From planning to placement, our handy guide explains how to integrate architectural lighting design in the structure of your home.

Kitchen extension with LED architectural ceiling lighting

Image: UV Architects

Good lighting is an integral part of a successful build or renovation and is something that should be considered at the very early stages of a project. Well-planned schemes incorporate layers of light sources that can be used together or independently and, with advances in LED technology, architects and designers are integrating lighting into the very fabric of a house. 

We explain why it's important to plan lighting in the early stages of your project, the different types of architectural lighting design and how to integrate them in your interior space.

Discuss architectural lighting plans with an architect 

Illuminated kitchen doorway framework with architectural lighting

Image: Norton Ellis Architects

It’s never too early to think about your lighting plans. Integrating it into your home is a long-term investment so you will want to get it right first time. It is crucially important that all the necessary electrics are in place before your walls are plastered, and any lighting that is built into a floor will require cabling and necessary fittings completed before underfloor heating is laid.

‘Architectural lighting should be discussed at the outset of a project,’ says Rebecca Weir, creative director at Light IQ. ‘It needs to be part of the dialogue with your architect or design team. There are cost implications to this type of lighting, which should be present in your tender documents. One of the mistakes that is often made with new-build projects is that only a simple lighting scheme, often consisting of basic downlights, is included. Anything above and beyond this becomes an extra.’

Sally Stephenson, design director at Owl Lighting, recommends splitting lighting into different circuits to set up lighting scenes. ‘Each type of light source may be wired in a different way,’ she says. ‘Setting the lighting design down on paper will help your electrical contractor install the cabling quickly and effectively.’

Consider different LED lighting design options 

Recessed display shelving lit with a Contura LED strip light

Image: John Cullen Lighting

LED has opened up a wide range of design options. ‘Cool to the touch and available in all manner of shapes and sizes, LED allows a new range of possibilities for building light into our homes,’ says Melanie Shaw, director at Brilliant Lighting.

‘Use continuous linear LED fittings to create striking effects up and down walls, across ceilings and around key architectural elements. They will need hidden drivers to step down the mains supply and deliver a constant current. For low glare, plaster-in profiles make the light source indirect.’

Emphasise dropped ceilings with clever LED lighting

Bedroom with LED strip lighting on bespoke panelling behind bed

Image: Milward Teverini

Dropped ceilings or coffers (built-in recesses in a ceiling) can be emphasised with clever lighting. Lights fitted around the edge of a ceiling, creating a darkened centre, will help reduce the height of a room, while lights in the centre of a ceiling shining outwards will draw the eye, helping to add a sense of height and space.

As LED fittings are small, it can be possible to fit recessed linear fittings into a ceiling without dropping it. LEDs can also be fitted behind panelling or cabinets for a warm glow. Choose good-quality products for long life-expectancy: you won’t want to change them too often. 

Add dimension and increase height with uplighting

Pine staircase with diffused-effect lighting scott-donald-architecture-improvements-granddesignsmagazine

Image: Scott Donald Architecture

Lighting the floor adds another dimension to a scheme and can increase height and drama. ‘Uplighting is another way of adding an extra layer, whether recessed into the floor or freestanding,’ says Sally Storey, creative director at John Cullen Lighting.

‘A grid of downlights does nothing for a room. Try to focus light where you need it, so it has a practical role, or towards a feature that you want to highlight. Shadow is also important so that the things you illuminate stand out.’

Create ambience with interior wall wash lighting

Bathroom with internally lit dividing wall

Image: Brilliant Lighting

Fitted in the ceiling or the floor, wall washers illuminate a vertical surface, providing ambient lighting with a soft, diffused glow. Painting the walls in a pale, matt colour creates the best effect and it is a clever way of making a narrow room feel more spacious.

Avoid light washing windows or mirrors to prevent reflections. Wall washing is also a good way to introduce elements such as creative colour but be careful not to overdo it.

Words: Jo Messenger


Do you have any advice for choosing architectural lighting for interior spaces? Let us know by Tweeting us @granddesignsmag or post a comment on our Facebook page.



How to plan a smart lighting system 

A buyer's guide to home entertainment systems 

A buyer's guide to smart home security systems 

Kevins Column

Top self build highlights at Grand Designs Live 2019 hosted by Kevin McCloud

Find top experts, specialist exhibitors and a wealth of inspiration for your self-build or renovation project all under one roof.
Home Improvements

Spray foam insulation for greener homes

Take a look at how spray foam insulation and solar panels are perfect partners for improving your home's energy efficiency.
Home Improvements

A safe space from Express

Discover state-of-the-art sliding and bi-folding doors in safe showrooms courtesy of Express – or stay home and go virtual
Home Improvements

Green Homes Grant: guide to secondary glazing

For period properties or home's where replacing single glazing isn't an option, secondary glazing can offer a solution.
Home Improvements

How to use colour in a kitchen design

Colour can add personality to a kitchen, but for such a major investment in your home, it's key to get it right.
Home Improvements

Ensuite bathrooms: 6 ideas for open plan designs

These ensuite bathroom design ideas use an open-plan set-up for wow-factor spaces.
Home Improvements

Green Homes Grant: guide to air source heat pumps

Funding for air source heat pumps is available under the Green Homes Grant. Find out whether your home is suitable for this renewable heating source...