“We brought biophilic dynamic lighting into one of the darkest rooms in our home and it has completely transformed the space and how we use it.”
Have you ever noticed that you feel energised and drowsy at the same times every day? Well this is all thanks to our circadian rhythm – put simply, it’s our sleep/wake cycle. We all have a 24 hour internal clock running in the background of our brains, that cycles between sleepiness and alertness. It’s the reason we annoyingly end up wide awake at 7.00 am even on a Sunday, when we’ve been looking forward to a lie-in all week.
The Circadian Rhythm
Our circadian rhythms are controlled by a portion of our brains called the hypothalamus. It does a lot more than just tell our bodies when to go to sleep and when to wake up though – it also regulates the release of hormones that help the body stay energetic and alert during the daytime, and have a healthy and restful sleep at night. Exposure to natural light serves to balance our hormonal levels of serotonin (linked to our mood) and inhibit the production of melatonin (used to regulate sleep).
If any of you have ever struggled with insomnia you’ll know how important getting a good night’s sleep is to our mental, and physical health and wellbeing. Equally, we all strive to remain as sharp and as focused as possible throughout the day so that we can perform at our best.
Sadly, we can’t all live in triple glazed architectural glass cubes with natural light pouring in from all angles. Many of us live in poorly lit flats or in long terrace houses with no windows in the centre of them, which results in limited natural light. So what can we do to mimic the dynamics of natural light when there is none, make our artificial lighting more realistic and trigger the desired responses in our brains?
Natural Dynamic Light
Well, first of all we must understand what biophilic dynamic lighting is and how it behaves. As what we’re trying to replicate is natural light, we’ll use that as our example. Natural light is dynamic, moving throughout the day, changing in intensity, colour and it’s distribution, leaving ever changing patterns, pools of light and dappled shade as it goes.
Contrary to what most British houses built in the last 100 years will have you believe, we can not rely on one solitary ceiling light in a room to do all of these things. We need to layer our lighting and make it as changeable as possible to suit whatever our needs are in that particular moment.
Natural light varies in colour too, from the brighter cooler coloured light during the daytime to the warmer, dimmer light in the evening. Using cool blue tone lightbulbs in the day helps to wake us up and make us feel more alert, just like natural daylight does, so they’re perfect to use in a work space, as a task light or anywhere in your home that has limited to no natural light. Whereas warm, softer lighting, is much more soothing, and similar to candle light, it’s the most flattering against the skin. It relaxes you and gets you into a much calmer headspace.
The Glow Up
There is one room in our house that has been niggling me for some time – it’s our the dining room. Stylistically, it was fine, but the fact that it is in the middle of a long and narrow terrace house meant that it was always dark and a little bit gloomy in there even on a sunny day.
We’re really passionate about lighting. We have tried to be creative with it in our home, and incorporate secondary lighting in every room, you can read more about some of our ideas in a previous blog post, but, the side lamps in the dining room were falling short.
While researching adjustable lighting I came across Philips Hue, they had lots of bulbs and lights to choose from – you can dim all of the lights independently and even change the hue via an app on your smartphone for up to 10 lights per room. They have lots of readymade lighting scenes to choose from and you can even create your own and set a timer so that when you come downstairs in the morning, it’s already set to invigorate you and get you ready for the day or welcome you with a warm cosy cuddle when you come in from a hard day at work.
Creating Dynamic Shapes and Patterns
As well as incorporating lighting that was adjustable in strength and hue, we wanted it to be more dynamic and less flat. We wanted to create lighting with movements and shadows, similar to how it would look in nature.
After being inspired by the plant chandeliers that I’d seen in various restaurants in and around London, I loved the natural dancing shadows that they created and the soft dappled light. I wanted to create something similar but the room is too small to have something large hanging above the table – it would dominate the room too much and be far too imposing. We also have a floating ceiling in there which wouldn’t support too much weight on it.
I’d been coveting an industrial style, metal hanging shelf for some time but I couldn’t afford the hefty price tag that came along with them. While browsing one of my favourite brands Garden Trading Company, I came across these box shelves made from sheet metal. My idea was to connect three together and make them appear as though they were suspended from the ceiling. I would then fill them with plants and back light them with a Philips Hue strip light to recreate some biophilic movement and shadows in the room.
