Light up your home


Husna Rahaman’s article in Bangalore Times.

You need light that bounces off walls, that creates contrasts, highlights and adds sparkle, and light that creates a general warm glow “AND let there be light”- a miraculous biblical phenomena. Only in the present age of lighting control systems and whizzy designers might one expect to hear in reply, "Right! What kind would you like a PAR reflector or would you prefer a PAR 201 halogen?"
Well, light simply isn't as simple as it used to be. Shrouded in a sea of technical labels and information, it is a rather daunting task to wade through what is available at your nearest lighting store. This is, I imagine, part technology but mostly the human need to create new possibilities for artificial light since the genesis of the sun.
While the adage "Light it if you want to see it" is not entirely untrue, it helps to remember that light is energy and power that brings with it emotion. When I light, I want people to feel, to react. I don't want them to analyse or comprehend with their mind alone. I want them to receive beauty viscerally a physical emotional experience. It is the difference between eating canned vegetables and eating fresh garden grown vine ripened tomatoes.
A lighting concept does not have to be any more complicated than your soft furnishing palette. Think about the kind of light and even mood you want to create before swiftly selecting a pretty fixture and plastering it in tidy rows across your walls. Ideally light needs to emit from a variety of sources. You need light that bounces off walls, that creates contrasts, highlights and sparkle (directional light), and light that creates a general warm glow (ambient light). Descriptive words like "formal, moody, cosy and trendy" translate wonderfully into spaces with a basic understanding of the quality of light.
Incandescent light is the most traditional and resembles candle light. Its warm yellow glow makes it perenially popular despite its short life and relative inefficiency. It is the most flattering to human skin and used widely in restaurants and homes. Halogen bulbs are a further developed miniature version of the conventional light bulb. The PAR lamp with its integral parabolic reflector allows for greater directional control. Contrary to popular belief, low voltage lighting neither saves energy nor prolongs life. However, they offer excellent colour rendering, come in small lamp sizes and has wonderful beam control. It is excellent for lighting food and fashion. All the afore mentioned incandescents can be dimmed which creates varied moods and lower operating costs a great advantage.
Fluorescent light or discharge lamps is the result of electric current passing through a gas. They are an inexpensive and effective source for concealed lighting, wall washing and back lighting an ideal indirect source rather harsh when left exposed. Bending narrow fluorescent tubes (CFLs) has brought style to low energy in a wide range of luminaries. I like the combination of white and yellow light. It is refreshing to the eye - if you only take in the yellow light, you blank out yellow. White light refreshes the retina, so it can reinterpret the yellow again. I suppose it's a bit of horse radish in the cocktail sauce - it's the unexpected.
A wonderfully bohemian and new age lighting specialist in school - Lenny Schwendinger - every bit as exotic as her name suggests, made light and shadow part of the semester by bringing the realisation in a completely unorthodox and at the time, rather bizarre way. Weekly submissions com- prised reports on the quality of light in a movie we were recommended to see, impressions on new and old restaurants with successful and often unsuccessful lighting schemes, poetry that expressed the poignance of light, and hands on experiments with lighting apparatus. Light was first understood and later translated into technical data which made it as simple as our final assignment for Lenny - a walk in the park!