27 Jul 2017

Shining a light on a remarkable home

When Hazel Park, Lighting Designer at John Cullen Lighting, was approached to explore a lighting scheme for an architect’s London home, she knew the result would be extraordinary. Here, Hazel talks i-build through the outstanding project.


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When Sally and I met with Founding Partner of Michaelis Boyd Associates, Alex Michaelis, to discuss the lighting for his London home, we could instantly see that it was going to be an exceptional project. The architectural design was formed by two separate curved buildings connected by sculpted staircases and included plenty of fun features, such as a fireman’s pole into the kitchen and a slide into the entrance hall. It was important to ensure that we imitated these playful elements within the lighting design scheme to stay in keeping with the style of the house.


During the daytime, there is plenty of natural light which flooded through the large skylights in the kitchen, vast spherical windows on the upper floors and multiple Crittall doors surrounding the entrance hall and open-plan living area. In the evenings it was important that we applied clever lighting solutions to prevent the space from feeling cold and dark when all this glass would reflect the interior light and act as a mirror at night.

One way we achieved this was by adding light to the upstands of the skylights. We routed into the plaster itself to conceal our ContourHD24 LED strips which created a warm band of light that wrapped all the way around the skylights and added ambience and depth in the evenings. Furthermore, we also concealed LED strips in the living room skylights (down one side of the room) to connect the two rooms and create a soft, indirect high-level glow that imitates the light of a sunset pouring through the glass. To ensure that the space felt cosy and inviting, we only specified LEDs that had a warm colour temperature (mainly 2700 and 2400 kelvin), opposed to LEDs with a higher kelvin rating which often have colder underlying blue tones.

We recessed miniature, low-glare luminaires, called Luccas, in the floor to uplight the large window and door reveals. These tiny one-watt fittings have a very low energy consumption and last 50,000 hours, which is fantastic in this lighting scheme as the lamps will rarely need to be changed. These fittings have been used to highlight the texture of the brickwork beautifully and frame the glass panels to lead your eye out into the external pool area.

Ground floor control

In the open-plan area, a simple Lutron control system was used to allow the client to program individual scenes for different times of the day. In the day-time scene when there is a lot of natural light, our recessed downlights add a boost of illumination to the space and provide functional task lighting in the kitchen. We specified our Square Trimless downlights for a contemporary feel and tilted these to light artwork, kitchen units and worktop surfaces for a soft, reflected general light. In the evening scenes, we dimmed the downlights and introduced low-level lighting effects for ambience and atmosphere. A recessed Contour LED strip grazes the wall behind the banquette for a warm wash of light, a glow underneath the kitchen island creates a floating effect and we backlit a marble sculpture to make it a focal point.

External space

We wanted to make the external space on the ground floor feel like an extra room adding grandeur to the space, so we added feature uplighting around the pool to illuminate the stunning volcanic tiles to draw your eye out. We also carefully arranged spiked spotlights, a mixture of Hamptons and Kews, in the planters to accentuate the trailing wall plants making them appear like organic sculptures in the evenings. External, surface-mounted wall downlights were positioned at the end of the pool to act as a focal point and skim light down the grainy wooden panels. We specified these in copper which would oxidise in the weather over time to give a wonderful industrial feel.

Fun features

One aspect of Alex’s house that we loved was the curved architecture and winding narrow hallways on the upper floors. With few places to hang paintings in these areas, the lighting was so important and really acted as artwork itself to make the corridors come alive. We scattered Manhattan floor washers along the walls for regimented horizontal forms of light to guide you down the passageway. As you continue your journey down the corridor, you are led up the winding spiral staircase lit by miniature Luccinis that graze every step. For additional drama in the passageways, in contrast to the horizontal direction of the floor lights, Luccas, recessed into the window sills, throw light vertically up onto the ceiling and accentuate the architectural curves.

It was really important to us that we kept the transitions between areas fresh, interesting and fun, so we introduced colour onto the connecting staircase between the two buildings. Contour RGB LED strip boldly folds up the sides of the steps and the colour can be adjusted by the client via remote control for flexibility. For a busy, social household like Alex’s, colour-changing lighting is a very effective tool for creating different atmospheres and can also inject a bit of fun for party events.


Most of the bathrooms have curved walls, therefore good lighting is essential to make these spaces feel larger. We carefully positioned small, round low-glare downlights around the perimeter of the room and directed the light onto the tiles to push the walls out to make the space feel bright. Here we used the Aquabeam, with a high IP rating for wet areas like in the shower, and low-glare Polesprings everywhere else. All of the downlights chosen have a good Colour Rendition Index of 93 CRI, which ensures that the light source accurately renders the colours of the tiles so they are vivid and true to life. To provide effective task light to the mirrors, downlights are directed to highlight the basins and wall lights are set at eye level to give good illumination to the user’s face. In the master en-suite, we added a touch of glamour to mirrors by detailing a soft halo effect as a backlight. Low wattage floor washers and window uplights were put on motion sensors to act as nightlights.

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