Category: Design

Tiny House Festival VT Followup

As some may have noted from other postings, I was asked to give a presentation on Lighting & Interior Design for Small Spaces at the first Tiny House Festival VT in Brattleboro VT this fall.

Here now, a copy of the talk I gave.

I’m pleased with the message, & the reception from those in attendance, even while being somewhat rushed on time. While this AV edit is a bit rough, a hat tip & many thanks to BCTV for all their efforts under unusual conditions that day.

I was also fortunate to be followed by Lina Menard of Niche Consulting, a tiny house design consultant from Portland OR. Another great take on tiny house design!

Both talks have great information on design, no matter what size you’re considering.
Shout out to the festival organizers for a job well done.
Onward to THFVT 2017!

What does that mean?

I am a Lighting Designer.

What does that mean (at least to me, and how could it benefit you)?

As a lighting designer, much of my work is in ‘atmosphere design’. In part this means planning how spaces (and the objects within) get illuminated & accentuated, about setting the tone or mood, and working at addressing the needs of the inhabitants & visitors.

Mine is a collaborative design practice. It always revolves around you as the client and often includes Architectural Designer, Interior Designer, Landscape Designer, and Electrician. Like these professionals, I have years of educational and project experiences to bring to bear on any design challenge. I believe an added bonus for me is years of work in the entertainment arena (dance, opera, theatre, music concerts, and touring) which give me a bit of a different perspective.

How we go about manipulating light and dark, incorporating day-lighting and shadow-play, choosing fixtures & materials, considering your (the client) personal choices, and the ‘big picture’ and overall design aesthetics are all elements of a successful project with an outcome you’ll be pleased with for generations to come. Good Design is timeless.

Like many of the design team members mentioned, I work through a number of design phases covering everything from initial concepts to occupancy. During design development I’ll work on possible inclusion of the latest technologies to keep the project as current / future-ready as possible; I’ll research best available lamping and use of color & tunable white lighting (more on color & tunable white lighting options in a separate future post); I’ll consider any light (and sound – yes, some lighting emits sounds) sensitivity you may have; and we’ll look at the overall style aesthetic for the spaces. Further along the design path we’ll have plenty of opportunity for dialog about what the lighting design / layout is going to accomplish, how the layering of light in the spaces will look, and about actual fixture proposals. During design documentation I’ll refine the fixture proposals, create the final design / layout and a fixture schedule to be used by the electrician to make fixture purchases and installation. The layout will specify fixture & switching locations, dimming functions, specific lamping for fixtures, applicable smarthome technologies, etc. In the actual construction phase I work to address any electrician / contractor needs. As the project reaches completion, I’m available to work on a final focus of any adjustable lighting included in the project so that the design elements are fully realized as you move in. I also like to review the project objectives and get client feedback after you have settled in to your new space.

Everyone deserves good design and great lighting.
Please be in touch.

Technically Minded

Two very thoughtful technical articles linked here. Good reference material and additional resources.

The first an open letter from Jim Benya, where he “… urges the lighting community to focus its attention on LED lighting quality, lest a dangerous precedent be set that ignores color temperature and makes way for glare in the name of energy efficiency.”

The second on new color rendering metrics and technologies that can only make our lighting design practices better. update

Screen Shot 2015-09-13 at 10.10.04 AM

“Congratulations! Your contributions to Houzz discussions have unlocked a new badge… The Influencer badge is given to pros whose advice & knowledgeable posts are most appreciated by the Houzz community. That’s you! Show Off This Exclusive Honor!”

OK, I will. Thanks much!

Shadow – An Elemental Component of Lighting

Yea, its impossible to escape the need to address shadows when talking about lighting. Contrasts, the difference between light and dark, are what provide depth and visual interest to the spaces we inhabit. The dark / shadow-y element is often taken for granted.

When our focus shifts to the form & character of shadows we can appreciate their incredible beauty and graphic qualities.

Screen Shot 2015-06-16 at 4.12.16 PM

This post will go beyond examples of any everyday normally lit spaces that display the contrasts well… straight to extremes that are fun, that are pushing the boundaries of projecting shadow & light, and that display superior shadowplay by every measure!

