In this special edition of Milkshake, in partnership with Lutron Electronics, we take a light-centric tour of their New York Global Experience Center with our esteemed guide, Thomas Mnich, an award-winning lighting designer now collaborating with the world’s top creatives and lighting designers in a sales specification role. If you’ve ever doubted the power of shifting light temperatures to create radical change in your environment, don’t miss this episode.
Everyone knows what good lighting feels like – but not everyone knows where to begin. Good news: The power to create and then shift an environment with lighting isn’t necessarily an expensive project, even small improvements can make a big impact and Lutron has room-changing solutions for every budget. “The two most important things to make an impact are A), get a super affordable dimmer,” Mnich says. “If you have to paint a wall to get a different color, [that] takes 10 hours – you can dim the lights with a dimmer and there’s an instant change in the space. The second piece is to look at the quality of the dimmable LED lamp itself. There are fantastic dimmable LEDs out there with dim-to-warm capability that give an incredible experience.” Mnich also has a “pro tip” in the dimmer department: “I have around a $35 dimmer in my bathroom that has a sensor included,” he says. “One experience I think we’re all familiar with is waking up in the middle of the night and needing to use the restroom – you’re looking for the light switch, and then a second after you’ve found it, boom, you have this bright, blinding light in your face, and it’s very uncomfortable. Having a dimmer with that included sensor, I can walk into my space, it turns on with a very gentle light, so I don’t have that moment of sudden glaring light.”
Thomas also walks us through all some of the unseen design decisions that go into lighting three institutional spaces where light is historically unappealing: the DMV, hospitals and airports. “I’m pretty sure the DMV “brand experience” is globally all the same – regardless of where you are, there’s typically a lot of uniform, unflattering light,” he says. “The lighting might be designed in a way that makes people want to get through the space quickly, but you also need to consider: What are the lighting needs for the people working in this space? What’s the direction of light? Do we have different layers? Do we have visual comfort?” Hospitals, he says, have a completely different set of needs: “We have space types [ranging] from lounges to family rooms to patient rooms but also emergency rooms,” he says. “And each space has a different visual task. The family room or lounge might have moody lighting for visual comfort, while a patient room – or of course the emergency room – we want to have a lot of light where we can perform and just focus on the medical tasks at hand.”
For more – including a philosophy in favor of embracing winter’s light and its “warmer qualities, when you connect with people with warm, dim lamps, having a candle and a cup of tea” – tune in.
*Quotes have been lightly edited for length and clarity.
Diana Ostrom, who has written for Wallpaper, Interior Design, ID, The Wall Street Journal, and other outlets, is also the author of Faraway Places, a newsletter about travel.
Milkshake, DMTV (Design Milk TV)’s first regular series, shakes up the traditional interview format by asking designers, creatives, educators and industry professionals to select interview questions at random from their favorite bowl or vessel. During their candid discussions, you’ll not only gain a peek into their personal homeware collections, but also valuable insights into their work, life and passions.