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Rebecca Hughes
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Interview with Lighting Designer Hazel from John Cullen

There aren't many people in the industry who's opinion on lighting we trust more that Hazel Park from John Cullen. She combines this expertise with an extensive knowledge of interior architecture in order to get the best out of a space both aesthetically and atmospherically. She most notably helped us with lighting the entrance hall of one of our favourite project's from last year, a large country estate in Oxfordshire. 

1. Can you tell us a little about yourself and what it is you do?

I am a full-time lighting designer at John Cullen and I specialise in deigning interior and exterior residential lighting schemes for both new and existing properties. Using a range of discreet, low glare John Cullen products, I am able to transform dark, lifeless and uninviting residential spaces into areas of interest by layering different lighting effects to create different levels of mood lighting.

2. What attracted you to the lighting design industry?

After studying interior design at university, I discovered I had a passion for lighting design. It completely changes the feel of the space, especially in the evenings! Lighting design is all about accentuating and highlighting important features in a room and it definitely adds another dimension to an interior.

3. What is the most common issue or space clients come to you for help with?

Clients often require assistance on open-plan spaces such as kitchen/living/dining rooms, which can be tricky to light! For example, a kitchen requires bright, practical and functional task lighting for everyday cooking and cleaning, whereas a living room needs to feel warm, cosy and relaxing. The challenge is to bring a sense of balance to the overall space and to create a rhythm between the individual areas to guide you around the space using lighting. Colour consistency throughout the whole room is very important and I use LEDs with a colour temperature of 2400 or 2700 Kelvin; these are perfect colour temperatures to use in residential environments, as they feel warm and inviting with no underlying blue tones. They are also energy efficient which is a fantastic way of keeping running costs down! Circuiting also plays a critical part in a lighting scheme. When sat in your living room in the evening, you don’t want your kitchen to feel like a dark hole when all of your kitchen lights are turned off! By treating the room as one space and circuiting effects together across the different areas, I can create a feeling of balance. This might be achieved by recessing small 1 watt LED uplights (like the John Cullen Lucca) into the windowsills in both your living room and kitchen room which will look like candles in the evening. Alternatively, you could add ambience to your kitchen by placing decorative pendants over the island for a soft evening glow and a concealed LED strip under a breakfast bar on a separate circuit for low level mood lighting. I always put everything on a dimmer and often suggest using a one-room control system for open-plan spaces. These allow the client to pre-program different lighting scenes for different times of the day without having too many switches on the wall.

4. What has been the highlight of your career so far?

Working with a top architect on his home in South West London was a highlight for me- the property had lots of fun features including a fireman’s pole, slide, curved walls, colour changing LED strips on the stairs for a party scene. Another highlight in my career was working on a residential Grade 2* Listed property with beautiful original Georgian architraves, archways and a stunning winding staircase. It is wonderful to experience so much variety that comes with a career in lighting!

5. Are there any important differences between lighting different areas of a house?

Every room has a different function and it is essential to understand how the client uses the space in order to light it accordingly. Certain rooms may have lots of natural daylight and therefore may not need as many lights compared to a room in a basement where there is no or little natural light.

6. As we all know, Halogens are being phased out over then next couple of years. What are your thoughts on the move to LED?

With building regulations stating 75% of new lighting going into a property must be energy efficient, LEDs are an important tool for lighting designers and clients.

Clients should look for the following in LEDs:A warm colour temperature, typically 2400 Kelvin/ 2700 Kelvin for residential.A high CRI (colour rendering index) to ensure that the light source accurately renders colours in your home so they seem vivid and true to life. An LED with a poor CRI (85 or lower), commonly found in cheaper LEDs, can distort the colours in artwork, fabrics and finishes more than an LED with a high CRI. In particular, red colours can seem very flat and lifeless when lit using an LED with low CRI. All of the John Cullen downlights are tested against the full range of 17 colours set out in the CRI standard to ensure quality across all colours. We have a colour rendering index of 90+ therefore your artwork will be shown for its truest colour.

A fitting with low glare. If an LED has a shallow baffle so the LED chip (light source) is close to the surface, the fitting will appear very glary which puts strain on your eyes and draws attention. John Cullen downlights have a deep baffle so the LED chip is hidden from view and we also paint the baffle black inside to absorb excess glare to make for a very discreet spotlight.

7. Do you have any advice for this transition period for people who may not be able to do it all at once?

I would advise first focusing on the main areas of your house that are used frequently and will benefit most from having more energy efficient lighting. Clients should install “dedicated LEDS” which will have the best dimming performance. For rooms that aren’t ready to be redecorated yet, clients could temporarily use retrofit LED lamps that will fit into old halogen fittings. It is important to check the compatibility between the lamp, existing transformer and dimmer to prevent flickering or reduced dimming ranges.

8. In your experience what lighting is the most important to invest in? And what rooms do you recommend paying the most attention to?

The main rooms I would invest in would be hallways, kitchens and reception rooms that are used frequently. I would coincide updating your lighting at the same time that your rooms are being redecorated.

9. What are the most difficult spaces to light you have come across?

Grade listed buildings are particularly difficult to light as there are sometimes restrictions on where new lighting and new wiring can be added. In the past, I have used wireless control systems to reduce the amount of wiring required and to limit the damage to the walls. Furthermore, some listed properties have a lot of cornicing and pillars that cannot be touched, so the designer needs to think of clever ways to get lighting in. At a stately home in Oxfordshire, I asked the carpenter to make small boxes that could be placed at high level on top of the coving to house small 1 watt LED uplights (John Cullen Luccinis) to illuminate the archways. I also placed discreet LED strips on top of the Georgian cornicing to create an indirect ambient light to the ceiling to brighten the whole space.

10. Are there any new trends in lighting that we should be aware of?

New trends for clients to look out for would be the miniatursation of most fittings within residential. The smaller the light, the less I noticeable it becomes so your eye is drawn to the important furniture being lit in your space. Another trend would be using Smart devices to control your lighting within your home.

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