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Architectural lighting techniques

Architectural lighting is more than just illuminating a space; it is an art and science that influences mood, guides attention, and enhances the overall aesthetics of an architectural space.

It leverages a host of techniques – from wall washing to wall grazing, downlighting to uplighting, and accent to task lighting – each chosen based on the desired ambiance, functionality, and architectural features of the space.

With a deep understanding of high-quality lighting products and the principles of light behaviour, Detail Lighting works with interior designers, architects and lighting specifiers with sound advice and solutions that create visually striking and purposeful architectural lighting schemes.

Architectural lighting techniques

How to light walls?

When it comes to creating effective lighting concepts for walls and vertical features, or accent lighting for artwork, an understanding of some basic concepts and techniques will help to bring a designer’s vision to life.

Two techniques that are used to light walls and vertical features are wall washing and wall grazing, each creating different effects. Architects and interior designers will decide on the effect they want to achieve to determine which technique to use.

Wall washing involves indirect lighting strategically placed away from the wall to create a soft, smooth wash effect that evenly illuminates the wall, obscuring imperfections and shadows.

It is a popular technique for highlighting features such as artwork or other mounted objects, giving the flexibility of rearranging these objects without needing individual lights for each piece. Notable products include the Pintor Wall-Wash, a round LED recessed light, and the Corona Pro both offering excellent illumination coverage and flexibility.

Wall grazing is a dramatic technique used to highlight textured surfaces by creating soft or intense shadows.

It creates a non-uniform distribution of light, with greater illuminance nearest to the source and less further away. The implementation of wall grazing involves placing downlights with narrow beams 150mm to 300mm away from the wall, directing them downwards without a tilt.

Wall grazing is best employed on walls without mounted objects to prevent unwanted shadows or reflections.

Where to position lights in the floor?

 If an interior has prominent features, in-ground lighting is a subtle, yet highly effective, way of drawing attention to them.

To create this effect, in-ground lights should be positioned just 50-150mm away from the wall; the exact distance depending on the product and ceiling height (our team can advise you further on this). The result is prominent beams of light exactly where you want to highlight specific features.

Orientation is another architectural lighting technique we regularly help interior designers and architects with. It is an important safety consideration and is often used in commercial spaces to help guide people around a building.

For orientation lighting, the lights should be located as close to the edge as possible and emit a low brightness beam to reduce glare.

A contemporary, design-led choice of in-ground orientation lighting would be the Sagitta Micro. This is a modern minimalistic orientation light that is dimmable, IP67 rated, has low glare, and available in two light temperatures of 2700K and 3000K.

Where to position lights on the ceiling?

Where lights are positioned on a ceiling not only impacts the aesthetic of the room’s overall lighting scheme, it also has practical implications in how the room is used.

To consider where to position lights on the ceiling, you should consider factors such as the purpose of the room, the room’s size and shape, and finally consider any focal points of the room.

Ceiling lights are commonly pendant designs or recessed spotlights such as the Corona Pro or the Voleos Directional IP54 Fire-Rated light.

Both these lights are popular with design professionals and integrate into modern interiors. Aesthetically, the Corona Pro features a trim which you can specifiy in various RAL finishes, and the Voleos Directional is trimless which has minimal impact on a room’s ceiling.

How to maximise lighting controls?

Lighting controls are now a primary consideration for design professionals and their clients. They not only help to deliver the perfect ambiance for all occasions by creating layered lighting schemes, they help to reduce the carbon footprint of a lighting scheme and ongoing energy costs.

Popular lighting controls we integrate with our lighting schemes here at Detail Lighting include DALI lighting controls, Casambi Bluetooth switches, 0-10v dimming, and regular mains dimmer switches.

It is also important to note that by designing with LED lighting controls it increases your chances of your project complying with criteria set out in relevant Building Regulations – including Approve Document L and Future Homes Standard.

Why partner with Detail Lighting for your architectural lighting project?

Detail Lighting have over 25 years of experience in designing architectural lighting concepts. We work with design professionals and specifiers to engineer products that are tailormade for the dimensions of a space.

We offer expertise in colour temperature, intensity, colour rendering and the positioning of light sources.

If you would like a no-obligation conversation on how we can work together, please get in touch using our contact form or by calling 01908 613256.

Can we help?

For a no-obligation chat about your architectural lighting designs, please contact us using our online form, by email at, or by calling 01908 613256.

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