Clodagh on Lighting
April 14, 2009 - 12:00pm

ClodaghResidential Lighting: How important is proper illumination to an overall design?

We talk about the lighting as we go through a design; it’s not brought in afterwards. Lighting is the fire in feng shui. If there isn’t a balance between uplight and downlight, and if the color quality isn’t correct, the project becomes a disaster.

RL: How do specific lighting fixtures fit into your work?

If I am lighting art, for instance, the fixture disappears because it’s about the art. However, I do like “bling” in unexpected places—chandeliers and things like that—so it’s really contextual. If you put a clunky fixture into a very refined environment, it’s like arriving at a cocktail party dressed for a hike. I like counterpoint, but you have to be careful using it.

We very often team with lighting consultants. One of the great values of lighting consultants is their load calculations, but also their lumen calculations and to learn what new fixtures are out there.

RL: What trends are you seeing in the use of light?

I really don’t work with trends. I work with movements. We have a green team in our studio, and there’s a movement toward finding lights, such as LEDs, that will practically last for-ever. We’re working with

some of the industry’s better-designed fluorescents, and we’re figuring out how we can gel them and organize them to give a full spectrum of quality light.

    For the past 10 years, I have been using exposed filament light bulbs; there’s a kind of post-industrial look about them that I love.

RL: What new lighting product designs will you introduce this year?

For Boyd Lighting, we’re working on outdoor lighting [with] a collection of lights that addresses the issue of outdoor light pollution. Indoors, I have always lit with shadows and try to steer away from institutional illumination, such as a sea of fluorescents that flat-lights

everything. There are shadows in nature, so I try to replicate them. I will never light a sculpture full frontal; I will always light it so that

the light grazes it and creates shadows. So, with Visual Comfort, we’re going to come out with lights that throw shadows.

RL: You have said that art triggers emotions. Is that also true of lighting?

I am fascinated by art. I am fascinated that I can go to a museum and watch people walk past a painting that I think is stunning and stop five paintings down at a painting that I hate. Obviously, there is something visceral happening. Art does not come in cerebrally; it comes into your whole emotional body, and light enhances that. So yes, like art, light triggers the emotions.

RL: What will you speak about at the June Dallas Market?

Using light as art. When I work with large fixtures that capture light in an interesting way, you don’t need anything else in the room. I use this technique—one really large light fixture—in spas and small rooms, particularly in a windowless room, to open up the walls, throw shadows

and keep energy in the room. I believe in energizing every minute of everybody’s day, and light is one of my biggest tools.


Clodagh is an award-winning, internationally renowned, Irish-born product and interior designer and author of the book, Total Design, a retrospective of her work now in its third printing. Clodagh Design,, is based in New York City.

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