LIGHT ME UP - UNDERSTANDING MODERN LIGHTING
WITH DANIELLE MASTRO FROM LIGHTS LIGHTS LIGHTS
Even the most aesthetically pleasing spaces are nothing without a carefully chosen supporting light to view them in. However, lighting is often treated as an afterthought, addressed late in the build after formwork and trims, leaving little freedom of choice or room for creativity. It needs to be thought of early on in the build so that it can complement the architecture and create the moment required. Lighting designers are crucial for this. French actor and director Eric Cantona said it best: “An artist is someone with the gift to light up a dark room”.
Our artist this week is Danielle Mastro, the lighting maestro from Lights Lights Lights with 13 years of industry experience. This bulb whisperer is physically unable to darken anyone’s doorway (unless of course, it needed it). She joins BuildHer’s Rebeka to talk about the importance of lighting and when devote time to it in your build.
If you have a topic or question you’d like us to cover, contact us here.
SOME TOPICS THAT WE COVER:
Lighting and architecture work hand-in-hand and should be considered together
Although usually addressed as an afterthought in a build, lighting needs to be one of the first things considered
Getting to know the client and the way they use their spaces to ensure the lighting design matches their intentions
Danielle’s 5 top tips when approaching lighting for your job:
Consider it early.
Be spatially aware. Use the space that you live in all the time, and pick a measurement so that you’re aware of how lighting will work in particular rooms/spaces as a reference
Know how you want to live and breathe in your space
Consider layering your lighting
Educate and enlist a lighting designer to challenge you to do different things
LINKS MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE:
Lights Lights Lights website.
Lights Lights Lights Instagram.
Contact Danielle via the website or via email.
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Read the Full Podcast Transcript Below:
Rebeka: Today we have a real treat, we are talking to Danielle from Lights Lights Lights. She is amazing. I cannot even tell you how much I enjoy our chats. I'm sure you'll enjoy it too. What she's going to go through is her five top tips for lighting. I guess what to look at when you're lighting your home. I am the first to say that I didn't understand how great lighting could be until I worked with Danielle. I'm not saying that you have to work with Danielle as such, but if you can take her principles on board, if you can work with a lighting designer, or a consultant, or just with her, it really does bring that experience to the next level.
Stay tuned. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have. I would love to hear what you think of it, because really, we're putting these together for you and it's all about what you need, what you get out of it. The more feedback you can give us about who you want to hear from, what you love, the better we can help serve you. Coming right up, Danielle.
Rebeka: Hi, I'm Rebeka.
Kribashini: I'm Kribashini.
Rebeka: Welcome to Building with BuildHer.
Kribashini: Our Podcast, we believe that building is fun, super fun, so much fun.
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Rebeka: Hello BuildHers welcome back. Today we have the pleasure of Danielle Mastro from Lights Lights Lights. I have absolutely loved working with her and the whole team at Lights Lights Lights. It's an entire ethos that I guess for me, once I always understood that lights were super important, I didn't understand how graced I could feel when you lived with them.
We worked together and did the lighting plan and it was a bit of a surprising lighting plan. Some things that I wouldn't have thought of or put in that position, and I guess bringing that experience to the table has been so beneficial because it's just been like a beautiful project. I cannot even begin to tell you how much of a difference the lighting feels in the space and how much it changes our experience. It's all about that emotion really.
Rebeka: Having, I guess, that conceited, at the beginning, approach to it has made such a difference. I would love to introduce her. She's got five top tips of considering lighting for your house and when to look at that. We'll get started.
Danielle: Thanks, Rebecca. I'm chuffed to be here.
Rebeka: We looked at the lighting at the very beginning and we've since done another project. Before I actually worked out what I was putting in the house, I came to you with- [laughs]
Danielle: You did, certainly.
Rebeka: -lighting first.
