This recent article from GQ gives tips on how we can learn to design our personal space according to principles from our favorite hotels, bars and restaurants. It’s true that commercial locations have become increasingly sophisticated — and comfortable. But can these principles used by designers be brought to a personal environment?




Lets consider the first example they give: lighting.

The basic message is to use a lot more lighting than you expect. They quote André Balazs: “You need a lot of fixtures […] Quadruple the number you think. And you need every kind: spotlight, down light, up light, ambient. A lot of ambient light.”

A mix of all different types of light — and lots of it — can make sense when creating a hotel bar like in the photo. Not so in a home. There is a different limit to what you can put in. For one, most personal spaces do not have the room for so much lighting! But also, the relationship to light is different.

Creating a cocktail of light

However, the article is right that lighting is like creating a cocktail.

There is a formula, but it must never become formulaic. You need equal measures of technical know-how and artistry to achieve the right kind of lighting in the right proportions.

A few considerations to take into account while making the right cocktail of light:

  • The purpose for each light source in a room. Is it ambient, accenting, or for a specific task?
  • Rooms differ in the proportions they require. You can imagine that a kitchen will have more task lights than a living room, for example.
  • You must also consider the amount and type of light.

Many other elements will play a role. How much natural light comes in, for instance.

The article ends with the idea of adding “four times as many light fixtures as you need.” But the real takeaway should be that lighting is an intricate cocktail of ingredients.

Some thoughts on lighting for a personal space

Inhabitants determine the mood of a home and a commercial space determines the mood of its guests

How you inhabit a space determines home lighting. It is built for a particular person or group. Commercial lighting, on the other hand, is designed to inspire (or impose) a certain mood on guests. The agenda is different. You could say it another way: inhabitants determine the mood of a home and a commercial space determines the mood of its guests.

Keep light sources hidden

Generally my preference is to keep sources of light hidden. Light attracts the eye, and can easily overwhelm other elements of a room — perhaps the element you most wish to have the attention on! For a light source to be dominant, it must be a choice, then. So you have to ask yourself, What is the room about?

Lighting must have an emotion

It should never be purely utilitarian.

I appreciate efforts to have people think through what their home decor and lighting will be. This article is right that people should think of their home like a commercial space — in the sense that lighting decisions should be conscious.

What do you think? What commercial spaces have inspired your interior design at home?

Need a fresh perspective on your lighting design? Contact me to discuss.

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