Woodside, Scremerston, Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumberland TD15 2SY

Customer project 66 – Ambitious nursery star ceiling

As a general rule, customers putting fibre optic star ceilings into nurseries are generally not too bothered about accuracy – they simply want some soothing twinkling lights which will double up as a night light.

Not so, Alec J who approached us with his mind very much on creating a really dramatic and accurate night sky representation with more than 600 optical fibres.

Alec had taken to heart our advice that one should always try to create variations in star intensity so as to create a sense of depth in the star field. When we make prefabricated systems here in the Starscape workshop we use as many as five different fibre diameters, but working with the thinnest and thickest of these fibres in the more challenging environment of a loft is not something we recommend. Instead, we suggest that you limit yourself to the “utility” sizes of 0.75mm and 1mm, and create a handful of brighter stars by occasionally putting two or even three fibres in the same hole. At the other end of the spectrum, a dab of black or blue felt tip on the end of a fibre will reduce its light output.

Alec used tape to divide the ceiling into grid squares so as to help map out star positions accurately. Click on the image to see the view from the loft above, where Alec used tape to fix the fibres in place.

There is another strategy – suitable for larger installations – where you stick with the two utility fibre sizes but use two or more light sources fitted with bulbs of different wattage. Thus two identical fibres produce different light levels because one is illuminated by a much brighter bulb than the other.

Alec went down this route, but in practice, he found that the difference was not as much as he’d have liked so he decided to create his own ad hoc filtering system.

“I painted the lamp end of one of the tails,” he explained,”experimenting with the number of coats to get the correct amount of filtering. I also individually recessed or exposed each fibre optic in the ceiling – maximum 1.5mm proud to 3mm recessed to again alter the glow and brightness. Finally, I over-painted the ceiling with a stippling paint to mask these differences in the surface.

The finished job – with more than 600 fibres – is impressive by any standards, and will provide a lovely peaceful environment for baby Addison for many years to come. Click on the photo for another view which also includes a mural which is part of the room’s overall design.

“Oh, and it has also awakened a very keen interest in astronomy. The calculations of the star positions – scribbled all over the walls made the neighbours worried – staring at the ceiling in a blank room for hours on end then furiously scribbling hundreds of numbers in pencil on every blank surface made them think I had finally cracked!

“Thank you for all of the help and information as well as the client-centred approach that enabled me to get the effects that I wanted. Like many others I am now looking at lighting in a completely different light! And I will surely be asking of your expertise and products in the future.”

The variation in star intensity is very noticeable in this photo with all the other room lights off. Click for a view of another patch of “sky”.