Light is an elemental part of life. We can't see without it. Unlike all of the other designed elements that go into the built environment, everything from the structure itself to furniture wouldn't exist without someone designing it and someone else building it. There is one notable exception - light.
Every day even when it's very cold or very cloudy the sun bathes the Earth with light. It turns out there is no better lighting designer than nature. Every time I ask the question, "what light inspires you?" People respond with natural lighting scenarios, sunsets, the light through their blinds, the moon through clouds. No one ever says, "the recessed downlights in the kitchen."
While I might never be a good a lighting designer as mother nature, I can still aspire. There are countless ways to get inspired by nature...I chose four.
Contrast - perhaps the single greatest inspiration to take from mother nature is contrast. Very very rarely in nature are you in a place that is shadowless. Because the sun is always changing angles in the sky objects are always casting shadows and therefore creating contrast. It's that change between light and dark that pleases our eye and makes the scene interesting.
How you can embrace the concept : Accent lighting on points of interest creates contrast. Set a base line ambient light level for a space and then punch up certain areas with accent lighting.
Reveal Less - Sometimes it's what nature doesn't reveal that makes it interesting. Look at the image above and you'll see what I mean. Most of the structure is actually obscured by shadow. Yet the tiny flecks of light make the scene deeply engaging.
How you can embrace the concept: Not everything is a 10. By allowing some areas to fall off you allow greater reveals later. For instance, does the blank mini-alcove between the dining room and kitchen really need it's own downlight? Probably not.
Motion - Natural light is always in motion. Whether it's moment to moment as the branches blowing in the breeze alter shadows, or over hours as the sun shifts in the sky. That motion changes the way we see everything.
How you can embrace the concept: While it would be very cool if you could specify lighting that shifts through the room over the course of the day, the next best thing is dimming. Programmable dimming allows not only for instant changes when light is needed and not needed in given areas, but for long shifts in reaction to the daylight outside.
Paint With Texture - The image above is another park structure. This one is fully revealed but almost painted with the texture of the natural light. That texture makes a blah red structure into something truly special.
How you can embrace the concept: Assuming you're not willing to light an entire space with framing projectors. Then think about a how you can filter natural light. The texture of the curtains you choose, especially on east and west facing windows will bathe your interior with textured light. What will that texture be?
How are you inspired by natural light? Tell me below in the comment section, or tweet me @jamesbedell !