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Everything is Illuminated! The Lighting Designers You Need to Know

For designers, lighting is an underappreciated element that is integral to shaping the character of – and experience within – a space. We showcase some of the best lighting designers from across Australia and New Zealand.

For non-designers, lighting is perhaps one of the most basic, utilitarian elements of a space, boiling down to a simple, necessity-based question: screw or bayonet? For designers, however, lighting is an underappreciated element that is integral to shaping the character of – and experience within – a space. From chandeliers to sconces, floor lamps to pendants, the sheer variety of luminaires on the market is a veritable smorgasbord for any discerning design lover.

Beyond illuminating a space, good lighting design shapes the character of a room, imbuing it with a heightened sense of atmosphere, softening harsh design lines, and smoothing over the difference in materials and texture. Extraordinary lighting design does all this and more, acting as a striking design element in and of itself that contributes to the look and feel of the room whether the switch is in the “on” position or the “off”. Below, we bring you some of the most exciting lighting designers who are doing just this, and shed some light on up and coming talent that you need to watch.

The Cool / ILANEL

Flash by ILANEL

Flash by ILANEL.

Who says lighting has to be discreet? St Kilda-based lighting studio ILANEL certainly doesn’t think so, recasting the luminaire in a cool industrial palette that features heavy doses of metal and blown glass. Planar forms, crisp design lines, and a sprawling spatial quality hint at the background of studio head Ilan El, a former architect whose portfolio spans everything from interior to signage and luminaires. The latter soon became Ilan’s day job, and in 2010, after relocating to Australia and completing a Master of Industrial Design at Melbourne’s RMIT, he launched ILANEL. Striking and sculptural, ILANEL’s luminaires transform their surroundings instantly and seemingly effortlessly – and if that isn’t a little bit rock’n’roll, we don’t know what is.

The Chic / Douglas & Bec

Line Pendant by Douglas&Bec

Line Pendant by Douglas & Bec.

On the flip side of the coin is Douglas & Bec, a New Zealand team whose luminaires epitomise refined, elegant chic. A muted palette of brass – polished, brushed, or blackened – is offset by glass globes in a selection of sophisticated, unique colours. Think: milky white; inky midnight blue; rich, luxe camel; and delicate, dainty blush pink. All bulbs are hand blown and seem almost improbably suspended from slender brass rods that intersect one another in sleek, contemporary versions of the chandelier and pendant, all laced with a strong dose of mid-century chic. For something a little more sturdy, Douglas & Bec also offers floor and wall lamps featuring powder-coated steel bases and translucent glass shades through which light peeks in a warm, diffuse glow.

The Playful / Porcelain Bear

Double Act by Porcelain Bear.

Double Act by Porcelain Bear.

Every bit as playful as their name suggests, Melbourne outfit Porcelain Bear make lights and homewares that explore the potential of ceramics. Porcelain manifests itself in new and exciting ways in Porcelain Bear’s luminaires, which span everything from the spindly and whimsical to more conventionally shaped cloches and pendants. For their Acrobat range, Porcelain Bear combine LED-illuminated translucent porcelain arms with a svelte metal body that drapes itself over a suspended trapeze mount. Dynamic and eye-catching, the Acrobat series seems almost impossibly counter-balanced, and draws inspiration from suitably highbrow influences such as Brancusi’s ‘Bird in Space’ and the crisp rectilinearity of the Bauhaus.

The Classic / Ross Gardam

Ora Pendant by Ross Gardam.

Ora Pendant by Ross Gardam.

Sometimes you just can’t go past the classics. For Australian design heavyweight Ross Gardam, bygone eras are a fertile source of design inspiration, influencing everything from forms and colour palettes to material selections and finishes. Like all of his design work, Ross Gardam’s luminaires straddle the line between the contemporary and timeless, eschewing trends in favour of a good old-fashioned balance between form and functionality. Linking a broad portfolio of wall lights, pendants, and desk lamps are shared forms – the gently fluted bell and cloche feature extensively – and a pared back, neutral palette of timber, anodised aluminium, solid spun brass, and solid spun copper.

The Minimalist / Coco Flip

Coco Pendant by Coco Flip.

Coco Pendant by Coco Flip.

There’s no denying that minimalism is in the throes of a Renaissance. From interiors to clothing and furniture to products, virtually every subsect of design is moving toward a restrained aesthetic that pares back materials and forms to their bare minimum. For Melbourne studio Coco Flip, minimalism is about more than just the end product – it’s also about the process that drives it. Guided by a desire to create practical, lasting design that endures through trends and over time, Coco Flip produces pendants and floor lamps that subtly enhance any interior space. Materials are limited to timber, copper, brass, aluminium, and a powder-coated finish, occasionally extending to gauzy white mesh stretched across a transparent backing.

Take a look at this project, which expertly uses light.

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