Danielle: Which is great. I think considering it as early as you consider your architecture is vital. Truly understanding how you can integrate the lighting into your architecture to create impact can only really be done right at the start. You don't need to have your joinery drawings in play, you don't need to have all of your colours and surfaces selected, but if you have a floor plan and an elevation, it's a nice way to start that thought process, because you're then able to consider budget. You're also able to forecast some ideas that might actually impact your architecture. For example, if we decide to light your living room with a perimeter of LED strip, it will mean building a framework that encases that LED strip. That can impact your ultimate floor plans.
Rebeka: I guess this is the thing, it's not as streamlined as, "Oh, I've got all my plans together," and then I go to a lighting consultant and you go, "Just pop it here." It's like a to and fro. It's like, "Well, I've got all my floor plans and everything together. I'm coming to you." We tossed around some ideas. Then I go back and do some joinery drawings and I have to come back again and go, "Let's finalise this point because I've incorporated some of the things we've talked about and there's some opportunity."
Danielle: Developing your education as well. Did you go to your architects and say, "Plan me a house," once and then they delivered you a plan and it was correct? Probably not. It's not too dissimilar to that. The light is a way of telling the story of your build. In doing so, there's a conversation that needs to be had, there's an evolution to that story, there's an evolution to your emotion through the build and what you want for the build as you build progresses, and we like to go on the journey with you. Engaging lighting and integrating it into your home needs to be done in a process that carries that journey. I don't know if I articulated that correctly.
Rebeka: No, I know, because it's like the last thing that goes in but it needs to be one of the first thing that you're think about.
Danielle: The first things that are considered. Nailed it, Rebeka, that's exactly right, because it needs to be raft in before plaster. It needs to be considered against the way switches are going to sit. How much depth do you have in your ceiling? What feature tiles do we want to highlight? How do you want to feel in that room? What are you going to do in that room?
Rebeka: When you do consider it really, you're like-- There's a couple of moments in these house that I've really loved. It's like the ability to-- Okay, sorry.
Danielle: Tell me.
Rebeka: Okay. I love the uplighting. There's this two little pin uplighters of the hallway arch. I would never have thought to do that. I'm in an older house. The house that we've just sold, you can see photos online if you look, has kind of your traditional hallway. Instead of just going for the broke standard, which are great, that's fine if this is what you want to do, but in this house, we've gone with directional spotlights rather than pendant lights.
Rebeka: I love that. We're featuring the artwork and we're drawing people through the house. Then there's these pin line of uplighting the arch, which is what we used for the night lighting. It's the experience of through the day, like, "What is this time?" I've just two more, I promise. [laughs]
Danielle: Tell me. I'll will go back to that perfect example that you just gave.
Rebeka: In the bathroom, there's just this disk light. We've got a couple of bathrooms. One of our bathrooms has got navy tiles and it's got a navy roof and you managed to be able to paint this disk light. I don't know that name.
Danielle: We colour-matched it. Yes, it was a custom disk.
Rebeka: You colour-matched that light, and so we can turn all the lights off and you can have a bath with just this nice glimmer reflecting in the same colour on the glass navy tiles. It's just--
Danielle: It shows the texture in the tile as opposed to creating any glare, so you can have a bath in complete ambience.
Rebeka: Yes. It's just a really beautiful moment. I guess we talk a lot about creating these moments and I guess the lights have created more unexpected moments.
Danielle: That's nice to hear.
Rebeka: What I guess I was looking for. The other one that I really love-- two more, that's it, I promise, is there's a raked ceiling at the back and you've got these directional spotlights on a track, so just track-lighting, but it runs from the ground floor over the rake into the first floor, over the mezzanine. I really love that because it really draws your eye up and integrates the space.
Danielle: Yes, it carries your eye into your architectural detail and that's something that is key to being in at the ground level with your planning. Understanding that those two spaces needed to integrate meant that we needed to integrate the lighting as well. Yes, I'm glad that you liked it.
Rebeka: Then the final one would be the flood-- Look, I love the George Nelson pendants because they're beautiful, but the floodlighting in the formal lounge rooms has these sort of flood uplighters. I'm using all the the wrong names.
