Tips on Lighting Large Spaces

We completed a large scale oak framed church project in 2021 after 4 years of consultancy and lighting supply. Regardless of size, there are useful tips you could glean from it as it’s always helpful to see how another designer tackles a space.

You’ll discover:

Isleham Church Refectory Lighting
Isleham Church Refectory Lighting

We joined this project before any first fix electrics for lighting had been installed.

This was probably the largest green oak new build project in the UK at the time, using historic carpentry and joinery to fashion a huge building, incredibly all built by hand by the congregation of this church in the Cambridgeshire town of Isleham.

Isleham Church Refectory Lighting

Lighting High Vaulted Ceilings

Vaulted ceilings are commonplace in residential settings, admittedly not at such a scale as this but they share a common methodology.

The expanse of ceiling if not lit becomes a moody heavy overhead space that can spoil the room. It needs caring for.

Here we began with a primary feature and used the natural repetition of the purlins, where LED strip in extrusion was hidden in purpose made upstands and the client was willing to make the effort and pay the cost to install. It paid off.

TIP: Think how the ceiling will look in your space, can you uplight it from a beam, can you hide LED strip anywhere to celebrate the height?

The centre of the space would be too dim without overhead lighting, so we chose the stark contrast of a 2m diameter pendant to deliver high output light. The traditional vs simple contemporay aethetics live well together.

Isleham Church Reception Lighting

Where is the Light Needed?

Large spaces in commercial buildings require breaking down into parts that are all sensitivily lit, rather than flatten everything with uniform illumination. It would be easy to overlight, good lighting schemes embrace including darker areas to contrast the lighter ones.

The Reception area has a coffee shop style bar, we lit that deliberately brighter to draw someone through the space to the counter.

TIP: You should think about what areas need defining and should be at the top of the brightness heirachy in a space.

The oak feature columns were lit with 3 high quality downlighters on each side, highlighting them whilst creating a pool of light around each one on the floor.

TIP: Walls are purposefully lit to create pleasing surfaces that look bright and contibute to the joy of a well lit space. Left unlit, the dark walls look uninviting.

Isleham Church Reception Lighting

Sensitive Integration

Trimless LED profile subtly integrates into the fabric of the building, allowing the oak frame to remain the star of the show.

TIP: How can you best hide your lighting? Have you thought about plastering in recessed channels of light before? Can you hide strips of LED to create layers of subtle lighting?

Isleham Church Reception trimless lights
Seamless Plaster-in LED Lights
Lowered Timber Ceiling Over Bar with Track Lights

We designed a fan of purposefully very straight boards over the bar to signal a defined space contrasting with the organic form of the oak frame, whilst hiding the majority of the adjustable track from view.

TIP: Track lights are often avoided as they can be unsightly, try incorporating them into something more visually interesting that deflects the attention.

Track lights over a bar with repetitive boards
Track lighting integrated into the ceiling

WC’s with no daylight required a hospitality level of detail. Our scheme utilised hidden channels of LED in mirrors, uplighting, downlighting, dimmed to trim the level to a perfect ambiance.

TIP: Bounce light off of surfaces, especially ceilings to increase ambient illuminance from a hidden glare free source.

Isleham Church WC Sinks Lighting
LED extrusions and strip of various types in WC’s

Tips on How to Light a Large Space in a Home

Add layers of light – Lighting a large interior space doesn’t mean that you need one powerful overhead fixture. Instead, consider layering your lighting with multiple fixtures including task lighting, recessed lighting, and accent lights.

Work around existing features – If there is an architectural feature in the room such as built-in shelves or exposed beams, use it to your advantage by placing lights around or near them to create a more interesting visual effect.

Position lights at different angles – Consider aiming some of your lights up at the walls and ceilings for softer, indirect illumination, while also angling other lights down for a focused beam of light on specific areas in the room.

Balance ambient and task lighting – Layer your lighting scheme with both general ambient illumination as well as spotlights for specific tasks like reading or cooking in the kitchen.

Look for directional spotlights – Spotlights are great for highlighting artwork or other decorative items in large rooms and can be used to create focal points in any setting.

Choose energy-efficient options – LED bulbs are long lasting and many offer differing levels of brightness so you can adjust the lighting depending on what activity you’re doing without wastinf electricity

Consider colour temperature – The colour temperature of your lights can play an important role in how comfortable you feel inside a space so consider warm white leds if you want an inviting ambiance or Cool White LED’s if you prefer a brighter atmosphere

Incorporate smart technology – Smart home tech is becoming increasingly affordable so consider incorporating this into your interior design scheme to save energy and control the intensity of each individual bulb remotely from your phone!

Experiment with wall sconces – Wall sconces are a great way to add subtle illumination at a human scale, especially if you have high ceilings. Wall lights bring the focus down to eye level.

Andrew Orange, the owner of Orange Lighting qualified and worked as an interior designer in 1993 before specialising in lighting working on high profile projects based in London. Since starting Orange Lighting Ltd in 2003 he has been sharing his knowledge and unique teaching style mostly to his designer clients, offering practical real life advice born from running a busy consultancy and lighting supply business. Launching in 2020, his blog has evolved into Quick & Easy Lighting, curating some 25 years design experience into making the lighting choice and design process achievable and easy to understand for all.