“People are becoming more educated about the psychological effects of light,” said Ken Mackenzie, director of marketing, Lightolier. “Lighting today is both an art and a science.” That combination makes possible the predominant trends in residential indoor lighting: recessed down lighting, use of monorails and smaller energy efficient bulbs and controlling the light levels with sophisticated dimming systems and home automation.
“Recessed down lighting—built-in architectural lights—provide a much more artistic environment than that provided by older track lights,” said Mackenzie. “It’s a clean look. It’s taken a long time for the public at large to appreciate this type of product—not just as a permanently installed fixture but to appreciate the effects of the light in terms of providing a mood, and a productive and safe environment.”
A new form of track lighting, monorail lighting, is expanding design possibilities. “The monorail is like an art form. It is very, very hot with a lot of companies,” said Leonard Schwartz, Senior VP of Sales and Marketing, W.A.C. Lighting. “The rail is small. You can contour it to what you want in the field.” It can be suspended by a rigid rod or by aircraft cable, can be formed into a variety of shapes. “People use it in place of a chandelier or in a hallway to light pictures on a wall. The different light sources you can put on the monorail are terrific compared to other track systems.”
And it stands out. “There’s a desire to show technology,” said Lee Waldron, Lighting Designer, Grenald Waldron Associates. “Homeowners install low-voltage tract systems like the monorail or a cable so that lighting is part of the architectural statement within the room.”
And that art is facilitated by a scientific advancement: the miniaturization of light sources. “Halogen and xenon bulb technology has revolutionized track lighting by offering a bright, smaller, more energy-efficient light source with whiter, better color quality,” said Christopher Pica, a public relations representative for W.A.C. Lighting. Halogen bulbs are a fraction of the size of a regular bulb, yet a 50W halogen light puts out the equivalent of a 150W incandescent. “It has enabled companies to manufacture smaller track heads. A stronger, improved light source comes out of a smaller bulb and fixture which is more aesthetically pleasing to the eye.”
It is all part of a new look in homes. “Today, people want something unobtrusive,” said Schwartz. “Also, you can control halogen more effectively as the bulbs are designed for narrow beams to aim at a particular spot or wide ones for general lighting. You can also use lenses with them that you can’t put in front of an incandescent bulb or put halogen fixtures under a counter and in coves where a larger fixture won’t work.”
“Having several different types of sources in a space is also a definite trend,” added Schwartz. “The effects glamorize homes.” A room may have recessed lighting and a monorail with several fixtures that light a table area, complemented by accent and task lighting. Wall washing and grazing may also be part of the mix. Accent lighting uses a more precise, higher intensity light (usually four times the ambient down lighting) created by using trims with directional control to highlight specific objects.
Task lighting sends high levels of concentrated light onto work areas. Wall washing produces an even level of illumination on a wall that can be used to light pictures or wall hangings or to make a room seem larger. Wall grazing—dramatic lighting creating shadow effects on uneven surfaces like stone, brick or draperies—creates an artistic statement.
Controlling the light is another aspect. “There can be too much light,” said Mackenzie. Improved dimming systems, home automation and controls provide ways to modulate light levels, ones that can also be pre-programmed or controlled from a remote location––in the car or through the Internet.
What’s in the future? Fiber optic lighting is being used in some situations. To light places with high ceilings that are difficult to access and for display of expensive or heat sensitive objects by museums and by some retail stores. The Gene Autry Western Heritage Museum in Los Angeles uses them to provide lighting for historic documents and artifacts.
And then there are LEDs (light-emitting diodes), solid-state semi-conductor devices that convert electrical energy directly into light popularly used as a light source in indicators and signals. “It is a trend that will really come to greater use in the next few years,” said Waldron. “At present the color fidelity is limited but people predict that it will replace the incandescent lamp.” Will it happen? Science may make it possible. Art may make it so. EC