Cool Shadow-play at normal scale, with practical application:

Calabarte makes lamps from carved gourds.Screen Shot 2015-06-17 at 9.59.44 AM

3D printed Lacelamps by the artistic duo Linlin & Pierre-Yves Jacques. Projecting delicate lace patterning to surrounding walls. Screen Shot 2015-06-17 at 10.08.17 AMWho needs wallpaper for texture when you can have this!?

3D printed lamps by Nervous System include Hyphae, like veins of a leaf, or coral growth.Screen Shot 2015-06-17 at 10.34.36 AM

Peter Pieroborn makes the Plumb light sculptures from yellow cedar, red cedar and mahogany.Screen Shot 2015-06-17 at 11.28.16 AM

Finnish designer Kirsti Taiviola displayed ‘illusia’ at Lux Craft exhibition in London UK in 2011. This pendant lamp features a fine, almost invisible texture on a handblown glass ball hidden in the lampshade, which creates a blossom-shaped projection of reflections on surfaces below. Screen Shot 2015-06-16 at 3.59.20 PMWith three different levels of light intensity, the visibility of the reflection can be adjusted so the lamp can serve both decorative and illuminating functions. More examples of shadowplay at her link.

hutch studio produced this beautiful pendant of folded paper houses, casting some cool shadows on nearby surfaces! It is comprised of 33 paper houses made from vintage 50’s cookbook pages. They hang with thread from a spiraling wire support.Screen Shot 2015-06-16 at 3.56.26 PM

Vibia’s Meridiano stool / footstool / table can work indoor or outdoor. Design by Jordi Vilardell & Meritxell Vida.Screen Shot 2015-06-16 at 3.52.45 PM

Daylighting Shadow-play on a slightly larger scale:

LZF’s Paisley screen was created by the Spanish designer Luis Eslava.Screen Shot 2015-06-17 at 10.26.53 AM

Creo Hall by Akira Sakamoto Architect & Associates, an excellent example of an architectural designer contemplating the movement of the sun through the space. Photo by Yoshiharu Matsumura.Screen Shot 2015-06-17 at 11.27.21 AM

Additional Goodies:

Created by mixed media artist Anila Quayyum Agha, this elaborately carved cube with an embedded light source projects a dazzling pattern of shadows onto the surrounding gallery walls. Screen Shot 2015-06-16 at 4.05.50 PMTitled Intersections, the installation is made from large panels of laser-cut wood meant to emulate the geometrical patters found in Islamic sacred spaces. Learn more here.

Shadows do not always have to be dark, they can take form in beautiful color! Starting as a simple circle of white, when one enters the light breaks like a prism.Screen Shot 2015-06-17 at 10.15.12 AM

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Ripple, by Poetic Lab. When a beam of light projects through the gently rotating mouth-blown glass dome, shadow and light form a breathtaking, ever-changing pattern. Screen Shot 2015-06-17 at 10.22.48 AMPerfect for a spa or relaxation space, right?!

At the Museum of Science & Industry in Chicago US. Focus Lighting uses spotlights shooting 60 feet down through large liquid-filled disks, projecting ripple patterns on the floor to allow exploration of liquid wave dynamics.

Science Storms opening @ The Museum of Science and Industry Chicago
Science Storms opening @ The Museum of Science and Industry Chicago

OK, not something you’d have in your sitting room, but cool just the same!

For additional inspirations, check out more examples at my Pinterest. Add a comment with any great shadows you’ve seen or experienced.

Worthy News Items

Two important and interesting items are in my feeds today, and are post-worthy here.

First up, a possible first-world solution to a third-world issue… GravityLight 2 is campaigning for funds to create jobs, manufacture, and bring LED light into the lives of many millions of people.

GravityLight 2 IndieGoGo vid

GravityLight 1 prototype in situ
GravityLight 1 prototype in situ.

