Designing from the Inside Out
When to Think about Internal Finishes
and Lighting

When you envision your dream space, what draws you in? Is it the exterior façade of the building or is it the cosy warmth of the interior? By considering the internal finishes and lighting early in the design process, you can create a space that is focused on your everyday experience.

My very first job in architecture – as a graduate fresh out of university – was selecting the internal finishes, ordering samples and presenting them for client approval on a project with a £500m+ construction value. It’s a common story: ‘let the Part 1 do the finishes’. It’s certainly not a strategy Eddie Jones would approve of, and it has some similarly uninspiring results in the world of architecture.

Too often, the internal finishes are an afterthought to the exteriors of the building, a job which is handed to the least experienced person in the office. But think about how much time you spend inside your home, rather than admiring the arrangement of the windows and the pitch of the roof. By embracing an approach which integrates internal finishes and lighting early in the design process the ambience and character of your home will begin to define your project.

Internal finishes encompass everything that makes a surface come alive: floors, walls, ceilings and more. These are the elements that your hands touch and your eyes see up close. By integrating finishes into the early stages of design, you’re ensuring that the textures and materials align with the overall design of the building. Whether you’re aiming for the tranquillity of a spa or the vibrancy of a creative studio, your finishes will set the tone.

And then there’s lighting – an art form in itself. Picture your space bathed in natural light during the day and transformed by the glow of soft lighting at night. The positioning of windows, skylights and light fixtures isn’t just a technical detail; it’s a powerful tool that shapes how you feel in a room. By thinking about lighting early on, you’re crafting spaces that suit different times of day and different moods.

At OB Architecture, we consider these features early in the design process to ensure that your experience of your home remains front and centre of the design. These are our top tips for designing your project from the inside out:

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Carefully considered lighting design transforms Spa House from a flooded with natural light entertaining space in the day into a cosy retreat in the evening

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Choosing materials with our clients

Start Early
The earlier you start thinking about key finishes, the greater the chance that the materials, textures, details and experiences which are important to you, will influence the project and become integral to the design.

Order Samples
You need to look at materials in real life, in natural daylight and under artificial light. Order as many large format samples as you can. Touch and feel them, consider how they will weather and age and arrange them with the other samples to choose complimentary materials.

Be Specific
Finishes typically account for 20-35% of the final build cost, so specifying key internal finishes and lighting in the early stages means fewer surprises down the line. Greater cost certainty, fewer last-minute changes and fewer compromises on your vision.

Don’t Forget the Lighting
Lighting imbues a room with soul and atmosphere. Windows, rooflights, the interplay of light and shadow, task lighting, mood lighting, colour and ambience.  Visit a James Turrell exhibition for inspiration and start thinking about the different moods you want to create.

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Feature lighting pendant over the main dining table at Treetops adds character to the space

Collaborate
At OB Architecture, we typically specify internal finishes for the hard surfaces (walls, floors, ceilings etc), and we think about lighting early in the process using models and CGIs. However, it’s important to recognise the limits of your expertise, and we collaborate with specialist interior designers and lighting designers whenever we get the chance.

So, as you embark on your project, remember this: You have the power to shape your space from the inside out. Your vision, your finishes, your lighting – they’re all integral to the story your space tells. By putting these elements at the forefront of your design, you’re not just building a home; you’re crafting an experience, a lifestyle, a reflection of you.