The Conundrum of Decorative Lighting

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Chris Fordham goes walkabout, discussing Decorative Lighting with those who care enough to talk about it. Listen Up!

I am not one to stereotype, but aside from a few parts of our industry (such as maybe those in tunnel and road lighting) I believe, I hope, that we are generally aesthetes with a little added practicality (even if that’s a slight contradiction of terms), and that we want our work to reflect this.

Decorative lighting speaks to the designer in me more perhaps than any other form of lighting. I first discovered what it all really meant at the furniture fair in Milan whilst studying product design as an Erasmus Student , and it really was a light bulb moment (please excuse the pun). The designs of the products were so playful, inventive, varied and, next to that, you had the historical beauty of blown-glass producers such as Murano – timeless classic design.

Cameron Peters Fine Lighting: ARTelier – Gofi – Luceplan – LZF – Occhio – Quasar

Fast forward a few years, you try to specify them, and BOOM there goes that pipe dream, this is a pandora’s box full of surprises. Why so, I hear you ask? They are just decorative light’s right? We are the experts, being paid for the service in many cases; it should be a doddle. Well, first up, choosing something so subjective for someone you barely know, and who’s taste may differ greatly from your own, poses a big problem; furthermore you are rarely dealing with one person, so even when you can please one party there is often the potential for a completely opposing view from the other, which requires skills maybe more akin to conflict resolution, ( or, in some cases, counselling !).

Then there is the thorny issue of the sample, the customer rightfully wants to see the product – especially when its expensive. But it takes a special type of manufacturer to lend you a sample for just a single product that might be specified. After all, there is no guarantee the customer will like it when they see it and, certainly, these products aren’t just off the shelf items; that’s the inherent beauty of them.     

Flos from Atrium: Co-ordinates S3 – Infra-structure Episode2 – Belt

So what are the pitfalls and pleasures to be found, and how has the market changed in respect to the online offering? To get the lowdown I approached a couple of design houses and decorative lighting suppliers to get their take on the current state of affairs and found the answers to be quite revealing. Check out the podcasts below to get the full picture, if you are planning a design for an existing project or new build it could help you enormously…..

Podcast contributors come from the lighting supply and lighting design side of the business.

On the design side of things we have:

Mary Rushton-Beales began her lighting career in the early 80’s, working for Philips Lighting. After working as an independent lighting designer within an independent design practice, she honed her skills in a services consultancy before setting up the Lighting Design House in 1995, which has traded independently ever since. 

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Marcus Steffen of MSLD has ten years’ experience in the residential lighting field, as well as various hospitality and commercial projects. With one book to his name ‘Residential Lighting Design’ and many award-winning projects and magazine features, Marcus gives us the lowdown on how decorative lighting is important to him and his projects, as well as a few other design snippets.

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Bruce Weil is one of two directors at The Light Design Studio and has worked within the lighting industry in various capacities including theatre and architectural lighting. Bruce has been involved in projects as diverse as the London 2012 Olympics and Heathrow Terminal 5, demonstrating a wealth of technical expertise to share with LDS’s clients.

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And on the supply side:

Ulysse Dormoy, managing director of Atrium started within the family business in 1990, where at the time they were focussed mainly on furniture, with some elements of lighting. The aim for him was to grow the lighting side, which eventually culminated in Atrium being solely a lighting business in 2003.
From 2011 Atrium Ltd became the exclusive distributor of Flos Decorative and Flos Architectural (formerly Antares) products.

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Peter Younie is one of the directors of Cameron Peters Fine Lighting which he set up with his wife Cheryl. They chose the field of fine lighting and launched their company in May 2004, bridging the worlds of fine art, craftsmanship, contemporary design and cutting-edge technology. “I am thrilled to have created a business which will allow us to share the work of Europe’s finest designers and greatest crafts people”, says Peter.

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So what in the end did this exercise tell us?

Decorative lighting, so important to the look and feel of a space, has more faces than a town clock tower; with all of them telling a different time. One thing for sure is that the lighting designer has a major part to play in this element whether we like it or not, and from TLR’s perspective, the designer, as the expert in the field, should be leading the conversation and implementation. It’s a piece of the puzzle that makes the picture whole.

As always, the wider public maybe needs to be made aware that there is a level of skill involved here, and this warrants it being treated with the same respect and focus as the other lighting elements.

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Google search for ‘contemporary wall fittings’
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