BY CAROLYN CAMILLERI
Creating natural flow in a home is more than just the layout. Lighting plays a role from shape to function, directing our attention and highlighting features. It creates mood and influences how we feel about a space — and how we feel in a space.
With the latest in lighting technology, we can have full control over the effects — not unlike a stage production. To get it right and make the most of your space, you need to plan ahead and consider your options.
To find out where to start and get some expert tips, we talked to designer-maker Mike Randall, an expert in wood-bending and lighting, whose stunning work is appearing in homes and businesses all over Victoria.
What is the most common mistake people make with lighting?
Lighting as an afterthought. This results in poorly lit spaces and fixtures that were chosen only because they fit the existing wiring layout and not for how they fit in with the design esthetic. Having a qualified interior designer or lighting specialist be involved at the beginning of a project is so important.
Tell us about some of the design effects that can be achieved with lighting.
Lighting can either create a mood or reflect the occupants’ current mood. For example, an open-plan kitchen and living area can be bright and welcoming during the day for cooking, working or socializing.
At night, lighting can be used to create the ambience for a romantic dinner for two or just a peaceful place to sit and read a book. For a dinner party, emphasis may be on the dining table and the artwork in the room or the kitchen if it’s a potluck and everyone is standing around making food.
Controller technology has advanced. What are some of the latest features?
Google Home and other similar systems have really started to take off. These allow the Smart system to regulate a range of lighting controllers, such as 0-10V dimming systems and DMX controllers, in order to create a personalized environment.
These systems can also be used to control circadian lighting, which is designed to have a biological impact on the human circadian system. This is achieved by adjusting the white colour depending on the time of day. When choosing this technology, it is really important to consult your designer and electrician very early on in the design process, as they often require specific wiring and controller locations.
Some of the new control features makes me think of theatre — am I imagining that?
Probably not. A lot of modern technology being used in the home started its development in the professional realm. Just look at email and the internet, for example. I think it’s safe to say that lighting is no different. After all, stage directors have been using artificial light to create moods and scenes for decades.
During a renovation or a new build, at what point should lighting decisions be made?
I would have to say, right at the beginning. This is such a crucial aspect of the design, it is important to get a sense of how it will be lit right from the start. The lighting plan should be designed into the initial layout, so you have a sense of the overall feel of the space.
From my perspective, it is always easier if I can work with the electrician right from the early stages. This way, we can make sure all the wiring and controllers are in the right place. Many of today’s systems require the use of a control room, which can be a simple cupboard in the loft where all the lighting and audio-video controls are kept.
What questions should people be asking themselves when making lighting decisions?
The most important question would be, “How am I going to use this space?” This is not always as simple as “It’s for cooking” or “It’s for dining.” Every space has a multitude of functions, whether it’s working from home, doing schoolwork or hosting cards evenings, just to name a few. Some of these will be deeply personal and there is no way a designer will guess them. It can be as granular as “At breakfast, we sit like this but at dinner we sit over here.”
Is there art on the walls or a sculpture in a special spot? How the room will be laid out is another seemingly obvious consideration that often gets overlooked. What is the available natural light and when will it come into play?
A modern home with huge panoramic windows that face south will have very different lighting requirements than a Victorian house with only one south-facing window. My best advice is to work with a professional who really understands all the nuances of lighting a space, whether it’s an interior designer or a registered lighting professional.
Tell us about what you are working on now with respect to lighting.
Aside from a couple of very cool custom lights, I am working on my latest product design. This is a little outside my usual MO in that it’s a small wall sconce. There are two main principals behind the design.
Firstly, I want to start working with OLEDs. These are incredibly thin light-emitting sheets covered by a thin layer of glass. The product I’m working with is made by a company called OLEDWorks based in New York and Germany. They are extremely energy efficient and have an incredibly low environmental footprint.
The second principal behind the design is that I’m looking at every aspect of the product, starting from the build through to the installation and finally how the user interacts with it. It needs to just “work.” Whoever is interacting with it needs to feel that time and care have gone into that aspect of the design.
What is the most exciting project you have worked on thus far?
This has to be the light I’m designing for a Mari Kushino Design project. I can’t give away too many details right now other than it’s a large three-dimensional kelp-like sculpture that makes use of the latest OLED technology.