Following on from last week’s post, which you can read here, we continue our translation of Bo Bedre’s November 1966 feature offering Poul Henningsen’s thoughts on lighting the home.
About lighting contrasts
The eye cannot of course be prepared to respond at two levels of sensitivity at once. In a brilliantly lit kitchen, where the eye has adapted itself by closing down its response to light a little, it can be almost impossible to see what lies, for example, at the bottom of a deep, dark drawer. Thus it is much easier to see where the contrasts are not too great.
About pale floors
It is important to remember that light that falls down will diffuse up again in the form of glare from bright surfaces – pale floors or carpets, light table surfaces. It was bright fabrics that made sitting around the family table with a kerosene lamp so nice. A dark ceiling above, and pale floors and table surfaces beneath!
Oh, certainly we have done the opposite for many years, but this is the right thing and the most comfortable.
About dark walls
In a dark room – with dark walls, furniture etc – you can make do with less light. It does not take much to provide adequate contrast. In a room with bright colours it takes relatively more light to achieve the same degree of contrast.
Luminous efficiency consists of contrasts – if there were no contrast of things, one could not perceive them. But the contrast must never become so great that light dazzles.
I once made a completely dark kitchen. We still have one today in our house. Not black now, but there is very dark woodwork and the counter top is laboratory stained. There’s not much light there, but it is good light. Warm light. There is no discomfort when you move your eyes from the intensely lit stove to the darker sections. And it keeps both food and cooking a good healthy colour.
On the strength of lighting
We must be careful not to fall into light addiction just because lighting equipment manufacturers increase the numbers in their tables year on year. Once it was said that a power consumption of 10 watts per square metre was sufficient. Now it is as high as 20 to 40 watts. In the lighting set-up in my own room I should I think have a total of 400 watts. I would rather have 250 watts, but my wife and I have agreed on 350 watts. This is equivalent to somewhere between 10 and 15 watts per square metre in large and small lamps.
Large and small bulbs
A 25 watt or 40 watt bulb gives a warmer and a more pleasant light than a 100 watt bulb. If you must use the whiter light of the larger bulb, you can place it behind a screen with warm colours – or you can make sure that the light falls on a surface – such as a table – with warm, light colours. The human eye is more familiar with the warm colours, and we thrive better with them.
About lamps – and ladies’ hats
There are unfortunately architects creating ladies’ hats instead of lampshades – and who have been happy to stretch an empty 10cm tin and call it a lamp. I wish that architects would think more about function than making “interesting” shapes.
But that will probably only happen when the consumers themselves break out of their traditional perception of light and begin to make demands for quality on those manufacturers who are more or less forced to fabricate on demand.
And that will happen only when consumers close their ears to the publicity drums, which have only the echo of the sales tills in mind.