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Aug 4, 2016

How to Light Your Home Like Hitchcock Would

When you walk into a room, what is the first thing you notice? For me, it’s the lighting. My mood instantly changes for the worse when I walk into a poorly lit space. It feels unwelcoming, even lazy. It’s as though the house doesn’t care anymore, its proverbial light has burnt out.

I get it, it does come off as a little odd that I have assigned a sort of humanness to space, but don’t we all do that? We appreciate space based on our experiences and conceptions. I associate the darkness with depression dereliction, and if you’re still reading, I’m going to venture a guess and say that you do too. So, what can we do to make our rooms more appealing. One way to go (and my personal favorite) is to highlight the architectural intricacies of my home with light, much like Hitchcock elevated feeling in his films using light.

Lights, Camera, Action!
Every area of the house is designated for a particular use, be it to eat, sleep, relax or bathe. We know what a room is used for based on the furniture and appliances stationed in the space, along with how the light is used in the space.

Kitchens are bright because we need to be able to calculate seasoning to tablespoon and chicken grease to counter space. It’s a functional space where we cook and eat and must keep clean. The living room is often warmly lit. This way we may sit comfortably in the space and enjoy playing a game of Yahtzee with our family or catching up on the piling Last Week Tonight episodes in our DVR. The bedroom is a little a more dimly lit, helping us to get cozy and ready for bed.

How does lighting design come into the feeling of our home? Isn’t it the furniture pieces that tell us how the space is used? Architectural lighting, such as with recessed, track and dimmers help us to create atmosphere. Alfred Hitchcock understood what lighting design could do in a space, and he knew how to change an audience’s perception of a character or a scenario in seconds. Let’s examine three of Hitchcock’s films and discuss how we can bring his lighting mastery into our own homes.


Rear Window, 1954
Hitchcock is known for creating menacing, suspenseful moments in his films through light manipulation. Movie buffs are quick to forget the scenes in which we’re first introduced to the protagonist of the story. The lighting is (to use an overused description) warm and inviting. The lighting gets us into the headspace of the character, into his emotional state. This is probably why the beginning of Hitchcock’s films are usually so engaging. In Rear Window, we are introduced to a man named Jeffrey, a news photographer stuck at home with a broken leg. When we first see Jeffrey in his apartment the interior is naturally lit. To get the “natural” look, Houzz suggests layering multiple light sources. Layering will bring attention to your furniture, wainscoting and other elements of the home. We can layer using recessed lighting (to provide the overhead light) floor lamps, (to provide the task lighting) and table lamps (to provide accent lighting). Layers of light create a “natural” looking light source, seemingly bringing daylight into a dark house.

Vertigo, 1958
In this Hitchcock film, the director focused on bringing a vivid and saturated color scheme to the forefront. In Midge’s apartment, in the flower shop and out at dinner, color permeates the space. To fill your living space with bursts of color, highlight a mustard, teal or sienna accent wall with a table lamp. Using an accent lighting source will bring the user’s attention to the space around them. You can also accessorize your space with colorful throw pillows or a rug to bring in texture and create mood.

Marnie, 1964
We are shown two different housing interiors in this film. One is the title character Marnie’s mother’s home, and the other is her husband’s family’s home. We see the societal differences between Marnie and her husband in the way the family homes are lit. The mother’s house is dark and sepia-toned, while her husband’s is bright and enchanting. Light and color can trick us into feeling particular moods. The darker somber home will make us quiet and reflective, while the brighter, cheerier home will enliven our spirits and bring out good energy. For a “positive vibes” space, layer task and accent lighting. This will create a mood of contentment and put you in a positive head space. If you have dimmer technology, use it! Using a dimmer gives you complete control of the lighting without needing to fill up your home with lamps.

It’s astonishing what a little light and color can do for a home. All it takes is a coat of paint and some new light fixtures to make it happen.
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