Q&A with Sally Storey


We asked John Cullen Lighting’s Design Director, Sally Storey, for her top tips on lighting your home.

Tell us about your typical day at John Cullen Lighting?

It is difficult to describe a typical day as I really do not think I have one!

It could start with a breakfast meeting maybe with an interior designer or client followed by a brainstorming with one of my wonderful designers on a project. There then maybe a client meeting on site to check how a project is going. This could be followed by a presentation meeting in the showroom to run through a new project and demonstrate the effects which is so easy to do at John Cullen Lighting with the lighting pod and room sets. It is such a useful tool that brings lighting alive and really helps clients understand what they are getting!

This could be followed by another briefing meeting before dashing off to commission lights on a completed project which will go on into the evening. 

I usually miss lunch altogether as one event goes straight into another! The good thing is I love it and feel so lucky that I wake up looking forward to the day. 

Do you think you were always destined for a career in design?

When you are young you often do not know what you want to do. I studied maths and sciences and Art so read architecture at university.

This I loved and it was whilst studying architecture that I realised that light modelled a building and choose the subject of light as my dissertation. First I explored daylight and then I became interested in artificial lighting.  At this time that I came across John Cullen who asked me to help him in the holidays . At the time he worked from his flat but he pointed to a shop across the road and asked me to design his first showroom for him there. The rest is history. 

Why is lighting design so important for the home and garden?

Lighting totally transforms a space.  A room can take on so many different atmospheres simply by changing the emphasis of the lighting. It is a wonderful tool and it is all about understanding how to combine effects and layer the light. You can change a kitchen from a bright working space to an intimate dramatic dining setting; or a bathroom from a bright get up and go setting to a spa like evening mood. I sometimes feel I am so lucky I can literally decorate with light.  Whereas the interior designer sets the stage, I can then enhance and manipulate.

By lighting the garden one really extends the space out of a window which otherwise acts like a mirror at night reflecting the inside.   All this changes when you light outside.  There is this extension of space essential for conservatories. Even lighting a window box can help. In hot countries or when the weather is warmer then the garden becomes another room and should be lit as such.

Garden lighting can be magical! 

Where do you start when designing a lighting scheme for clients?

Listening to what a client wants is the most important element as every client is different so you must understand the brief. I then ask them if they have any mood boards as this helps to convey the effects and mood they like, whether traditional, modern or classic. It is so important to get on their wave length. If they do not have mood boards I start showing our own library of rooms and effects to narrow down what they like or if in the showroom do a demonstration of effects where I get an instant take on what they like. 

I develop a brief based on this that helps me go away and design based on their reaction to effects and images which points me in the right direction. 

If you could light any building in the world, which would you choose?

I wish you had not asked me that question as I love lighting so many things. I could say a historical building as there are difficult challenges as it is hard to integrate lighting yet the architecture is celebrated once lit whether a church like the Temple church (which I did light) or a Grade Listed townhouse.  Maybe also a unique luxury hotel in India as I love India (any excuse to go!)

What is your favourite room in the house?

The living room.  It is where you relax, entertain and generally have fun. I love being able to change the mood through the day.

Finally, what piece of advice would you give to someone looking to create ambience through light in their home?

Consider it at the earliest point as wiring needs to be done with the plumbing.  Use a lighting designer as they can really work as part of the team and hold your hand through the process to achieve the look you want for your house and garden.

Join us in Chelsea for a Masterclass in Lighting on Thursday 21st April, in partnership with John Cullen Lighting.


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