In my own experimentation, I have seen that a simple adjustment in lighting can dramatically alter the look of a room. Simply changing light bulbs and seeing how the quality of the new light interacts with the flooring, paint, and furnishings of the space has taught me a lot. For a long time I’ve wanted to investigate lighting design, and have been searching for a book that would give me what I need to deepen my understanding. This book is definitely what I was looking for.
Author Lucy Martin, an award-winning British lighting designer, provides a gold mine of instruction, ranging from fundamentals to specific situations. Concise, clear text, lavishly illustrated with photographs, gets every point across. The images she uses aren’t just design porn; they illustrate the lighting concepts the author explains in the text. Floor plans of some of the rooms in the photographs show where every light is, and the layer that it belongs to. Photo sequences that show the same room, but with different layers of lights turned on, provide powerful examples of her ideas at work. And while this book does have hundreds of gorgeous pictures, the real value is in the expertise that Martin passes to the reader. From how light behaves to when to use the different lighting products available to techniques that work for the different requirements of every kind of room in the home, Martin covers all the bases and makes you feel like you understand how lighing strategies work.
One of the best features of this book is that Martin goes into the specifics for every different kind of room, and for the different functions for each room. Martin clearly understands that we use rooms for multiple purposes. For example, a kitchen needs good task lighting, but positioning the light is key: the author points out that over lighting one area of the room may cast shadows in others where you are working. You also need to consider the atmospheric lighting needs as well – many of us socialize in the kitchen. When getting a drink of water in the middle of the night, you don’t need the light of a thousand suns, so a layer of low-level lights can be mercifully restrained yet will allow you do what you came to the room to do.
Although Martin designs for luxury homes, as the elegant architecture in the photographs remind us, she doesn’t forget that most of her readers will be in more modest accommodations. An entire chapter called “Making the Most of What You’ve Got” provides tips for renters or others who are not in a position to do the advanced construction and wiring projects it would take to bring your space up to the level of the houses the photos depict. Window treatments, changing lamp shades, and adding additional plug-in uplights and spotlights can all help. The author teaches us that using light well will make the most of any decor scheme, no matter how modest. Highlighting room features and creating effective interplay between shadow and light can make any room come alive.
I can’t say enough about how inspiring this book is – even if it shows me how far I still have to go! I know that I will be consulting this book again and again with every new renovation project that I start.
by Jennifer Priest
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Update February 11, 2012: Here’s an interview with Lucy Martin, posted recently on Freshome.