Interior design requires a harmonious symphony of light and shadow

A captivating realm of design possibilities lies within the interplay of light and shadow, adding depth, texture, and intrigue to interior spaces. Shadows —the silent assistants of light— possess a notable ability to steadily and gradually unfold and transform a space into an unearthly masterpiece. Every nuance, including the unseen space between elements possess an irrefutable gravity. Shadows which often “expose absence” are the often ignored hidden gems that harvest a polished balance. In that way, spaces can unveil wisdom in the tender transitions of light and the restrained whispers of shadow.

"In my profound conviction," reflected Shriya Jamadagni, an interior designer based in Shizuoka, "light assumes the role of a predecessor, giving birth to materiality, while the very purpose of material finds its expression in casting evocative shadows. To comprehend light in isolation from its inseparable companion, shadow, would be to neglect the duality inherent in their existence—an undeniable truth that illuminates the essence of spaces. Together, light and shadow orchestrate the expressive power within the realm of interior design. Consequently, the strategic placement of light sources becomes a transformative force, capable of transcending a space from vibrancy to serenity, or from refinement to casualness." 

"Nevertheless," Shriya continued, "the potential consequences of misused light cannot be underestimated, as they can precipitate terrible outcomes within a space. A prime example lies in the improper design of artificial lighting, which can manifest in unsightly shadows lurking under cabinets and spreading across floors. An elementary rule to evade such disconcerting shadows resides in positioning ceiling lighting lower than fans, for instance, as the consequential interplay between their movements can generate unwelcome distractions. Thus, designers must master the art of seamlessly integrating shadow-creating elements while strategically placing light sources, embodying an equilibrium that radiates sophistication and intentionality."


Hakone gardens - Image: No attribution required

Designers should attend to, and celebrate, the discreet charm and inherent elegance of shadows, the compelling entities that infuse an aesthetic experience. Interior design requires a harmonious symphony of light and shadow to weave an aesthetically pleasing masterpiece. Shoji screens of traditional Japanese architecture are a testament to meticulous craftsmanship. These screens, adorned with semi-transparent paper panes, diffuse sunlight that bathes the room in an intimate and inviting glow. Such architectural subtleties show us the path to embracing the yin and yang of shadow and light in our design palette, gifting spaces with depth and charisma. Like a silent, unseen current, shadow gently flows —beyond the interior space— deep into the rivers of our psychology to produce an element that we all long for: serenity.

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Shoji screens at Tea House Shusuitei at Kyoto Gyoen Park - Image: No attribution required

"I have developed a deep appreciation for the significance of lighting in crafting spaces that are both visually appealing and practical," shared Tanaporn Sopapornpom, a senior residential interior designer based in Bangkok, Thailand. "Recently, I have transitioned into the realm of hospitality interior design, where the role of lighting becomes even more crucial in establishing a warm and inviting atmosphere for guests. One of the inherent challenges when working with lighting lies in the unpredictable nature of natural light. As designers, we must consider the materials we choose to ensure their performance under sunlight and how they cast shadows throughout the space." 

Reflecting on memorable experiences, Sopapornpom expressed enthusiasm about one particular destination that masterfully exemplifies the fusion of light and shadow: "The Louvre Abu Dhabi holds a special place in my heart. The grand dome orchestrates a mesmerizing cascade of light, while passive design strategies, such as shading and natural ventilation, regulate the temperature within the expansive dome, effectively mitigating the challenges of the arid desert climate. As night falls, lights breathe life into the structure, resulting in a captivating visual spectacle."


Louvre, Abu Dhabi - Image: No attribution required

So how can one infuse their designs with the rhyme of light and shadow? An attentiveness to the principles used in various cultures is a one step closer. Traditional Japanese aesthetics, for example, imbue spaces with an “understated elegance” as modest and graceful as a cherry blossom in spring. The thoughtful interplay of light and shadow can, like an alchemist's secret, transmute even the most mundane of spaces into artistic tapestries of crafted experience. In the quiet language of traditional Japanese aesthetics, the subtlety of a shadow is as meaningful as the brilliance of light. The two are defining and being defined by one another in a timeless cycle throughout the seasons.

“Here in Brazil,” shared Nahed Jamil Abu Shamieh, an interior designer based in Sao Paulo,” architects craft dynamic designs that imbue spaces with diverse qualities throughout the day, skillfully manipulating light and shadow. A focal point of Brazilian design is the mastery of controlling and modulating the intense tropical sun, creating intriguing interplays of shadows and contrasts between light and dark spaces. By shaping architectural elements to accentuate flexible design patterns and establish a closer connection to nature, it becomes paramount to stimulate shadows before they materialize. Screens, skylights, and other elements are employed to create anticipated shadow effects, ensuring a harmonious interplay between light and darkness."

The art of mastering light and shadow is not merely a technical endeavor. It is an exploration of sensitivity that invites us to perceive our surroundings with a more nuanced vantage point. A space becomes a pool of endless options for visual possibilities with the numerous manipulations of light and shadows.


The autumn leaves and what brings them to sight: light - Image: No attribution required

The continuous migration of light along with shadows is not only an aesthetic element for spaces but also a profound philosophy for the human mind. Life is whole because its joys (the light) are only truly appreciated after experiencing hardships (the shadows). Nature displays that interplay perfectly. A concert of graduating shadows often forms an atmosphere as soothing and reassuring as a secluded forest, highlighting the subtle yet powerful influence of light and shadow design. This dynamic duo guides the aesthetic pulse of any space, imparting it with a distinctive soul.