an architect, you know the importance of natural lighting in the your design. This  the  the direction of fixtures and its vital in relation to the lighting design. Attempt to balance natural light and artificial lighting and use as much natural lighting as possible to be more energy efficient.

    There are some interior design rules that can help with the flow of natural light to increase its presence as well. Dark wood floors in small spaces often absorb all the natural light, or it can be blocked by heavy furniture or small windows.

  13. Different light fittings for different rooms

    If, for example, a room is affected by natural lighting during the transition of day and night it does not need to be over lit.

    As we mentioned above, it is good to use a combination of all three lighting types to create an aesthetically pleasing atmosphere. Sustainable and energy efficient lighting methods enhance the client’s home experience. It is considered a somewhat dated idea that all the light fittings in every room of a house should match one another. Instead, match the fitting to the decor of each particular room.

  14. The three keys to architectural lighting

    Aesthetic, function, and efficiency are vital for successful aesthetic lighting. There is an emotional impact that the balance of lighting and architecture will have on your clients.

    Consider how you want your client to feel when they walk around a space but remember that function cannot be overlooked. Your clients should feel safe when navigating a room.

  15. Focus on green building and sustainability

    Energy efficiency is great for your clients budget but better for the environment and is easily achieved by ensuring there is less wasted light.

    Install LEDs instead of fluorescent lighting to help cut down the wasted light and save energy. Sustainable lighting design can be measured by more than just watts per metre square. The entire lighting system should be factored in including the materials used as well as the necessity for ongoing maintenance. Green Star tools exist to help secure a Green Star rating as lighting is part of the criteria target for energy use. The only issue with the evaluation is that it fails to consider life, maintenance or recycling in the lighting installation process.

  16. Light spatial borders

    Spatial borders can help enhance architectural elements if adequately lit. If you are working with a vertical border, direct light towards the wall surface. The wall washing we discussed earlier will work great if the wall is a different texture or feature.

    Horizontal borders are best emphasized by illuminating the floor or ceiling (or both).

  17. Use accent lighting in the bathroom

    A bold trend for bathrooms is accent lighting, for example, a table lamp for in the bathroom! A sleek lamp can pick up on an accent color or echo the metal from the sink and faucets.

    This also works by lighting a print that may be hanging in the bathroom with a well-placed ceiling light to draw attention to the art.

lighting design

The argument for aesthetic lighting

You will likely have a few clients who feel like they don’t need or have the budget for extra aesthetic lighting, but this is the wrong way of looking at it. You can still be cost-effective and achieve aesthetic lighting by utilising the required functional lighting to create a decorative effect.

Take for example using indirect lighting when you have an architecturally attractive ceiling. You accent the aesthetics without over lighting the space. This harks back to our comments about natural lighting. Skylights, for example, create comfort within an area in a sustainable way while also creating a cool aesthetic at night as the glass glows from the lighting used.

Most clients need to be shown before they become believers. The LA Lounge showroom exists for this purpose, you can experience the feel of the room, and see the light in more than just a picture which often struggles to convey the correct aesthetic.

Exterior aesthetic lighting

Outdoor lighting is essential for aesthetics. Place a light source in the surrounding landscape of the home, with the light pointing upward to light the exterior walls.

This makes the home look inviting while providing the security of light, it also allows your clients to enjoy their outdoor spaces into the evening during the warmer months.

The best lighting techniques

A variation of lighting strategies is the best way to go. Sure, it isn’t an easy answer, but there isn’t one. It is case specific based on the space you are working with and, of course, your clients.

Lighting is vital in design and should be carefully planned and developed using different color temperatures. Always accent and enhance specific areas with a combination of techniques to create a unique lighting pattern and emphasise certain architectural elements. Keep energy efficiency in mind and balance the functional requirements with the desired aesthetic.

LA Lounge can help with architectural lighting design

Creating the perfect lighting design can be tricky, but LA Lounge can offer a team of experts that will make the project straightforward.

lighting design

Our lighting designers can transform any space with layered technical lighting to achieve the aesthetic lighting techniques we have discussed above and more.

We know how to tastefully light a space in a functional, artistic and creative way, to a budget of any size.

We work to drawing your client’s eyes to the most aesthetically pleasing parts of their home while also designing and handling the technical requirements as well.

Our experienced architectural lighting design team can offer a detailed, well-communicated plan for your client’s entire lighting scheme and ensure the project runs smoothly. We work to any budget or time constraints from initial concepts through to lighting schedules. Our architectural lighting showroom in Neutral Bay offers an experience of our range of lighting products. All lights are dimmable and certified to work with Dali and home automation systems.

LA Lounge offers the most knowledgeable and professional architectural lighting design team in Sydney; we can assist your architectural lighting design project from start to finish, within time and on budget. Contact us today to talk through our products, book a free lighting design consultation or simply ask some questions to get started. We can also be contacted on (02) 9999 4948, we’re always here to help!

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