From the campaign information… ‘As well as designing GravityLight to provide a clean, safe and affordable alternative to kerosene lamps, we also want to create local jobs, skills and livelihoods for those who make and sell GravityLights.’ This is a brilliant idea, deserving of our consideration, and our backing.


One the other hand, something inspirational & thought-provoking without an actual product…

What Is “Design Fixation,” And How Can You Stop It?

The Premise – Your first design solution may not be the best.

The Advice – Explore options, dig deep, get creative, look for multiple design solutions early.

From the folks at LifeHacker: ‘As design blog Fast Co. Design explains, money, time, or ego might make someone stick to their first idea, even if something better comes along. While creativity is an iterative process, you can bypass the tunnel vision that comes from focusing on a single idea by generating multiple ideas at the start. It helps even more if you can bring other people into that process to help challenge your ideas or offer alternative input.’

This re-enforces a team approach, a collaborative process, and working less in isolation. I have long been an advocate for all that. Bravo!


Both Brilliant! ideas.

h/t to both Gizmodo & LifeHacker.

Big & Beautiful! Large scale lighting at its best!

Let’s face it, large scale light fixtures can often be stunning.

This post will concentrate on some personal favorites, fixtures to find a home for (if I’m lucky enough to get to design spaces where they work well), and the ins & outs of what goes into successful large scale fixture design.

Let’s begin with an outdoor piece. FoxCat Design makes the NI Parasol.

Screen Shot 2015-05-06 at 3.44.02 PM

Three channel lighting system with individual one-touch dimming give plenty of looks to this piece. Plus it can be customized by the fabric color used. The down-light ribs uses color temperature of 1800K LED candle light colour making it easy on the eyes at night time. The up-light ribs uses colour temperature of 2200K warm light color. The parasol can even be lit while closed to provide a ‘torch-like’ light to the surroundings. This is a red-dot design award winner from 2014.

Moving inside now. Large domed and drum shape lights have been around for ever. However, getting them right so glare from exposed lamping isn’t an issue is a design challenge. Below are a few designers who met that challenge head-on.

The Super Gea from LZF is one fine example, by Spanish designer Marivi Calvo.

Screen Shot 2015-05-06 at 4.28.12 PM

This lovely is a perfect ‘clean lines’ minimal approach to lighting a space, and its available in 9 wood veneers to make it easy to match with various color schemes.  This has a bottom diffuser to hide direct view of the lamping. Simple and effective.

Another LZF item, the Spiro SG by designer Remedios Simón is a bit larger than the Gea and uses a pattern of various wood circles to diffuse the light source.

Screen Shot 2015-05-06 at 4.47.03 PM

You should be able to find this in a variety of word & color combinations.

Here is an example of a design that makes no bones about the source, but almost celebrates it. Called the Hatchlight, its part of a commissioned installation in a series of Paris restaurants, by Studio Robert Stadler.


The glare is minimized using a ‘silver-tipped’ lamp (where the silver coating hides the filament from direct view and re-directs the light in this case back up into the bowl of the fixture). Plus the hand applied lining makes each lamp unique. There is a great projection of patterns to the floor from this dome. I also like the tight cone of light and how as one moves through the space there would be this dynamic movement in and out of these illuminated pools.

I have my eye on a similar fixture on Etsy available to purchase.

Here is the direct opposite of the Hatchlight… Paul Cocksedge’s Capture, is a hand-spun aluminum dome that holds a glowing white light. The hollow 5 ¼ foot piece is more or less a lighting fixture, but all of the infrastructure that you normally associate with lights are invisible. The wiring, bulb and electrical cables are hidden away, and instead viewers simply see a flat, white light that appears captured by a film across the base of the dome. The opening of the dome is actually empty and the light source is totally invisible, which creates a trippy effect that leaves you wondering where the light is coming from and where it’s going.


“I didn’t want to see the light source, what I’m interested in is light itself, just light” Cocksedge says. “I was trying to create an object when you look up into it, there’s absolutely nothing there apart from light.”Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 7.33.06 AM

On to another projected piece on a grand scale… Focus Lighting designed lighting for the Science Storms exhibition in the Museum of Science & Industry in Chicago IL USA. Seen here, spotlights shoot 60 feet down through large liquid-filled disks and project ripple patterns on the floor to allow exploration of liquid wave dynamics.

