Interview with lighting designer Toria

Aug 25, 2017

1. Can you give us a little bit of background on your career?
After leaving Loughborough University with an Industrial Design Degree, I searched for a lighting design job.  I initially wanted to design lighting products but I found a job with a great company called SKK in Piccadilly.  This being my first job I was given a huge amount of responsibility and the opportunity to do things that many 21 year olds would not have. e.g fly to the Sri Lanka to present a design for a new hotel in the Maldives – however that was eventful, with me losing my luggage on the way!!

I then went to work in the Lighting Department of the Conran Shop where I made my way into the buying office, following this and perusing a career in buying lighting I moved to the White Company.

I was then offered a job at Sutton Vane Associates, to whom I owe everything I know and became an Associate working on high level projects such as the 2012 Olympic Park.  I always had a keen interest in the residential side of lighting design and focused a lot of my time and attention in this area.

I then had my 2 children and decided that I could not commute back into London, so I set up Lighting By Plum in the Chilterns in 2014.

My husband has now joined the business and after a shaky start of ‘who is the boss?!!!’ it was established that I was!!! ha ha although I think he would definitely disagree with that, so perhaps what we have learnt is that we both have to be the boss of at least one part of the business.

2. What inspired you to get into lighting design?

For my GCSE (a few too many years than I would care to admit!) coursework I won an award for a light that I designed – this was the start! I have always been very affected by light, it affects my mood enormously, and I went on to do a dissertation into how lighting affects your mood, with an interesting evaluation that hinted at the fact men and women are differently affected by light.

3. What would you say is the most challenging part of the design process for you?

The most challenging part is realising the ideas and ensuring they work technically, which luckily my husband is very good at! The lighting industry moves at an alarming pace and ensuring we are up to date is key but takes work.

Lighting design

4. Is there a particular lighting designer or company that inspires you? Where do you get inspiration from?

Yes the company I worked for, Sutton Vane Associates. They have strong moral values and are ‘masters’ in Lighting. We keep a file of inspiration which comes from many different sources, architects, interior designers and other lighting designers, we utilise social media to collect images, Houzz and Instagram are great sources.

5. What has been your favourite project so far?

We are currently working on a fantastic residential new build castle.  This requires a huge amount of integrated lighting to ensure it is not evident where the lighting is coming from.  So we are working closely with the architects and pool designers to build the lighting into the structure.

6. if you could give one piece of advice to someone beginning a renovation, what would it be?

Think about lighting early, it often comes as an afterthought and it needs to be considered just after planning ideally.  This is mainly so you can budget for it properly and integrate into the design.  I would also say that any project of any size needs considered lighting so as not to end up with the generic grid of downlights which is all too common.

7. What are your top 3 tips for creating a beautiful home with lighting design?

1. A minimum of three levels of light – high, low and mid levels. This creates a comfortable space with depth and interest rather than a flat bland area.

2. Don’t be afraid not to light – only light the space that you plan to use.

3. Integrate lighting into furniture and use this to light spaces rather than just be for decoration.

Lighting design interior lights

8. What are the common errors that people make with their lighting?

  • Overlighting – people often over light spaces in fear of it not being bright enough, lighting is all about contrast and how your eye has adapted from one brightness to the next as to how dark or bright something feels.
  • Flat bland lighting all coming from one level e.g ceiling lights lighting downwards
  • Compatibility – lights often flicker when they are trying to dim or click off at the lower end, this is due to compatibility between dimmer and light
  • Colour Temperature – residential colour temperature should be 2700-3000k (warm white).  People often mix colour temperatures.
  • Viewing of light source – often the light source is visible whether it be in a reflection or directly to the eye, good lighting design should show the effect of the light not the light source itself.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *