2021, blog, Design, November

How to Use Light and Shadow in Interior Design

How to Use Light and Shadow in Interior Design

Good lighting design is the cornerstone of every great interior design project. How light sources are placed has the potential to completely transform a space, from bright and airy to cosy and intimate, or from quiet and elegant to powerful and energetic – talk about seeing things in a different light!

But one can’t consider light without also considering shadow, which is the other side of the coin that cannot be ignored. Besides providing relief and comfort, shadows also play a role in defining the depth perception of a space. Juhani Pallasmaa, former professor of architecture at Helsinki University of Technology, notes in his essay Dwelling in Light: “Light and its accompanying shadow give volumes, surfaces, and spaces their character and expressive power.”

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Taking cues from the philosophy of yin and yang, the relationship between light and shadow in your space can create harmony in design. Here are some of our tips on how you can make use of light and shadow to create truly spectacular spaces:

Woman at a window with blinds

1. Use blinds instead of curtains

While curtains are great for material texture, blinds are far superior for directly controlling the amount of natural light that enters into a space – not to mention, the slatted lines cast horizontal shadows inwards, which can introduce visual texture to plain surfaces, giving them a dynamic and three-dimensional feeling as the position of the light and shadow changes across the course of the day.

While bamboo or timber venetian blinds have a natural and classy look to them, fabric blinds tend to be more lightweight and can sport custom designs, from patterns to floral motifs, giving you something interesting to look at when the blinds are pulled down.

2. Make use of subtle textures

A plain, uniform surface may not be very interesting to look at. But with the inclusion of subtle textures, such as those on wood-effect surfaces like ZR Barnwood and Softwood, light can cast subtle shadows that increase the experience of depth within the space, which creates a sense of interiority to the otherwise flat surfaces and enhances them with dynamism.

Besides wall textures, lamp or windows shades adorned with patterns can also cast interesting shadows, which creates a sense of whimsy and mystery to an otherwise utilitarian addition.

Chairs propped against a corner
Beam of light shines on a man in a large room

3. Play with indirect light

Direct light, such as ceiling-recessed downlights, are great for clarity and focus, and would typically be preferable for spaces where work is done, such as an office or a kitchen. In other spaces, however, you might consider indirect light to create ambience instead, which adds an extra dimension of sophistication and emotion.

For outdoor settings such as shopping malls and historic buildings, the use of accent lights to illuminate building facades can also imbue it with a “wow” factor, adding to the grandeur of these structures – doubly so when they get to play off natural stone surfaces such as Pedregal’s unique Ceppo di Gré look. By highlighting only certain areas, the other parts hidden in shadow add a sense of mystery which elevates the whole look.

4. Consider glass rooftops for outdoor areas

For outdoor areas, a glass rooftop could be the way to go to take control of the level of illumination it receives. Particularly in tropical climates, the late morning and afternoon sunlight can often be so bright that it can be difficult to enjoy your time outdoors – which is where glass comes in! By adjusting the transparency (or opacity) of the glass, you can take control over how much light gets through, giving you the perfect spot to enjoy an afternoon tea or reading session.

A glass dome over an indoor garden

5. Create different zones within a space

Conventionally, to separate a large space into zones, you might consider setting up partitions or arrange furniture to mark where one zone ends and another one begins. But how about defining these zones through light and shadow?

With artificial light, a change in the brightness or the way a zone is lit can subtly indicate different zones – think about how high-end restaurants make use of narrow spotlights and tabletop light sources to give each table a sense of privacy and isolation from the other tables, even though they all exist within the same open space. When it comes to tiles, you can also consider how glossy surfaces, which reflect more light, can be differentiated from matt or structured surfaces tiles like Legacy that tend to absorb light instead.

To wrap it up, the interplay of contrasts is a sure way to increase the aesthetic value of a space – and the contrast of light and shadow is a phenomenon as old as time. Try it for yourself and see what interesting looks you can create.

Have a chat with our designers for customised solutions.

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