Design

GARY GORDON ON HOME LIGHTING

Design
Lighting_2
Courtesy of Gary Gordon

Gary Gordon has masterminded the lighting in David Bowie's home, J. Crew stores, and even the West Wing of the White House. Here's his advice for how to flatter your well-chosen Noguchi tables and Breuer chairs.

Q: How do you decide what kind of light you need in a space?

A: Lighting sets the mood, like music. It's up to you whether you want Mozart, Ella Fitzgerald, or Nine Inch Nails—and it depends on the activities you do there. You want the light in a living room to be ambient, because people read and watch TV there, while dining feels more intimate if the light is focused and dramatic. Kitchens need general light, so you can see your fingers while you're chopping.

Q: So which lights do what?

A: Chandeliers, pendants, track lighting, and reading lamps create focal light, while recessed fixtures and ones that bounce light off the ceiling make general light. Pendants, floor lamps, and table lamps can be used at any height as long as they have translucent shades—in white fabric or white glass—to light faces.

Q: If a room doesn't get sunlight, can you fake it?

A: You need [to mimic] two components: the sun, which you replicate indoors using focal lighting, and the sky, or general light. You have to have both, because monotonous light—like on a cloudy day—can make people listless. But focal light by itself can make people tense and uncomfortable, like they're in an interrogation room. Monica Khemsurov

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