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Don't be afraid of the light*

As kids we are told not to be afraid of the dark, as adults we should be taught not to be afraid of the light.

Many are the people who find themselves dumbfound when confronted with the task of lighting their homes. Growing up in a sun swept country I have taken light for granted, dared to hide, screen and play with it. Arriving in the Boston area, the first thing that struck me was, that the light switch to the “main” light was actually only connected to some meager table lamp on the other side of the room, providing half the light needed to negotiate the space around me. In short I find the homes here are DARK and under lit.

I can’t stress enough the importance of proper lighting in the home and work environment.  It is known that the lack of light can be attributed to depression (SAD – seasonal affective disorder) , and other types of  illnesses. I have recently read an article about how lighting can create positive environments ranging from restaurants to airplanes. So it’s worth while investing time in understanding how it works.

 Architects and designers talk, write and sculpt with light. My two favorite are Frank Gehry and Tadao Ando. They come from different parts of the world, but both are in my view, ” lightscapers” of the highest degree. Their uncanny ability to work with light stems, I believe, from their deep understanding that light is as much a building material as concrete, metal and wood. Assuming most of us can’t afford the likes of Gehry and Ando to light our homes, how can we translate lightscapeing (as I call it) into our own home environment?

After working for a lighting design firm, I have learned that the most important tool a lighting designer has is the ability to envision what type of atmosphere (narrative; if you will) the space requires. Try thinking of how a pharmacy is lit up, verses a romantic restaurant. Now think of your home – would you light the kitchen counter the same way you would your bedroom? Now that you have an idea what type of setting you would like to create you are ready for the big experiment – turn off the light! Yes, right now. Look around you, what are the colors you see, how is the shadow cast around the space you are in, is it daylight or night, and most importantly how does it make you feel? Move about your house go through every room with this at the back of your mind. You’d be amazed what a powerful design tool you now have just acquired by simply switching the light on and off. Yes there are many code words within the lighting design world; LED, uplight, downlight, floodlight, recessed light, pendant, kelvin, etc. But the most important thing is HOW IT MAKES YOU FEEL. Go ahead plug lights in and out from different rooms, and test out how it looks like, how it makes you feel. It’s no different from picking a color for your house, you have to try it out. This will empower you once you get into any store that sells light fixtures and ask the right questions. A good lighting designer will be able to help you translate your feelings into the proper light fixture, and once you play around with it, you’ll be able to answer these questions yourself. Light is so fundamental in our everyday life it really is worthwhile to get acquainted with it.

*this post was orgianly published June 6, 2012 

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