The concept of light

A month ago I found myself strutting around in hot Stockholm afternoon; all the Swedes seemed to be embracing the sun while I was running amok seeking refuge from the closest star of the solar system.

I ended up in Nordisk Museet in Djurgården and it turned out to be a great learning experience. Apart from learning about the Sápmi tribe, Eva chair, August Strindberg’s life apart from Miss Julie I had elaborate and thoughtful reflections on the importance of light in human life. The gallery, Nordic lights, focused on the idea how Scandinavians have mastered the concept and art of light as they live in two extremes – in summers they are drenched with sun while in winters they have sun only as a theoretical concept. The idea is not only to see clearly but also create a cozy atmosphere around you in the room and derive pleasure out of it. How to strive for Lagom while lighting your home given too much light can cause light pollution and too less will make you grope for things. The daylight is considered the benchmark in achieving this balance and thus started the human adventure for optical quest.


How lights have changed the world we see around us!

I was particularly interested in all the optics related ideas given I strive for minimalism and want to modulate the light around me so it doesn’t cause eye pain and provides ample amount for me to read, execute tasks, and have hygge as well.

It is interesting why Scandinavians mastered the art of lighting. Back in 1930s, Sweden and Finland were host to a few most densely populated cities in the western world which gave rise to the concept of Folkhemmet( Swedish welfare state) and small apartments. The obvious corollary was to obviate anything that is too large and awkward. The design of furniture and light has to be functional. Understand what is the need and then shape the object. Soon the artists joined the crusade so everyone can enjoy the designs at much cheaper price;  artistic expression focused on functionalism thus giving rise to modernism. The gallery focused on how we evolved from the fireplace to PH lamps. (Paul Henningsen).


The design principle ( a visit to Nordic museum in Seattle)

One important  principle to remember while choosing the light is the temperature that it works on. Warm light – temperature 2700 to 3500 Kelvin (yellow in color) and cold light – 3500 to 5000 Kelvin (Blue white/white in color), candlelight 1850 Kelvin. Most hygge temp e.g. sunset, candle light, and campfires is ~ 1800 Kelvin. (Kelvin is the standard unit to measure temperature and 273.15 Kelvin = 0 Celsius)

The question that we should ask while thinking about the functional lighting is what happens in the space? Is it for reading and writing or to accentuate focus on something. That’s how the functional lighting works.

Too much light and one would start feeling being interrogated in the room thus staying away from ceiling light that creates an industrial ambience is a good idea; unless it comes with a dimmer so you can modulate the brightness. Too much light can kill the hygge of the room.

One interesting concept is the use of several light sources and the localized lighting( concentrate on lighting areas of the room than entire room).

I have experienced that too much light cause discomfort in the room and even a small light source works if the room isn’t used for working. For general lighting we can use large arched lamps, small chandeliers, or overhead lights to create localized and focused lighting. Hanging central lights provide focused and softer light. There are many lamps that diffuse light through origami structure to create multiple focal points and many geometric lamps that help develop patterned light across the room.

For those who read and write, having arched floor lamps with cool white light is apt while to highlight certain spaces one should think of accentuating using low level table lamps.

Apart from focusing on the concept of light one should focus on the color palette of the room as well. Low key color palette with use of white and grey on the walls helps light to bounce.

These are the basic principles that one should start playing around with while thinking of light around them, there isn’t any one stop solution as the light is a subjective concept. Thankfully we live in an industrial world with enough options to cater to our needs.


Nordisk Museet – How functionalism dominates the design process; PH lamp on display.







Window to an outer world

Though the title of the post sounds “deep”, “thought provoking” and “philosophical” but there is nothing scholarly about this article. But digressing a little bit I would concur that window is the best part of any room, its an opening to an outer world, its a hope that there is something other than the room in this world, and its a realization that only a brick wall separates us from the outer world and we can at any point leave the inner sanctums to explore the Parthenon of exterior world. Enough philosophy ! I have two double hung windows that actually are as large as any French windows in my apartment. And I love them ! Few months ago I came back from office and was inserting the keys in the main door to enter the building and at that moment I was stopped by an old woman. She introduced herself as Mrs. Atkinson and we exchanged pleasantries as the decorum of the civil world says. Upper east side of Manhattan is famous for wealthy old people and lack of night life although I can argue against this Vox Populi as we have Penrose, Heidelberg ! In your face !! She said its very nice that we have vivid and alive diaspora in the Yorkville neighborhood and I was thinking that I am glad that I don’t have to pee otherwise it could have been awkward. She went on to say that for past 25 years she and her husband take their evening coffee at 6 pm in their balcony during the spring and during summers. And 6 pm is generally the time you come home. I thought about 6 pm for a while as I had seen a video on senior dating problems; In that video,which you can check out here , women are complaining that men asked them out for dinner at 7:00 pm which is not acceptable as in their world dinner is 4:30 and anything after 7:00 is a booty call. Its hilarious ! Mrs. A continued in a hesitant manner and said “dear ! I don’t know how t say this but you know we can see you through your window  and I was only wondering whether you are aware of this. It gets a little uncomfortable for us as our balcony faces your room and despite the tree we have clear line of sight.” I was a little startled and tried to speak but words got garbled up and something like uhhmmaakmm came out. She continued and said “I am so sorry dear, I had no intention to embarrass you but I had to let you know”. I should make it clear here that I don’t do any socially prohibitive activity in my apartment. I calculated in my mind that only my study table is visible to her from her position and I use that only for office work, writing or sitting while on chair just after coming from office and letting the sweat from the body dry. In that case I do get a little negligent towards clothes but hey there is nothing for anyone who is interested in any type of voyeurism. And there is this massive green tree just outside my window that should block “ideally” any attempt to see into the apartment but I guess nothing can be hidden from Mrs. A’s X ray vision. I explained to her that out of the two windows I had put curtain on only one as the other window has radiator just below it and I couldn’t find the right size curtain and I always had assumed that the tree provides a camouflage that renders me almost invisible. She laughed at my answer and said she better go for her tea and invited me for lunch on coming Saturday. I did go to the lunch and examined the point of interest- the majestic balcony- myself. And boy ! she wasn’t wrong. I have always under appreciated optics in my Physics courses and optics trumped this time.