Studio Lux: Jewel in the Desert

The lighting employed by Studio Lux for this California residence consumes 2.3 watts per square foot and received Honorable Mention in the Cooper Lighting SOURCE Awards.

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Located in Indian Wells – a desert resort community near Palm Springs, Calif. – this iconic home utilizes some of the most energy-efficient materials, products, and systems available such as fuel cells to generate hot water, solar panels to power electricity, and innovative lighting techniques that include daylighting, CFLs, and LEDs.

Founded by Christopher Thompson, Studio Lux is an` design firm that is headquartered in Seattle, but has been responsible for illuminating museums, hotels, residences, and commercial spaces all over the world.

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“We believe the practice of good lighting design is not just for large iconic projects. It is as important for a favorite room of the house as it is for a luxury office tower or estate,” Thompson notes. At Studio Lux, the design team never loses sight of how lighting impacts the mood, feelings, and perceptions of the people inhabiting that space.

According to the firm, the impact of lighting is often subconscious, but powerful. It can be energizing, relaxing, inviting, and even provocative. The designers believe lighting is the reason people favor one room in a house over another, why they are more comfortable in some offices than others, and why they enjoy the experience of shopping in one store over another.

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For the Indian Wells residence, it was clear that energy efficiency was the overriding factor. The Studio Lux team employed more than one-quarter of a mile of linear LED lighting.  “This project consumes a fraction of the power of incandescent sources used only a few years ago,” senior lighting designer James Sultan points out.

The residence also makes good use of daylighting using the clerestory windows high on the walls to bring natural light in during the day. “As lighting designers, we look for ways to mimic nature. Throughout the home we introduced architectural coves just below the clerestories,” Sultan explains. Within the coves are linear LED strip lights with asymmetric beamspreads. The light emitted from the coves is broadcast across the room, enveloping the homeowners and guests in a warm glow.  As an added feature, the interior light radiates out from the home as a “lantern effect” at night, which is the reverse of what takes place during the day.

The high ceilings presented a lighting challenge, as did the dilemma of illuminating a vast art collection that had significant glazing.  “As designers, we paid close attention to cut-offs and light trespass,” Sultan comments. “With most modern homes, line-of-sight issues are of paramount importance to consider. We studied these challenges closely and arrived at a glare-free environment.

For this residence, the placement of the lighting fixtures was expertly arranged to appear invisible. The effect of the lighting, however, is what makes the home’s aesthetics come alive.  Outside, the customized concealed LED striplights in the handrail are not noticeable from the courtyard below, but the effect provides gentle illumination.  Furthermore, 2700K fluorescent sconces wash the exterior stone walls offer guidance to the entry. The lower courtyard stairs are illuminated with 3-watt LED puck lights in the wall niches, while LED striplights graze the stone wall behind the planters with 20-watt IR MR16s that accent the plants from above. Indirect cove lights create a welcoming glow through the clerestory windows while a 10-degree LED strip grazes the wall behind the spa.

One of the most unique applications was the construction of the cove and floating ceiling elements designed to conceal the IO Line .75 LED striplights when viewed at shallow angles and to eliminate any harsh shadows.

Low-voltage louvered downlights are incorporated in the metal trellis, while 2700K asymmetric LED striplights highlight the ceiling from stepped coves and soffits. To illuminate the display shelves, the design team combined LED MR16 lamps with LED striplights. Low-voltage, recessed adjustable fixtures provide both general illumination as well as accent lighting for the art.

When it came to devising the skylight and heater assemblies, the Studio Lux team mounted high-output LED striplights above frosted glass panels, eliminating any visible light sources.

In the kitchen area, the medium-output LED strips provide indirect light above the cabinets and within the range hood, while the 2700K LED light panels offer undercabinet illumination.

Throughout, high-output LED striplights wash the ceiling above soffits and within the floating ceiling element. The installation of a lighting control system permits many scenes to be created that reflect the owners’ moods, provide drama and balance to the lighting, and emphasizes the expansiveness of the home.

The entire house uses a mere 2.3 watts per square foot and satisfies the vision of the owners to have their home glow like a jewel in the desert. The application received Honorable Mention in the recent Cooper Lighting SOURCE Awards in the Professional category for Residential projects.

Project at a Glance
Location: Indian Wells Residence, Indian Wells, California
Lighting Design: Studio Lux, LLC, Seattle
Lighting Design Team: Christopher M. Thompson, principal; James L. Sultan, senior lighting designer, and Kimberly D. Taylor, lighting designer
Lighting Products Used: Cooper Lighting’s IO Line Series, .75 Linear LED luminaires, and IRiS CFL recessed downlights

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