Column: In a new light

“The role of lighting should not be overlooked. Instead, it should be viewed as an exciting opportunity to create different atmospheres in the same space,” says Design Stories columnist Hanna-Katariina Mononen.

Hanna-Katariina Mononen
“Only after a few experiments, we understand how significantly light affects the atmosphere,” writes Hanna-Katariina Mononen.

ONCE HOME IMPROVEMENT has reached a certain stage, it’s tempting to go to the kitchen after dark and start switching the newly installed lamps on and off. On again, a quick glance at the space from different angles, and then off again. Then, another lamp and new angles.

You could think that in this situation, I was trying to see whether the lamps had been installed in the right places or whether the selected color temperature was suitable for the intended purpose. It was, however, about something much more important. I had dreamt of the time when the renovation was completed, of how the lighting would support the use of the space while also creating a new kind of a beautiful, cozy atmosphere.

Come fall, days are spent in a different kind of light. The sun shines through the falling leaves, shadows are longer and the color of the light is somehow different, orange with a touch of gold. The sun is, of course, an excellent lighting specialist, but in the north where Finland is located, the mood always gets a little too dramatic at some point of the year. There is, however, a lot we can learn from the way the sun directs light.

“For a long time, I focused on general lighting when decorating my home, until I realized that light is an extremely fascinating intangible element that can be used to manipulate the space in various ways.”

Lighting is, naturally, a functional tool, without which many household chores would be much more difficult, or at least unpleasant, to take care of. However, lighting plays an equally important role in creating moods. We often only think of lighting as something we need in order to see in the dark, and only after a few experiments, we understand how significantly light affects the atmosphere. Atmospheric is, by no means, synonymous with dim; when the lighting system is well designed, there is no need to fumble about in the dark.

I have a big box of lamps waiting for the completion of the renovation that is done one room at a time. Although the lamps play a variety of roles, they all contribute to creating the atmosphere. For a long time, I focused on general lighting when decorating my home, until I realized that light is an extremely fascinating intangible element that can be used to manipulate the space in various ways. To reach this conclusion, I had to experience a few interiors where everything else was in order, but when it came to the atmosphere, even an operating room would have been more pleasant. Then again, there are also plenty of examples where the lighting has been well designed, creating a memorable atmosphere, where it has fit the moment like a glove and, at best, added certain something to the whole.

Wine tastes better when you drink it from the right kind of glass. The sensory experience is significantly improved by the proper size and shape of the bowl. This phenomenon has a lot in common with lighting: a poorly lit beautiful space is like drinking really good wine from the wrong kind of glass. And vice versa – lighting that fits the moment and space is like drinking really good wine from the perfect glass.

Hanna-Katariina Mononen

The author, Hanna-Katariina Mononen, reflects on the issues of a beautiful and sustainable life in her monthly column for Design Stories. She thinks that just like in life, in the home, the most beautiful parts are unplanned – and often relatively ordinary as well.

Text and image: Hanna-Katariina Mononen

Previous story
Next story