John Cullen Lighting, Discreet But Beautiful Schemes

by Becky Hoh in Bespoke stories

John Cullen Lighting is one the most renowned and respected lighting design companies in the world, we take a look at the masters of the lighting consultancy scene and ask the Design Director Lucy Martin to talk us through a favourite project.

Established in 1981, John Cullen Lighting can be found on the Kings Road, London, where it showcases state of the art lighting via a unique walk-in Lighting Pod and over 10 room sets including a garden for clients, architects and designers to visualise the potential of the lighting for a scheme and the capabilities of the products. The John Cullen team designs all its own light fittings and manufactures everything in the UK.

Design Director, Lucy Martin’s own background reveals she is something of a bone fide super woman, having had a successful career as a journalist specialising in design and finance, edited several magazines and worked for a national newspaper, prior to completing a course at KLC.  She began her lighting career in 1997 at Lighting Design International before moving to John Cullen, she also lectures at design schools and has published a book entitled “The Lighting Bible”.

It sounds like she could design lighting schemes in her sleep but it’s something she feels very passionately about.

‘For me the art of good lighting is to be able to deliver what the client wants,’ explains Martin, ‘creating lighting schemes that are discreet, easy to use, maintenance free where possible and that will revolutionise the client’s life.’


‘It’s a good day when they say they never realised how important good lighting design was or what a difference it has made for them.’

Initially John Cullen was a team of three and Martin is now part of a team of over 30, who specialise in top-end residential schemes.

‘We can work on anything from one small room to lighting for an entire castle, boat or small retail/boutique hotel,’ says Martin.  ‘We focus on providing individual and unique solutions dependant entirely on the client, their life style and the architecture in hand. And as we design our own fittings we are in a fortunate position to be able to utilise a unique tool box of bang up to date technology. All John Cullen designers are trained in house, so we all share the same aesthetic in our approach – to deliver the most effective and discreet lighting schemes – but every individual brings their own unique twist to their projects.’

Unusual bespoke requests go hand in hand with working at the higher end of the market and to date the most fun commission for Martin has been a scheme which allowed the top deck of a very substantial yacht to cater for landing the helicopter, creating the ideal sun lounging (with Tepanyaki bar) during the day time and enabling it to transform into a nightclub after sunset. Here is another one of her all time favourite projects.

Project focus – The poker player’s party pad

The client was young and looking to create a space in which he could entertain. The architecture lent itself to creating a seamless inside/outside space with the kitchen and garden linking together using colour, control and dramatic highlights.

Spending time with the client to understand what they want (as I often find that what they think they want and what they actually want are two different things) so an element of ‘translation’ and management of expectation is also part of my job.

I worked closely with the garden designer and client to ensure we used the lighting to not only make the most of the spaces, but also to create the wow factor the client was after. I used coloured lighting to create a strong ‘waterfall feature’ at the rear of the garden and lit the still water in the central part of the space. Creating a back lit glass ‘rill’ feature helped to link the kitchen to the garden is a gentle way by allowing the eye to travel from low level up to the  raised section of garden at the back.

I used John Cullen LED fittings, such as the Siena Grande, External Oslos and the genius 1w spiked Kew and Hampton fittings which are excellent for ‘disappearing’ into planting whilst providing excellent lumen output.

A mini control system helped me to ‘knit’ back my circuits together to create various mood scenes (with or without colour). A separate colour controller was used to make it easy for the client to stick with a static colour, or to mix the hues depending on his mood!

A piece of advice I can take from this project is, in retrospect, I would have insisted on one electrician working both the internal and external lighting. The client had two (one came with the garden designer) and much time was spent project managing between the two.

John Cullen Lighting –

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