When it comes to lighting, we are used to lighting that shines from above, like the sun or the moon and many artificial light sources that mostly are used from the ceiling or poles. In my early career as a lighting director for movies and television we used to up light or semi up light certain features or backgrounds in order to create dramatic visual effects. Back When I owned an event lighting company in Israel, I had an opportunity to implement some of what I have learned in the motion pictures industry. Back then there was no culture of lighting for events, the little lighting that was done was mainly halogen floodlights hanging on high poles and flooding spaces with a glaring light. Bringing the techniques I’ve learned in the motion pictures lighting, I have started up lighting trees, bushes, walls, architectural features, backgrounds etc. This created a lighting effect that was beautiful, dramatic and overwhelmed people. During the many evenings and nights that I spent overseeing the events, I used to stand close to the entry to the event location and watch people’s reaction when they entered the space. I noticed an interesting thing, the beauty we created using these special techniques of lighting, was so surprising and “out of this world” that people would just stop in their place, breath deeply with a quiet sigh and soak the view with admiration. That taught me how powerfully lighting can effect human emotions. As I started designing for architectural lighting projects, I carried on my experience from both the motion lighting and event lighting and started using in floor lighting in my designs. The first notable project that this technique was implemented for was around 1992 for the Wailing Wall tunnels in Jerusalem. The effect was surprising, interesting, complementing to the architectural nature of the tunnels, warm and dramatic.
As my career continued to evolve I kept using this technique of in floor lights to accent architectural features like columns, niches, pathways, walls, arches, and many outdoor features like trees, bushes and more… By nature in floor lights, shine the light up towards the ceiling. Depending on the ceiling height and finish, the ceiling becomes as a reflector and reflects the light back to the space. This in addition to the dramatic effect of in floor lighting creates a soft ambient lighting effect. Depending on how the in floor lights are placed, the effect on the architectural features may vary. If placed close to a wall or column the light grazes the surface. If the surface is textured the texture would be emphasized, if the surface is smooth, the effect would be softer.
For a more dramatic effect, place the lights close to the wall or columns, use narrow beam light sources to up light columns and wider beam light sources to illuminate walls. What to watch for when implementing in floor lighting:
- Always use high quality sealed in floor lighting fixtures from brand names; otherwise you run the risk of having maintenance and functionality issues.
- If installed in wood flooring, make sure the in floor lights are rated for installation in wood floors and should normally have a built in thermo switch.
- Smaller diameter in floor fixtures look better in small spaces.
- Many in floor lighting fixtures can be mounted into a cement floor and a concrete pour kit is supplied with fixtures. Sometimes manufacturers will send the concrete pour kit in advance.
- Plan the type of in floor fixture and lamping according to walk over situation. If you suspect for example that kids may walk bare foot over the fixtures, you may want to use LED lamps for lower heat. Some types of in floor fixtures have double lenses and a special cooling system to insure lower surface temperatures.
- Choose carefully whether you need the light source to be adjustable or fixed. If you plan to aim the light source then adjustability is necessary.
- Many type of low voltage in floor lights require a remote transformer; plan ahead to run the wires to each light.
- Some types of in floor lights have an internal integrated low voltage transformer and regular 120V wiring is needed.
- Man types of in floor lights will accept color lenses, a nice feature to have when wanting to create color effects or just slightly warm up the color of the light.
- It is a good idea to test the effect before purchasing and placing the lights; this can be done with a light source as simple as a flashlight. Just hold the flashlight close to the floor where you believe is the future location of the in floor light and aim it up in the wanted direction. You’ll be surprised how well this will show you the effect to be.