Light And Art: A Concept Whose Time Has Come

By: Wendy Long

Lighting a room is a bit like preparing a special meal – a basic recipe might satisfy the appetite but a touch of spice or elegant garnish can turn a rudimentary dish into something special.

At Lucent Design Group, a division of Nemetz (S/A) & Associates Ltd., lighting designers Jennifer Stratton and Daisy Chan know how to transform a space from functional to fabulous.

“The average person may walk into a room and not really notice if the lighting is good but there is something they like about the room,” says Stratton. “But it certainly stands out if it’s bad. Good lighting, proper lighting, enhances a room and can affect the mood of a space. Lighting can also affect the way you feel but you may not realize it.”

Although Lucent has been part of Nemetz for more than a decade, the company recently opted to expand the division to include a new, and separate, lighting design centre that goes far beyond the basic task of choosing fixtures. The new space includes a sample board and computer that provide two-dimensional renderings of lighting in specific areas – ideal when trying to design large spaces such as hotel or office lobbies.

“Over the years our lighting division has grown, it is past being just a sidebar to our office,” notes company CEO Steve Nemetz. “It has become an integral part of our service that is greatly appreciated by our clients.

“Previously, our lighting designers were integrated with the rest of the office – the CADD people, other designers. They were basically operating elbow-to-elbow. Now, we’ve created a designated area just for the lighting department and incorporating a variety of design tools that will help our designers work with clients. Owners, architects and designers can look at various lighting options and associated costs and make informed and intelligent decisions.”

Stratton and Chan bring more than just lighting knowledge to the office. Both have interior design expertise that allows them to liaise with architects, engineers, owners, contractors and designated interior designers to devise lighting that goes far beyond functional illumination of a space.

Indeed, considering lighting’s impact on human health and emotions, and room esthetics, it is a concept long overdue.

“For so long it seemed in Vancouver the standard practice had engineers lighting a space based largely on how many foot candles were required,” explains Chan. “They didn’t necessarily consider how the space would be used or who was going to use it. They’d look in the book, see it’s an office space and think: ‘Okay, that’s 50 foot candles.’ So they’d put in something that meets the lighting levels, that looks good on paper, but that’s it. The focus has been more technical, driven by code rather than a design perspective. And budget is always important.

“They don’t understand that if you’re going to put in nice finishes, what’s the point if you’re not doing the lighting properly? You can’t even see the finishes.”

Chan notes current trends call for lighting to be far more than just decorative. Energy-efficiency has become an important, and popular marketing tool for developers. The key is knowing when, and how, to use energy-efficient lighting products.

“These days there are more products that are esthetically pleasing and have a low usage of energy,” she says. “More and more people are demanding energy efficiency, which is a good thing. But you have to take into account the project and the budget and where energy-efficient products can be best utilized. That’s where we come in, we can help with that.”

Chan and Stratton are excited about finally having space in the Nemetz office designated solely for the Lucent Design Group. They now have the in-office capability of presenting a variety of lighting looks to clients based on variables such as landscaping, floor types, glossy or matte paint, colours and other considerations.

“If you’re spending a lot of money on a certain feature, perhaps a feature wall in a lobby, you want to do a mock-up to make sure it all works before spending all the money and not really having an idea of what it will look like,” explains Stratton. “We have the ability to do that, to bring people to our office, work with their ideas and plans. We can also offer other options and solutions. This process can save a lot of time, and money.”

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