Danielle: No, you're not. Wall mounted uplighters, they do flood light into the ceiling. Create reflection, bouncing to the ceiling with zero glare and give you lots of warmth, but also ample impact. The great thing about all of the things that you've just mentioned is that the day that you and I sat together, and it was the first time we'd ever met, we did talk a lot about life before we even got into the plan.
That's the key to doing what I do, because understanding who you are as a person and what your needs are is vital to making sure that your lighting design is bang on. I challenged you. I remember you looking at me going, "Did you say in-ground uplighters in the Kartell and not pendants?" I was like, "Yes." I didn't even have a photo to show you what it was going to look like, but I knew that it was going to create a sharpness in the ceiling that would give you a thoroughfare light, a layered light in the space, and knowing who you are and how you embody design, I knew that you'd have artwork on your walls.
For me, the artwork was your pendant. The contrast of having directional semi-recessed lights highlighting your walls and creating colourful moments engaging your artwork, whilst having these pin spots at your gorgeous delicate arch that reference the age of the home, and the tradition, and the classic detail of the home, the contrast of those two, in my opinion, was going to frame what this house was. It was this idea of contemporary and modern edge as well as this classic tradition that didn't dispel what the house was.
Rebeka: I've lived in a lot of houses, a lot of different lighting plans, shamefully, many of them mine. [laughs]
Danielle: You have learned.
Rebeka: I know, I've learned.
Danielle: As I have learned from you, Rebeka.
Rebeka: What you saw in that, I couldn't see because I didn't have the experience.
Danielle: All the knowledge of what's possible with fittings and that's the beauty to engaging a professional that is experienced and knowledgeable, is that I have over 200 supplies that I work with. I often akin it to going to Mecca, which where I'd love to go to buy makeup. I love going there to buy makeup because I don't go there and get pigeon-holed into one brand. I am delivered the opportunity of La Mer, and Terry, and all of these different brands that give me the perfect option.
That's essentially what we do with your home, because we have knowledge of so many products from all over the world, we look at the house and we tailor it and customize it to your needs. You allowed me to challenge you and that is also a really big factor that I really want to talk about. You allowed me to educate you on what the possibilities were. That's tricky because a lot of people, they're looking at photos and they're thinking, "I'm too afraid, I'm not going to do this, I'm not going to do it, I just want downlights. Remember we talked about-
Rebeka: I don't like down-lights, we have not done down-lights. [laughs]
Danielle: No, we haven't.
Rebeka: In lots of things, there are no down-lights.
Danielle: That's right. We've positioned all of your recessed downlights over objects so that they're lighting the surfaces, they're not just lighting spaces. Allowing yourself to be challenged and educated has enhanced your experience in the home, but it's also enhanced your experience in your new build because you were less challenged by that lighting design. We had such a fun time doing that. We trusted one another and what our expectations were. I think that it's going to be even better.
Rebeka: Given that people know lighting is important now, we all have to be on board on that story by now, surely.
Rebeka: What are the five key things that you want to consider, granted I just went to you and said, "Help?" [laughs] I don't know...
Danielle: Not at the earliest of stages, if I recall correctly. I remember it being challenging to get the job done because it was the first time we'd work together and we didn't have that chance to do it in it's entirety.
Rebeka: Over the Christmas period as well and it was crazy.
Danielle: It was, it was crazy I remember, but we still pulled it off.
Rebeka: I Feel like building over Christmas for some reason.
Danielle: Do you have a great team? There are a lot of tips, but I think the core ones are to get in early and to consider it very early. I think that primary, if you don't do that, you're doing yourself a disservice and your build. You don't give yourself the opportunity to tell the story of that build. Also, to be spatially aware, and I talk about this a lot, it's great with you because you're a designer, you're very aware of what a meter looks like, a meter by meter. You understand that in your mind.
Be spatially aware. Grab something in your home and understand what its measurements are. Whether it be your kitchen benchtop, your bedroom suite, the size of your living room, a space that you're in all the time. My tiny little living room is 3.8 by 6 meters and I use that as my reference point for everything that I do in my life. I know, "Is it as big as my room? It's a little bit bigger than my room. It's a little bit smaller than my room." By understanding that as my benchmark, I'm then able to be spatially aware and quantify, "Is this light going to be right for that space?" It helps me to engage two-dimensional floor plans which is a very difficult task for people who are building particularly for their first or second time.