Science Storms opening @ The Museum of Science and Industry Chicago
Science Storms opening @ The Museum of Science & Industry Chicago

Materials also play an important role in successful large-scale lighting. Typical metal and glass can be augmented with or replaced by wood, silk, plastics, felt, etc. in fascinating ways.

Claesson-Koivisto-Rune, aluminum
Claesson-Koivisto-Rune, aluminum


Art Deco era, glass & metal
Art Deco era, glass & metal


Vancouver CA designer Peter Pierobon's "Plumb", cherry
Vancouver CA designer Peter Pierobon’s “Plumb”, cedar & cherry


Fortuny's Scheherazade, silk
Fortuny’s “Scheherazade”, silk


German firm Ecker Architekten designed the Kunterbunt kindergarten and daycare centre, plastics
German firm Ecker Architekten designed the Kunterbunt kindergarten & daycare centre, plastics


"Soudless", felt
“Soundless” by Ola Gillgren, felt

Ending now with lighting on the grandest of scale! The XXL(amp) is essentially a flattened dome, inspired by the shape of a Chinese lantern. The twelve-segment construction makes the connection with the lantern, but a pumpkin perhaps comes to mind, or a hot-air balloon.


Interested in seeing more like these? Hit the link to browse my Pinterest.



Architectural Trendspotting: Negative Space

Some time ago I came upon this story of the House In Fontinha (shown above) and was intrigued by the ‘cutout’ entrance. The simplicity of negative space creating an entrance is not seen in run-of-the-mill design. That image got tucked away for future reference…

Now is that time. Recently my feeds have shown a series of similar spaces based upon the absence of structure. The engineering on display ranges from simple to complex, the results are always eye-catching.

Many are entrances, some include room for a car, a few become enclosed deck space (where lack of structure allows enhanced views).

Stay Residence / Studio Loop
Stay Residence / Studio Loop
Baran Studio
Baran Studio
Desert Courtyard House / Wendell Burnette Architects
Desert Courtyard House / Wendell Burnette Architects
Maison 2G / Avenier Cornejo Architectes
Maison 2G / Avenier Cornejo Architectes
lightbox2 / nott
lightbox2 / nott

Modeling for Purpose & Communication

Some architecture professionals, and those of us in related design fields, may lament the demise of architectural model making. In fact, the clients we work with might too (though they might not know what great things they’re missing).

This collection of images (and the sites/posts they link to) will indicate otherwise. Model making, and its ability to communicate effectively, is alive and well (if perhaps not employed often enough!). All too frequently in the digital age, its often easiest to create an on-screen representation and leave it at that. In 3D, its possible to more effectively communicate the design, as well as review any aspect over and over or from a new angle.

Architectural study models are often done quickly. Their purpose to aid in design work on massing, spatial relationships, scale, interaction of volumes, etc. A presentation model is one shown to a client. It is a skillfully crafted & meticulously scaled model of the proposed structure.

Enjoy a look through this group of physical models…

A model can allow us to view through…

Campus Novarits, Frank Gehry
… or can show plan and section views together.
Kew House, Piercy & Co 2012
A model can communicate movement…
Selvika National Tourist Route in Norway
…and sense of scale.
Disney Concert Hall, Frank Gehry
I often prefer models that are lit, for the extra detail they can provide.
Church Of The Light, Tadao Ando 1989
Street view in Tirane Albania, G Struga 2012
Winery, CCASlovakian Residential Development Project
Villa Vita Cancer Centre
Here’s a true study model of a lightwell design, to look at element angles effects on light delivery.
(click thru to see the other versions made & analyzed – which do you prefer?)
Coneptual Lightwell Study
Model making can also be a colorful or whimsical obsession…
387 Houses, Peter Fritz, 2013 Venice Biennale
Paperholm GIF, Charles Young
 …and can even be done at full scale!
Borromini’s San Carlo Church at full scale, Mario Botta