Phillip Hine, design director at Cornflake, has written an exclusive series of posts for us on how to integrate home automation systems into your interior design. So far, he’s covered home cinemas, hiding the TV and smart tech in the kitchen and bathroom. In this penultimate post, he talks about smart lighting and hidden speakers…
Smart lighting is essentially the coupling of lamps with intelligent lighting control technologies. A growing consumer desire to reduce energy consumption, fuelled by expensive utility bills, is driving big growth in this market. Homeowners are looking for ways to save energy and the plethora of phone apps and smart meters, such as Nest, which monitor fuel usage are no longer seen as geeky gadgets but as useful household management tools. Smart lighting systems can substantially reduce energy consumption by incorporating various factors including natural light sensors, room occupancy sensors and motion sensors to automatically switch off lights in unoccupied rooms and adjust brightness levels depending on the availability of natural light. With efficient LEDs replacing traditional bulbs, there are new opportunities for interior designers to introduce different hues and tones, and be confident these will enhance décor and furnishings.
Lighting plays a hugely important role in interior design with architects spending more time planning lighting schematics than any other single element of a building. And with good reason, lighting has a major impact on our wellbeing and health.
The latest smart lighting is biodynamic lighting – which works in tandem with your body clock and circadian rhythm. It is particularly popular in cities where many homes have cavernous but often dark and dismal basements. These subterranean rooms are in rarely earn their keep if residents feel oppressed and gloomy there and avoid using them. Biodynamic lighting (above) uses natural daylight settings to boost the feel-good factor is a really simple and effective design solution.
And it’s not expensive. Philips is in the process of rolling out an interesting new LED light bulb offering a selection of three lighting choices that doesn’t require any additional switches, dimmers or wiring.
SceneSwitch is compatible with all existing light switches, users simply flip their switch off and on repeatedly to access the three modes, with each on/off rotation delivering a new mode. The first setting is (2700K) soft white functional lighting (above left). Second is a (5000K) daylight or energising mode, while the third mode is a (2300K) warm light mode that gives a softer glow designed for winding down in the evening (above right). The clever bulb even has a memory chip that remembers the last setting to eliminate excessive switch flicking.
At the Cornflake SmartAPParment we’ve built a realistic dining room, dedicated to lighting, to prove how lighting inadvertently affects our lives and homes – and moods. We begin tours in here with a demo of ‘bad’ lighting to show how instantaneously poor lighting ruins carefully designed (and expensive) décor. Highlighting burnished timbers, opulent furnishings, luxe fabrics and textured walls properly brings them to life; as well as being kinder on the eyes. This particular room is a real eye-opener with many clients fascinated by the different LED hues.[Photograph: David Hughes]
Regarding speakers, there are now solutions that give all-round sound but that don’t impact on the look of the room. Imagine you’re hosting a special dinner party and everyone is happily chatting and socialising. The room looks wonderful, the food smells delicious and you’ve prepared a great playlist for the evening. In most dining rooms, a speaker is positioned in the corner, or maybe two opposite corners, so people sitting close by often find the music too loud to hear the conversation, while guests at the other end of the table can barely hear the tunes. This annoying problem is aesthetically resolved with small speakers plastered into the ceiling or walls around the room at optimum points. We recently mounted 12 pairs of Sonance speakers into a polished plaster ceiling and by matching the colour of the speakers’ bezels (the front grille) to the plaster so they discretely blended in and were almost invisible.
Plaster-in speakers come in a wide range of sizes and shapes, round, rectangular or square, and like spot lights are directional so you can literally point the sound to suit your party or room acoustics.[Photograph: www.sonance.com]
Personally, I love speakers that are completely hidden. The effect is magical. Music gently wafts around the room with no visible sign of any technology. It’s a very relaxing set up and popular with clients who like a clean finish. Modern speakers, such as Sonance IS4 can be mounted behind wallpaper or a thin veneer of plaster. There are two speakers behind the striped fabric wall panels pictured below. The sound reproduction is obviously not as good as a standalone speaker but for most of us the quality is indiscernible. A slight vibration – if you like to stroke your walls – is the only clue they are there!