Rebeka: I agree with that. I would say also go to other people's houses, understand, try and get a sense of what those measurements are, and try and scrimp on the time that it takes to understand measurements. It is years of building things and knowing like you've got a backlog of catalog of, "That was a nine-meter room, that was a 12-meter room, that was 5.8 this way." I'm drawing on that every time I do it because I know how they feel. Island benches are one of those things. If I'm able to look at a random five-meter island bench, "Is it too small?"
Danielle: It's massive exactly. Your knowledge has been developed from doing so many builds. A lot of people that I deal with have not had that opportunity. It doesn't mean they can't have that awareness though. Use the space that you live in all the time and pick a measurement, and live, and breathe, and learn that measurement. Know your ceiling height in your home. Once you know that detail, you can apply it to everything that you do. It's very valid and it really helps you to read two-dimensional plans because they're very scary for a lot of people.
Rebeka: It takes experience and it takes knowledge, but that's a great tip. Just knowing your space and if you totally have the opportunity to see other people's spaces. Don't be afraid to carry a measuring tape around and just get this thing done all the time.
Danielle: You just took the words right out of my mouth. We talked about this the very first time you and I sat together and I told you that I have a measuring tape in my bag, that I've had in there for 13 years, that I got from a Christmas bonbon. It's one of those stupid old fabric, plasticky ones. It sits in my bag and it's been in there for 13 years. I just upgraded it to a fancy little one that's in a box, but it's in my bag 24/7.
Rebeka: I am not afraid of pulling it out.
Danielle: Never. No.
Rebeka: I know 60 cm, I still want to look at it when I'm planning something. I just want to see it.
Danielle: It's so helpful to have that in your bag. It's a good tip.
Rebeka: Okay. We've got to number three.
Danielle: Number three, I would like to say know how you want to live and breathe in your space. What are you going to do in every room? How do you want to feel in that room? Are you a newly married couple that entertain a lot and want a lot of ambiance in their dining room and a great deal of romance in their bedroom? Are you a family home that requires all of their kids to do homework at the dining room table, therefore, it might need more intensity at the dining room table, but wants reduced glare in the bedroom so that the kids can have some wind-down time? Their circadian rhythms won't be affected by the intensity of artificial light if you light it correctly.
Really think about how you're going to live in your home. How do you want to feel in your space? Because light will impact the ability for you to feel the way you want to feel in those rooms. If you feel it with a sea of downlights and you squint every time you walk into that room, you remove emotion and you create pressure.
Rebeka: Like the Kmart effect, do you know how when you go into Kmart it's all very bright.
Danielle: Very bright.
Rebeka: Like it's meant to turn on your senses and buy, buy buy [crosstalk]
Not in your home.
Danielle: I want that in my kitchen. In my kitchen, I want alertness. I'd love to cook. I love being in there with my daughter and chopping carrots and having that experience. I want to have intensity in my kitchen-
Rebeka: Just not every where.
Danielle: -but I don't [crosstalk] in my living room. That's right. Really considering how you want to feel in your space, I think that's vital.
Rebeka: The house we're in now is quite large. The new house is actually quite small. Our kids are doubling up. There'll be two kids per room. I don't mind that actually. I'm more than happy to live like that, but it's been planned in a way that this system of how we live will be very measured. We are going to live on the ground floor and we're going to all sleep on the upstairs floor. [crosstalk] It's a flow and that flow that goes through the lighting as well. There's a transition and it's like, "Okay, we're awake in the morning and when we come downstairs--" That planning how you live, that's something that a lot of time and energy goes into.
Danielle: Agreed, completely. You've nailed it with your new home in the way that you-- I mean, you have a large family, but the idea is that you live together. You live together. You're not compartmentalizing the house so the children are over here and you're over there. They have their space, but there is a really family essence to it. What we've done from a lighting perspective is to give you warmth and life in your thoroughfare areas, the areas where you live and breathe in this chaos. You also need calm in there, because at night time, we don't want the kids to be chaotic, we want them to be calm and we want to feel calm, but we need functions.
