Lighten up

Carol O’Cal­laghan on why fac­tory-style light­ing, so pop­u­lar in the 1970s, is back in vogue

Irish Examiner - Property & Interiors - - INTERIORS -

We take a de­tailed look at one as­pect of the home ev­ery week

hat’s got us so ex­cited about fac­tory style light­ing? It’s not as if its prac­ti­cal nuts ’n‘ bolts ap­pear­ance is likely to en­hance a space whose de­sign em­pha­sis is on soft­ness and com­fort. And it’s a light­ing scheme that may be just a lit­tle too un­fin­ished in its ap­pear­ance even for those stream­lined, min­i­mally clad in­te­ri­ors.

Funny how long­ing for new things and for change can get us buy­ing into a trend of­fer­ing an aes­thetic we would not have con­sid­ered a few years ear­lier. Fash­ion and con­se­quent pop­u­lar­ity give some­thing a new gloss when it had pre­vi­ously been un­ac­cept­able. Just think how no­body wanted wall­pa­per 10 years ago, but we’re in love with it again be­cause it’s a trend, though ad­mit­tedly the de­vel­op­ments are fab­u­lous and a tad ir­re­sistible.

So what’s got us ex­cited about fac­tory

Wlights? This trend started in the 1970s when trans­form­ing New York fac­tory and ware­house build­ings into homes was in vogue. But the oc­cu­pants were left with a light­ing dilemma: How to ad­e­quately il­lu­mi­nate such enor­mous spa­ces with­out fit­ting harsh flu­o­res­cent lights with their ugly aes­thetic and en­ergy drain­ing glare.

There re­ally was no other choice for the stylish loft-dweller but to leave the old func­tional fac­tory light­ing in place, and it prob­a­bly went nicely with the labyrinth of ex­posed pipe work, too. Af­ter all, this light­ing had been de­signed es­pe­cially for the space and was fit for pur­pose, so it be­came syn­ony­mous with the New York loft apart­ment aes­thetic, much copied in pur­pose-built, im­i­ta­tion loft-style apart­ments that were de­vel­oped in later decades.

This suit­abil­ity for big spa­ces


prob­a­bly helps ex­plain why fac­tory lights are so pop­u­lar for light­ing restau­rants. The sub­se­quent fil­ter­ing down into the do­mes­tic in­te­rior might have been less suc­cess­ful be­cause of a com­bi­na­tion of aes­thetic and func­tional ap­pear­ance. But a soften­ing in de­sign, (al­though the form of light­ing is main­tained but with a look that will work in any mod­ern home), has helped the tran­si­tion. More com­pact ver­sions have also been man­u­fac­tured to make them suit­able for smaller spa­ces.

Fac­tory lights, by and large, were de­signed as task light­ing, so if you have an urge to in­stall them you can have a strong light emit­ting onto a small space.

But this fea­ture has its ad­van­tages mak­ing fac­tory light­ing ideal for kitchens and din­ing rooms. Their harder aes­thetic also means they work well in the an­gu­lar and prac­ti­cal lay­out of the kitchen, and are es­pe­cially use­ful when hang­ing above chop­ping boards, the sink, or a kitchen is­land. For the din­ing room, their fo­cus on a spe­cific area makes them suit­able to hang above the ta­ble. In fact the fash­ion is to use more than one, of­ten two, and some­times three in a row. Me­tal is the most pop­u­lar ma­te­rial, ei­ther cool steel or alu­minium but painted me­tal has a warmer look. White, cream, and pale green so evoca­tive of the 1950s are among the most pop­u­lar fin­ishes.

If you’re look­ing for a light fit­ting that throws plenty of light out to the sides, fac­tory light­ing won’t re­ally work as the shades are solid, un­less you go for re­ally enor­mous ver­sions, but then you need an equally enor­mous room to ac­com­mo­date them.

Next week we look at the in­flu­ence of two Ir­ish de­sign­ers on the in­ter­na­tional scene

Plain light bulbs were once a no-no with­out the fin­ish­ing touch of a pretty shade. Now de­signs like the Budino have made a bare light­bulb ac­cept­able (from www. cat­a­login­te­ri­ ap­prox. € 150)

Au­then­tic vin­tage fac­tory light­ing looks its best in the stark sur­round­ings of ex-ware­house and loft-style homes (Bugsy in­dus­trial light, ap­prox € 280, www.alexan­derand­

The Ot­tava alu­minium pen­dant light is a mod­ern and mod­i­fied take on fac­tory light­ing for do­mes­tic use (from Ikea € 40)

A vin­tage task light is up­dated and given a softer aes­thetic with a mod­ern out­size shade (POA from www.sweet­peaand­wil­

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