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The Guiding Light

Image: Brick House, Architect: State of Kin, Photographer: Jack Lovel 

Every architect and designer has their own approach when commencing a project. At State of Kin, we often start by considering light and mapping spaces to create a flow of movement — starting with the exterior, highlighting the entry, drawing visitors inward and guiding them to targeted positions within a room or building. When light is well-curated, it can activate  subconscious reactions and provide prompts as to how a space works.  

Image: Brick House, Architect: State of Kin, Photographer: Jack Lovel 

The design of interior spaces must be considered through the passage of time, for instance, the impact of how natural light changes and its effect on our experience. As an emotion-evoking medium, natural light is not something we can knowingly control. There is no singular, enduring way of experiencing it. Instead, the encounter is often fleeting, fluid and transitory. However, through the use of artificial light, we are able to alter the transitory character of light and create or re-create a certain “feeling”. The manoeuvre of natural light, subsidisation of this using artificial light, and manipulation of their whole impact can imbue spaces with mood, temperature, and shadow. There is an inherent juxtaposing nature to the act of curating light. It is an active decision to either reveal or hide, attract or repel, draw in or push away. Every feature, form, and material can be scrutinised, celebrated in accentuation, or subtly concealed away.  

State of Kin’s projects often focus on the changeable nature of light, how it moves within a space and changes throughout the day, the month, and through the seasons, while altering our feelings with the progression of time. We utilise devices such as screens, perforated elements with varied patterns that shade or obscure how the natural light enters and the artificial light is emitted outward from a structure. At the same time, shadows that move through spaces and track across interior surfaces can create playful or dramatic patterns at certain moments of the day.  

In myriad ways, light can also navigate or interject movements into a space. For one moving through a structure or space, pools of light can indicate access points and paths of travel. In contrast, for one sitting or standing still, light can create transitions and disturb the stillness, provoking a sensation of movement  -for instance, as shadows thrown from figures passing, which invite a sense of mobility into the space.  

Embracing light and its intricacies 

In residential design, State of Kin embraces natural light — the connection of interior to exterior spaces is a keystone element in the creation of healthy living spaces. With garden spaces being an integral part of the home, openings that allow fluidity from the exterior into inner living quarters are often preferred and featured heavily.

Image: Shutter House, Architect: State of Kin, Photographer: Jack Lovel 

State of Kin’s architectural team uses skylights, clerestory windows and fenestrations as an expression of form and a point of connection between the interior and exterior. During the day, these openings frame natural light across multiple planes and allow sun and ambient light to enter the space. At night, however, there is an inevitable reliance on artificial illumination. 

Neoptolemos Michaelides famously commented, “There is a reason why there’s the night, and there’s the day, and we should not try to turn one into the other.” Thus, as night falls, rather than trying to mimic the luminance of daylight, we alter the look and feel of the space entirely. For example, warm light temperatures create inviting vignettes that draw one into the build and compel inhabitants to linger.  

Image: Brick House, Architect: State of Kin, Photographer: Jack Lovel 

In some instances, lighting theory predominantly applied in commercial spaces can also be employed for residential projects. For example, highly functional spaces require targeted task lighting, while areas designated for rest, play, and enjoyment often need a more curated design.  

Bedrooms do not require high-level luminance from overhead ‘general’ lighting. Instead, our designs provide one or two wayfinding fixtures that yield enough light to ‘fill the room.’ We steer clear of the static, precise and symmetric approach and it is preferred to position lights off-centred, in clusters and rows that focus on entry points, vanity tops and artwork. Then, we layer wall lights and lamps to render focused light pools directed at bedsides, beside armchairs or simply as decorative elements. 

Image: Shutter House, Architect: State of Kin, Photographer: Jack Lovel 

The practice of highlighting significant walls and architectural features also doubles as a wayfinding mechanism. State of Kin tends to shy away from washing transitional and open areas with ambient light. Alternatively, our approach treats passages and hallways as galleries – not as ‘in-between’ spaces, but as an integral element of ones’ journey that connects and extends throughout the home. Imagine brightness at the end of a hallway, top or bottom of a staircase, or entry point to a room. These touches of light help guide inhabitants along the travel path, informing them of the entrances or exits and simultaneously guiding clusters of visitors towards specific areas to view artworks.  