We've offered you the option of both, by pinspotting certain surfaces, by uplighting certain areas, by highlighting beautiful materials that you're using, and by engaging all the beautiful natural than you're going to have in that space. Upstairs, we've been a bit more decorative and a bit softer in our approach, because that's where the wind down happens. I can't wait to see it come to fruition.
Rebeka: Me either, let me tell you.
I'm tied there. Number four. Are we number four?
Danielle: Four, yes. I'm going to say for number four to consider layering your lighting. It's to engage that emotion. Like we talked about with your hallway, we could have just as easily put the spotlights on your artwork and that'd be the only light for your home. But by having a little pin spot in ground to highlight the archway, we've given you an option that shows you the perimeter of your home. From your kitchen, you're able to see to your front door without any glare, without any really intensity.
In your en suite, for example, by having a little tiny nightlight beside your toilet, a little step light that sits 300 mil off the floor, you're enabling yourself to have a soft light in there for the nights where you might have had too many Prosecco and you want to go to the toilet but you don't have all your overheads on. However, you still need intensity to put your makeup on and for somebody to shave at the mirror. It's layering your lighting so you're not just considering lighting the space with adequate output, lighting the space to impact your mood and to help you feel the way you want to feel in the home.
Rebeka: I would say that's like having artwork as well. It's like a peace, it's quiet. Actually when you think of it like that it's quite a cost-effective way to create a different room and a different look-
Rebeka: -just by changing little pieces like changing the way you move it. I know it's probably not something I've done very well in the past, but in living with it, I think it's been really beautiful. Our kids like our hallway light on, and they're little. Everyone comes in the door and remarks on that light. I love the way that it transitions through. I think having it has been a real lesson for me, or well, actually a godsend so I could do it here and have it function so well. Then when I'm planning it for the next one, it's been so much more exciting because I know the level of change.
I guess that's when you go into a high-end architect, and look, I understand that a lot of people can't use really high-end architects, but this is what they do really well. They'll integrate or they'll get consultants in to integrate lighting, and floor plans, and everything works together. When it works together, it feels fantastic.
Danielle: It's no different to engaging the right people on your build. Having the right people working on your build as well as the right planning, it's always going to achieve the best result. Yes, the layering is important for giving you options but helping to engage that emotion. It cements, I guess, the point before and that it's great to consider the emotions, but then how do you achieve it? Well, you achieve it by layering, having intensity in areas where you need them, but also some softness for the times where you don't. That's not just by the dim-ability, that's actually by using the right products.
The fifth one, I'm going to say educate a lighting designer. Educate somebody who is experienced and knowledgeable so that they can challenge you to do different things. I mean, I don't think you would have had faith in me if you didn't feel that I had done it well and done it poorly before. I was very honest and transparent with you about my achievements, my not so great achievements. We're human, but those experiences have made me who I am today in 13 years of lighting design. Seeing the fruits of my labor, seeing it come to fruition has made me great at what I do. It's made me feel really confident and assured by what I see as the end result.
It's not just about engaging a lighting designer, it's about engaging a lighting designer that can give you confidence because they have experience and that they've worked hard to push themselves and challenge themselves, because I can assure you that no two of my projects are the same. My business partners and our other designers in the store, nobody in our store designs the same and regurgitates the same thing. Yes, we use similar products, but we're always refining and customizing our designs to meet the needs of the people living and breathing in those homes.
Engage someone that has the same love and passion for lighting like us or just engage us.
Rebeka: Yes, that's the other option.
Danielle: [crosstalk] That's the other option. There are plenty of great lighting designers in Victoria, it's just important that you know they exist.
