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Good lighting

Top London based interior architect Fiona Naylor shares her tips on how to light your home like a pro.

Anyone who has tried to settle into a new apartment or house inherently understands that there are many considerations which go into making our homes comfortable, stylish and inviting. But for many people, one particular aspect of home can seem somehow more elusive than others: good lighting.

We sat down with Fiona Naylor, founding partner at Johnson Naylor, a leading London based interior architecture firm, to talk about why lighting matters so much in a residential setting and how Johnson Naylor approaches it within design projects.

Above: Fiona Naylor

‘Lighting is so important to transform a space,’ Fiona says. ‘It’s the one thing that informs the space and affects you the most in terms of your mood. And yet we don’t seem to focus on it enough. You get lots of TV programmes about transforming interiors however they rarely focus on lighting.’

At Johnson Naylor, Fiona explains, interior lighting is seen as one of four key ‘layers’ that add up to a successful interior: the architecture itself, the interior surfaces, the lighting and finally the furniture. ‘Unless you get all of those layers right, then it’s not a successful design, in our terms.’

As we speak, Johnson Naylor is in the final stages of designing the interior spaces at Barts Square, a collection of purpose built residential buildings in a charming corner of historic central London, near Spitalfields. Developed by Helical, the first phase is due for completion this Autumn. 

If you look closely at the pictures of how the finished apartments at Barts Square will look, you may notice that the light typically falls in a pleasingly indirect way, lending warmth and visual interest to the spaces. But it’s easy to look past the lighting and see only the luxurious, understated finishes, the stylish furniture and the custom designed, minimalist kitchens. Inconspicuousness is exactly the point. ‘We work very hard to make sure the visual clutter is stripped back’, Fiona says.

Fiona Naylor’s lighting tips:

1. Wash lighting across walls for dramatic effect.

2. Try to conceal lighting where you can.

3. Avoid hotspots (uneven lighting and glare).

4. Go for a warm and consistent colour temperature.


Most of the lighting at Barts Square has been recessed, out of view. This has multiple benefits. It makes for a sleeker space, it reduces the glare from the fixture and it means the light falls in a more atmospheric and interesting way. Johnson Naylor likes to wash light across walls and other vertical surfaces whenever possible. It’s a less obvious approach than overhead lighting. When ceiling lights are used, they’re usually installed in pairs or groups rather than singularly, to further reduce visual clutter.

Johnson Naylor also looks carefully at the way the building will look from the outside after dark. ‘The architecture is one thing,’ Fiona says, ‘but most of what you read at night is the windows. You read the light coming from the building. And for us that’s an incredibly important part of it.’ At Barts Square, subtle perimeter lighting will help to make the finished buildings and streetscapes more welcoming for residents and their guests after the sun goes down.

Colour temperature is central to this. All of the lighting at Barts Square is LED, which is good for the environment and ensures the fixtures will last a long time. But she notes that LED fixtures need to be purchased with care to avoid accidentally buying lights that are very bright and cold.

Fiona says: ‘Thirty years ago if somebody said “what will the home environment look like in 30 years, let’s do some visuals,” they would have been stark, space aged and slightly science fictional. And it hasn’t panned out like that at all, of course. As we become more technology driven, we as humans are saying that actually what we want at home is a really natural and comforting space.’

LED fixtures in the 2800 to 3000 lumens range are the best choice, she says, because the lighting they produce is warmer and more relaxed. Be sure to choose fixtures which all have roughly the same colour temperature. Otherwise you may end up with lights that are bright white and warm yellow in the same room, which is jarring.

And finally, don’t forget to factor in the effect of freestanding lights, such as desk lamps or that rare Danish modernist floor lamp that you inherited from an aunt. ‘We always think in terms of creating overall lighting, but people are always going to bring in their own low level or small lights that sit on surfaces,’ Fiona says. ‘So at Barts Square the lighting’s been designed so that people can add their own freestanding fittings, as the final layer to their home.’


See more pictures of Barts Square at Find Johnson Naylor online at