Mrs Sally Storey, the LIT 2020 Lifetime Achievement Recipient, shares about her passion for Lighting Design and career.

January 29, 2021

Sally Storey has received the LIT 2020 Lifetime Achievement prize, recognizing her contribution to the Lighting industry. She has been guiding John Cullen Lighting and founded Lighting Design International company. Sally shares her passion for Lighting Design and her best advice to Emerging Lighting Designers.

Could you tell us a little about yourself? How did you discover your passion for Lighting Design?

Subconsciously, I have always been fascinated by the play of light and shadow, and it was only when I studied Architecture did I understand how everything I did and saw was sculpted by light. I chose to do my thesis on light and analyzed its effects on people’s perception of the space. I started my work as a lighting designer when I met John Cullen.  The work was mainly residential but varied from a palace in the Middle East to a house in Hampstead and a hotel in Knightsbridge!

Sadly, John died in 1986 all too young, and I continued with John Cullen Lighting specializing in residential lighting.  After realizing the luminaires available were not small enough for residential projects the John Cullen Lighting range began to bring that hotel and museum-quality into the home.

A major bank approached John Cullen Lighting and was keen to have only lighting advice. This commercial project request was the beginning of Lighting Design International, which now has a worldwide client base of hospitality and Superyachts.

How would you describe the role and responsibilities of a lighting designer?

The lighting designer is there to interpret the wishes of the architect, designer, and client to realize their dreams. Often understanding what they would like to achieve, which may be impossible, and translating it into an idea that is achievable while at the same time adding more to the project. It is this intuitive understanding of light that makes a lighting designer successful.

Throughout your career, you have accompanied some outstanding projects to their completion. From your perspective, which ones are particularly formative for the work at John Cullen Lighting and Lighting Design International? What are you working on at the moment, and do you have any upcoming projects or collaborations that you’re able to tell us about?

For John Cullen Lighting, the early Middle East projects were so intricate and demanded such detail to light arches and columns. This led to the first product development of a small halogen deeply recessed uplight design and the low glare polespring downlight to be able to use as a replacement for the larger Darklight quality of commercial products, as nothing existed of these sizes at the time.

Residential projects have continued as has the range grown usually being driven by a design need.

For Lighting Design International, the first project was Chase Manhattan Bank after that small boutique hotels. Now it is the individual specialist hotels like the Firmdale Group and major luxury Four Seasons Hotels; we are currently working on three and some major names in London like the Dorchester. However, as a judge for the  Super Yacht Design & Innovation Awards, we have explored this market, and it is one of precision, almost like a Jewellery box tolerances are tight, and it is all about concealment and joinery integration.

We have completed various areas in Harrods from the Food Halls, Fine Watches, Men’s Shoes, Superbrands, Technology and currently working on Hair and Beauty.

You are the LIT 2020 Lifetime Achievement recipient for your contribution to Lighting Design, what does it mean to you?

I am thrilled to receive this award, as there is no greater award than getting personal recognition from my peers and inspirational designers all over the world.

 What would be your best advice to Emerging Lighting Designers?

Follow your passion, never look back and enjoy every day! Light is intangible yet reveals all that we see. Learning to manipulate it, takes time and experience.

Always test your ideas as not only can you avoid mistakes in advance you can be inspired and create new solutions. To this very day, I tell all my designers to play with light, test it, do mock-ups as I believe seeing is believing and relying on computer renders is not as emotive.

 Last, what makes light magical to you?

I will never tire of experimenting with light and seeing how a sculpture or space can be transformed and changed by the way it is lit. Natural light has always been my inspiration and capturing some of those moments in my schemes keeps me busy!


Project: Heckfield Place, Hampshire
Company: Lighting Design International
Photographer: Sprately & Partners

Project: Kimpton Fitzroy, London
Company: Lighting Design International
Photographer: Gavriil Papadiotis