Rebeka: Again, there are levels of projects. Some projects won't be able to warrant that and some projects will, but if you're thinking of a forever home and a home that you're entertaining your friends and your family, and if you can or are at the stage where you can put it in place, I think it makes a wonderful difference. I guess there's difference in someone who, much in the same ways there is a difference and there's a reason why these two things exist, like why you've got a draftsperson and why you've got an architect. There's a reason why you would use a lighting designer and why you would, I guess-- You're not going to get the same experience if you go into a retail store where people don't have that training. It's a job.
Danielle: It's the experience.
Rebeka: There's an experience, and there's a level of understanding, and there's a training that goes behind that.
Danielle: It's interesting that you bring that up, but also the idea of budget. I want to put out there that we don't just do-- There's a misconception that we just do high-end homes. I mean, we like doing high-end homes. They're lots of fun because there's always lots of little nooks and crannies that are fun to light, but we can provide great lighting design on a budget as well. The premise of what we do is to educate you to do the best you can with what you have. It doesn't have to be-- We've obviously gone next level with your home. We had a great opportunity to.
Rebeka: Right off the budget, this is not fair. I'm selling an over $3-million house. It needs to have that emotion. If it doesn't have that emotion, then it's just the same as everything else. It's just not that remarkable.
Rebeka: At the same point, I think every home that you're living in and engaging in, maybe you can see the different spaces that you're going to be in all the time and maybe put a bit more effort into those spaces if budget's a constraint as well.
Danielle: And considering the sustainability moving forward. I want you to remember one thing, and that is, every time you cut into your ceiling, you're making it harder for your home to heat or cool. Every time you cut into that insulation, you're impacting the sustainability of your space. What we do in our lighting designs is try to reduce the number of penetrations in your ceiling. Yes, you might end up spending a little bit more on your product, but you're impacting your overall electricity bill, because you have less installation points, so you're not paying for electrician to put 25 downlights in a room that's nine by five. The amount of money it costs to heat and cool your house is impacted as well because there are less penetrations and it's easier to heat and cool your home. All of these things are going to have benefits.
Rebeka: Also, the products will last longer.
Danielle: Of course, that have benefits moving forward. There are lots of things that we will discuss with you and then you'll have the opportunity to make the decision yourself. I've said this to you, we don't push people to do anything, we don't make sales in our space, we educate. Just like you do, we design in building our business. When we started 12 years ago, it was to educate. It was to keep lighting alive in Australia because it's an industry that wasn't being valued back then. We have worked really hard to educate the population that lighting is an important factor. We just want to tell you the story. You do what you will with the information, but I'm pretty confident and I know from my experience that you'll take it and it will impact your home well and you'll use us time and time again, or a lighting designer of the like.
Rebeka: It will impact your life. I guess that's the main thing. You're building a home, yes, that's fine, that's just a home with some products inside it, but that is actually how you live. I think that's the beauty of it. If you've got the opportunity to choose how you're going to live and how those spaces are going to fill, and whilst that may be daunting, if you can look at it as an opportunity and get the right advice and get the right help, then I think it'll be next level.
I just want to thank you, firstly, for helping me with my lighting plans, and I guess teaching me about lights as well. Look, we did spend a lot of time going through the showroom and what the different lights were and how that feels, as well as love stories. [laughs]
Danielle: We did a lot of that. Thank you for trusting me and for the opportunity. Thank you for wanting to be educated and for creating an extraordinary product and delivering. These house, it's beautiful and your touch is all over it.
Rebeka: Then thank you also for coming on today and helping spread the lighting word and give some tips about how to approach it for everyone else because oftentimes, this is the most amount of money that you will be spending. You may renovate or build once or twice in your life. These are big decisions that are long-lasting and you'll have great impact. Well, they're scary because they've got great impacts, I guess, on the way you're going to live. Thank you so much. I really appreciate it. That's all we've got for you today. You'll be able to go to Lights Lights Lights on Instagram, the website, call them, all the things.
Danielle: Thanks, Rebeka.
Rebeka: [laughs] We'll speak to you next time.
Rebeka: Thanks for listening to Building with BuildHer. We'd love for you to spread the word. For show notes, links and downloads and other awesome resources and freebies, head to buildhercollective.com.au. Don't forget, that's BuildHer with an H-E-R.
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