The challenge of open plan: mood vs function 

A kitchen requires task lighting to accommodate cleanliness, accuracy and efficiency in the preparation of food. Worktop surfaces must be adequately lit. Most kitchens are the central hub of contemporary residences, which is why a layered lighting approach is ideal when designing kitchen spaces. In an open-plan home with conjoined kitchen, living and dining spaces, the kitchen’s task light mustn’t be too abrasively vibrant as to disturb the atmosphere of the space as a whole. 

With a targeted lighting scheme, fixtures are independent of others and limited to their designated worktop surfaces or function ‘zones’. This ensures that the open-plan layout can remain subtly illuminated with a calming atmosphere, perfect for relaxation and entertainment, yet functional when required.  

Not everyone gets it right 

We all know the feeling of walking into an overlit space — flooded with artificial light from above. Supermarkets are a notorious culprit. No one looks good! We don’t linger to soak up the atmosphere in a supermarket. We simply purchase what we need and get out of there quickly. Translate this lighting design into a restaurant setting, and it can be too bright thus feel clinical. However, the converse might be too dim, making the atmosphere feel dirty or grimy. 

Lighting in the commercial space 

When creating lighting strategies for commercial projects, we take the same approach as designing residentially — establishing the intended mood and feeling and comprehensively calculating the technical aspects. Again, the interaction of light and shadow provide a visual relief and create interest within an environment. 

Creating zones of light and shadow that correspond with the activities taking place can be a powerful apparatus in a designer’s toolbox. For instance, using light to highlight points-of-sale or service zones in a retail or hospitality fitout can give visitors subtle directional cues that are much more sophisticated than signage. Whether it is an overhead illumination that creates a focus of light on the counter, a decorative pendant that hangs above, or a change in colour temperature, these visual cues will subconsciously be received and interpreted by visitors. 

Image: Stables, Architect: State of Kin, Photographer: Jack Lovel 

In a wellness space, the overall mood of the building is one of comfort, safety and calm. As a concept, daylight is intrinsically linked to ‘wellness’. While this should be embraced and utilised where possible, there is also a need for more subdued and dimly illuminated scenarios. In this type of wellness space fitout, controlled lighting is essential. Lighting is integral for practitioners to observe their patients, equipment and ingredients accurately. While also considering that the person receiving treatments will be more comfortable and relaxed in a space that isn’t overly bright or lit from overhead. 

Unlike the intended moods of wellness spaces, offices require overall brighter light configurations that adequately illuminate worktop surfaces. There are considerations of lighting types and positions that can limit glare on screens, prevent eye fatigue and overall discomfort. Layering light throughout the office can create the optimum working environment. Natural light ingress should be supplemented and balanced with a combination of ambient, accent and task lighting. In workstations, the lighting scheme should be relatively uniform. Communal breakout spaces, passageways, and other supplementary areas may benefit from indirect lighting configurations. This atmosphere diverges from the utilitarian lighting, which signifies a place of rest or rejuvenation, or simply a place to reflect from a different perspective. 

With commercial spaces overall, there are considerations of lighting control and automation. Technology has advanced in lighting, allowing centralised control of luminaires. With a programmable automation control system, office lighting can follow natural circadian cycles with gentle shifts of colour temperatures throughout the day. The possibilities are endless! 

All-encompassing sensory stimulus 

Whether residential or commercial, State of Kin distributes light strategically through spaces, delivering on the desired intent for our client and project. We provide a consistent visual story with repeated form or materiality that ties spaces together. For something more avant-garde, we use decorative fittings that are excellent sources of illumination and provide texture, colour and shape to a room. These decorative fittings are never used flippantly; they are essential components that anchor the room, telling a story of aesthetic coordination. Likewise, light and shadow are significant vernacular features within space, aiding in expressing colour, texture and mood.  

The importance and impact of lighting on architecture and interior design are imperative. The function of light is to not only provide practical illumination but to make the space usable while creating mood and atmosphere. A building and its subsequent spaces are considered opportunities for the composition of an experience. The all-encompassing sensory stimulus of light can evoke emotion in the humans who encounter it. 

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