Adding Natural Textures and Depth
I also wanted to bring in more texture and depth to the room. It felt a little bit like a white box and it just needed something extra in addition to the lighting. We had already used red cedar slats on our TV cabinet in the garden room, and replicated that on the banister just behind the dining room table. It made sense to bring that onto the back wall too so that the plant shelf could sit on it, adding extra drama and pattern to the space and connecting it to the rest of the kitchen and garden room.
We sat and thought about this idea for a couple of months. We were worried it might be a wooden step too far (even for us) but I am so pleased with the result. It brings everything together and the whole space just makes sense now.
Whilst setting everything up and plugging it all in we hit our first hurdle. The cable on the strip lighting wasn’t quite long enough to reach from the plant shelf to the power source…it was however long enough to reach if we stuck it to the skirting board underneath the wooden slats. This felt pretty serendipitous as it was a look that I already loved and featured more than once on my Pinterest inspo boards – the icing on the cake was that when the light shone upwards, it created even better shadows than it did when it was back lighting the plants. I love a happy accident.
We were able to get an extension that very simply connects to the strip light so that it fits the length of the skirting board perfectly. They also mark out lines where the strip can be trimmed to size too, without loosing the connection or damaging the light.
The installation of the light my have been simple, but the wooden slats were not. Spending around 5 minutes on each slat, using your head to add pressure so that the glue sets, gets a little tedious. Stock up on painkillers and a good playlist – luckily Mr Woodenhill and I are both pretty headstrong when it comes to our design choices so we persisted and luckily it paid off.
You could use a nail gun though, they’re around £50 to hire for the day. This would be much quicker but we wanted a cleaner finish with no nails on show.
Incorporating Pockets of light
So we now had the focal point of our lighting design and our textured backdrop, I’d already decided that the side lamps we’re great for adding cosy secondary lighting in the evening, but in the day we needed something that feels a bit more natural and less artificial.
It was then that I discovered the Philips Hue Play Light Bars, they’re so affective for adding pockets of indirect light to a room and really help to create an atmosphere. You can place them horizontally or vertically, mount them under a cupboard or behind your computer screen if you want to bounce light from the wall – this is so useful if your desk faces a wall and has limited natural light.
We used a pair on either side of the dining room and plugged them into the dressers. As with all of the Philips Hue lighting the plugs come off really easily so that you can drill a small hole and feed the cables though nice and neatly.
They are adjustable so you can set them to give out just the right amount of secondary light and they filter through the leaves of our plants really nicely to create little pools of light in the corner of the room.
I don’t think I’m the only one that has a love/hate relationship with Spot Lights. They’re really useful in rooms with low ceilings and can be essential to use in dark rooms and in corners for task lighting.
I used to drive my husband crazy switching the spots from cool white bulbs to warm white ones, neither of which looked right at different times of the day – the blue was too harsh in the evening and the warm was too yellow in the day.
These Philips Hue Ambience Spots Lights are adjustable throughout the day and time of year, and you can set them on a timer so that once it’s set you don’t even have to think about it. It will feel much more natural and you can just set them to the exact luminosity that you like. I think spotlights can quite often be too harsh, but these work so well that we are going to change the kitchen spotlights to Philips Hue Ambiance spots too.
We’ve added Philips filament bulbs to the reading nook under the stairs and the corner lamp so that they are also adjustable and timed to come on in the evening, making the space super cosy. The exposed filaments mean that you can have the bulb fully exposed in hanging lights or industrial cage lights and it looks vintage, while still having all of the Smart Features.
And finally, the brains behind the entire Hue Lighting System – The Philips Hue Bridge. It allows you to connect and control up to 50 lights and accessories. Great news for us as we are currently up to 10 which means we have plenty more lights that we can improve and update with the kitchen and bedroom being next on our hit list.
You just simply plug the Bridge in and download the Hue app to set routines, timers, your own custom light scenes AND you don’t have to waste time at the end of an evening switching off countless lamps – you can just switch them all off via the app on your phone with one simple tap.
“We have our lights set to fade into ‘concentration’ mode in the morning, then they get warmer at sundown and move onto the “relax’ setting, through to ‘dimmed’ in the evening.“
Image Credit – The Wooden Hill
We’re over the moon with the way that a few simple additions to the lighting in our dining room has completely transformed the way that we use the space – it’s gone from one of our least loved rooms to the one we fight over the most. We all want to sit there and do our work in the day but we make sure that it’s all cleared away just in time for the evening meal together.
I hope that you found this blog post about biophilic dynamic lighting useful and that it helps you to transform the darker corners of your home into one of the most inspiring corners to spend time in.