An illuminating Transformation
James Fielding was born and grew up in the Republic of South Africa until his parents immigrated to the UK. Believing a career in fitness lay ahead, James studied Sports Biomedicine and Nutrition at university in Cardiff.
“I became a qualified personal trainer only to fall out of love with the industry,” James reflects. After that and several career changes including being a London recruitment consultant and a land surveyor, James met his now wife, Victoria who encouraged him to become an electrician. “Being an older apprentice, I paid for a fast-track course at Clarkson Evans which is where I got my first real taste of electrical work. After a three month temporary contract, I did another short stint with a Gloucestershire firm called G-Tech. From there I joined K2 Electrical, and finally joining David R Electrical in November 2015. In 2018 David made me a partner in the business with the company rebranding as Astra Lumos in November 2021.
“We have been installing high-end lighting designs integrated with control systems since 2014 and although we have been doing lighting design alongside this, until our rebrand, we haven’t advertised this fact. With our new name and branding we are making waves and our existing clients have really encouraged us.”
Astra Lumos cover all aspects of electrical installations, but since coronavirus and lockdown, James has noticed a significant rise in requests for garden lighting. “This surge has given us the opportunity to really perfect the best installation methods for external lighting, allowing us to give customers assurances on the longevity of our projects.
“With the whole country being forced to spend more time at home, and in their own gardens, people have really started to appreciate just what an impact garden lighting can have. We think gardens should not just be reserved for enjoying during the day - in fact, they come into their own at night! Light added to your garden is a great way to ‘extend’ the space from your home to the outside, creating an additional ‘room.’ You can easily add task lighting, spotlight features such as ponds, sculptures and statues, as well as creating a soft, cosy feel that means you can use your garden all year round.
“The right lighting can illuminate your garden, adding a soft glow which brings to life an almost ethereal and magical space you can enjoy well into the night. From creating a safe path through the garden to highlighting textures and features, lighting can add both beauty and function to your outdoor space.”
Having completed work for celebrities such as Prue Leith and Judy Craymer, Astra Lumos have, as one would expect, exceptionally high standards and expertise that has led to many very high-end projects. “One of our favourite projects and subsequent clients was a project called Strawberry Barn. “We priced a renovation project that included a Dynalite control system, but after the meeting with the client, he let us know that we had not won the project as his builder’s electrician would be doing the install. Fast forward four months and we get a call from both the designer and the client saying the current electrician had walked off site and would not be coming back. “After spending two weeks working through the control cupboard and checking/ re-labelling every cable, we were able to pick the project back up and get the clients in before Christmas. They have since become good friends and we have continued working with them ever since.”
Lighting can completely change the ambience of a room and affect all aspects of the space, James says. “From altering the colours of the soft furnishings, to changing the energy of the room, lighting is a hugely important aspect of interior and exterior design. A way in which we’re really able to transform a room is by layering light with multiple circuits in the same room.
“For example, in a kitchen we would usually have five different lighting circuits, allowing us to utilise the space for a huge range of different activities. These would include; Task lighting (spot lights on the work top; Island/Dining area pendant (direct light over island or dining area); Under cupboard lighting (can be relaxed warm light for mood/ useful lighting); Low level ambience lighting (often on a motion sensor); In cupboard lighting (often on small proximity sensors); From these circuits we can then combine them in different ways to create different types of ‘Scenes,’ such as dining, relaxing, eating and cooking.”
One of the most fulfilling and rewarding aspects of the job for James is educating potential clients on the significant impact lighting can have. Gone are the days of a grid of down lights in the kitchen and bathrooms with a single pendant in each bedroom. “By far the most fulfilling part of our work is when client’s trust us and we go for bold designs that are new to our clients and they are blown away by the final result. Most recently, during a London flat renovation with limited ceiling height, I convinced a client that recessed LED tape in the ceiling would really give her new kitchen that wow factor she was looking for, and after installation she was thrilled with how it came out. Big risk, much hard work, great reward.”
Another example is outdoor lighting. “Helping a client understand that outdoor lighting design and installation is more of an investment rather than a purchase. Any sort of landscaping or garden works tend to be associated with a high price tag, but, if clients can see this as investing in their property, with the returns being more pleasure and enjoyment from that space both during the day and evening, then we feel it’s definitely a worthwhile venture.”
Despite garden and landscape lighting gaining popularity post pandemic, James still feels the area is often overlooked by interior designers and landscape garden designers. I cannot count the number of times when we have been introduced to the client and they’ve said the words ‘I wish I had known about what was possible before we got to this stage’. When we are able to get into a project at the beginning, that is when we can produce the best results, but we’ve always been able to help even when projects are almost finished.” As homes become ‘smarter’ James says there has been a huge explosion in DIY technology but warns it doesn’t always deliver what it promises. “Some of the tech is good, but the majority promises more than its able to deliver, which then makes our life as the installer rather frustrating. When given the opportunity to incorporate technology into our installations, we use brand names which do cost more, but have the pedigree that goes along with that price tag.”
Astra Lumos is Latin for star light, hence the name choice. As James puts is so eloquently, “just as starlight beautifies the night sky, our stunning lighting solutions can really amplify the beauty of your garden and home.”
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