“So much energy is wasted commercially and residentially and I do think it’s up to the individual to seek out ways, however small, to be as efficient as possible… The key is to create flexible designs especially where the use of a space may change.” Lighting designer, Alex Fry.
Northcote Lighting was founded in 2014 by expert lighting designer Alex Fry, who has a Design diploma from KLC School of Design and a decade and a half’s experience in the lighting industry including working for years at John Cullen under the tutelage of creative director Sally Storey. Lawfully Chic caught up with Alex to discuss how luxury and sustainability work together in lighting design and why she feels so passionately about this.
LC: Why is lighting so important in terms of design?
NL: In my mind, good design is about creating atmosphere and while colours, fabrics and architecture are all important aspects, the lighting is what fuses all these elements together. Great lighting will create flexible moods, enhance architectural features and highlight artwork, fabrics and finishes.
LC: Why do you feel so passionately about sustainability and saving energy in lighting design. What inspires you in this regard?
NL: So much energy is wasted commercially and residentially. I think it’s up to the individual to seek out ways, however small, to be as efficient as possible. The use of daylight harvesting, motion sensors and bespoke lighting control are all energy efficient techniques used in commercial settings that can all be filtered down to a residential environment and make an impact.
LC: Is it possible to mix luxury and sustainability when it comes to lighting? And is this easier to do in the home, in an office or in a public space such as a restaurant?
NL: Yes, absolutely. Of course, different environments have different needs. For example, in public spaces, easy installation and maintenance of light fittings is a key factor, whereas size and finish are probably more of a concern in a residential project. Anything is possible; it just usually depends on budget rather than location, although there are plenty of things you can do with a smaller budget – one of the best low-cost lamp shades I’ve seen for a long time came from a well-known Scandinavian furniture store and cost under £10! Like so many things in life, just because something costs more, doesn’t mean it’s automatically better.
LC: What inspires you creatively?
NL: All sorts of things, really. I am always on the lookout for interesting lighting effects and design ideas that I’ve seen in restaurants, hotels, houses and nature. I’m also inspired by things that combine form and function with beauty – I like the technical side of lighting design as much as the aesthetic side.
LC: Why did you go into lighting design?
NL: My mother was always into interiors and ever since I can remember liked beautiful things, so to a certain extent it was in my DNA, I think. I was always a visual person, and read art history at university. I quickly realised, though, that I was more interested in three-dimensional things like buildings and architecture, so did an interior design course, during which we had a lecture on lighting. This was a bit of a turning point for me – I was blown away by seeing images of spaces and realising that the thing that made them all most inviting / warm / dramatic was actually the lighting. The lighting actually created the emotion in the space. After that, everywhere I went, I started to notice how atmosphere was created by lighting.
LC: Where do you think the lighting design industry needs to up its game in terms of sustainability and where do you think it’s performing well?
NL: I think it is doing pretty well. However, technology is changing so fast that even if a fitting says it lasts for 15 years it is superseded by a better one in a year or so. The key is to create flexible designs especially where the use of a space may change, for example in an office. Dimming things reduces power and energy, which massively enhances mood too. It’s about what you do with the lights and where you lace them, as much as it is about the light fitting itself. Far too often, lighting (and interiors) are simply ripped out after a year or two when the next person moves in and I think this is an awful waste. Sustainability isn’t necessarily just about using LED lights – yes, they last forever, but if you choose the wrong LED you can end up being un-environmentally friendly – taking it out and starting again soon after – and a lighting designer can help you navigate these things.
LC: Which companies do you admire?
I work with so many different brands, it’s hard for me to single any out but one company I’ve been keeping en eye on recently is Tala. For every 200 bulbs they make, they plant 10 trees. I love their bulbs, their packaging, their ethos. I don’t necessarily do a huge amount of decorative lighting because I’m often working with interior designers who take care of that, but I do love this company and these bulbs from both an environmental and aesthetic aspect.
Find Northcote Lighting at http://northcotelighting.co.uk/
The Old Bake House, 93 Nightingale Lane, London SW12 8NX