I am in the dark about a lot of subjects, and light is one of them. But the dark is a great place to start when seeking enlightenment on lighting, says at least one lighting expert.
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“Without the dark to play against, light would serve no purpose,” David Martin tells me. Martin is an architect and product designer for Hubbardton Forge, a Vermont lighting manufacturer.
For some reason, the more he talks about dark and light, the more I feel like I’m in church, or maybe should be.
“Light depends on its opposite,” he says.
“Like good needs evil,” I say. “Like Harry Potter needs Voldemort.”
“We need light against dark to show us where to focus.”
“That’s why God ordered up light by the third verse of the Bible!” I blurt. “That ‘In the beginning,’ part and that ‘Let there be light,’ part. Otherwise what would be the point of all that creation?”
Surely, this unsuspecting designer, who’s never talked to me before, is wondering what kind of loony he has on the phone.
“Right,” he continues cautiously. “People often spend a lot of money and effort to create a beautiful room then drop the ball with lighting, which can either show it all off to the best effect — or ruin it.”
“Where do we go wrong?”
“We forget the importance of darkness,” he says. “We need darkness to create drama and contrast, to evoke texture, and to cast shadows in the right places.”
“You mean, there are good shadows and bad shadows?”
“The best lighting is layered,” he says.
“And more isn’t better.”
“Depends on the circumstances. The right amount makes any experience more pleasurable, and that changes whether you’re reading, entertaining or sleeping.”
“Or looking in the mirror after a 10-hour work day,” I add, “when, frankly, I’d prefer minimal illumination.”
“People only think about light when they need more or want less,” he says.
“That is true about so many things we take for granted, isn’t it?”
As I mull the virtues of darkness and the origins of the universe, Martin shares these lighting principles and tips:
Tips for spaces:
Syndicated columnist and speaker Marni Jameson is the author of “House of Havoc” and “The House Always Wins” (Da Capo Press). Contact her through marnijameson.com.