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CONDUIT 2: Home Lighting - The Dining Room


Here's the second article for my local free magazine - being read by Les Sherbornais throughout the town and good people even further abroad!

This time out, we're looking at the dining room, which is the natural place to go once you're finished in the kitchen (though this doesn't bode well for article 3!)


Here's the text:

I introduced this column last month with my thoughts on kitchen lighting, so it seems only natural that we should continue the series with the natural step along the culinary route  - the dining room.

Of course, I do realise that, in an age when meals are too often taken on trays in front of the TV, exploring the idea of sitting at a table that’s actually intended for eating at might seem a bit odd, but I hope to jog the memory of older readers and perhaps encourage younger folk to have a go at such a nostalgic activity.

One of the conversations that I can guarantee will bring about heated debate among my clients is the one about ‘the dining table’. Is it a dedicated table in a dining room (my mother-in-law always kept her table laid for the next meal – impressive or oppressive, depending on your viewpoint) or, given the layout of many modern houses, a table in ‘a dining area’ that is only ‘a dining area’ because – indeed – there’s a table in the middle of it.

I describe the furniture layout of a house as ‘the interior landscape’. Some aspects of a home can be shifted and moved around, and the lighting needs to take that kind of gypsy living into account, but a Dining Space has an air of permanence about it (and I’ve decided to call it Dining Space because it saves having to type Dining Room/Area, which feels so clunky). Tables rarely move, regardless of clients’ imagining that tables might be shifted to one side of the room, or even moved around the house. It’s not true and it doesn’t happen. Once positioned, that is usually the end of it. My professional position is to fix that location right at the start of the design process, because then we can start to have some fun.

The dining table is not a solitary thing; it comes with secondary topography. Where there is a table, there’s likely to be a side table, and where there’s a side table there’s likely to be pictures on the wall. Think of a pebble being dropped in a pool. The dining table represents the centre of the ripples – it is the Heart of the Space; the ripples then spread outwards towards those secondary and tertiary features.

Consider how singular the business of a dining table is: regardless of how many people are involved, the table is always the centre of the activity. We see everything else in the room across the table (and we rarely look over our shoulders to see where the servants have got to – have you noticed that?). It’s that act of seeing across that establishes the ‘lighting order’ of the space. Of primary importance is the light falling across the table. If your room’s big enough that may come from a chandelier (imagine that!), or it might be simple arrangement of downlights in the ceiling. Whatever the scale of your dining table, make sure that the lighting falls directly into the ‘well’ that’s created by a group of people sitting around the table and make sure that the light is broad enough and soft enough to wash across the faces of those friends and family. This has to be about comfort and well-being; we’re not looking for floodlighting here, so don’t get carried away.

The secondary / tertiary features are always viewed as a backdrop to the main eating experience so please be careful how much brightness you apply to those surroundings. The correct balance is one whereby nothing beyond the table can butt into the family-friendly atmosphere being generated there. I like my dining room designs to be elegant’ above everything else. I suspect that most modern tables get used for everything from fine dining to computer maintenance, but there’s never any excuse to be anything other than stylish about it.





And if you'd like to read more about lighting for the Dining Room, please visit my Home Lighting Consultant blog pages HERE!













RIBA CPD in 2015

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John Bullock Lighting Design
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