Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Capucho on interior lighting...

One of the less obvious features of yer Huf Haus concept is that the combination of wide stretches of adjoining windows, endless stretches of wooden beam, large open plan rooms, broad entrances, staircases and galleries, all takes quite some interior lighting.

Quite some lighting, indeed.

Consider those windows: leafy views during daylight hours are all very nice (actually really wonderful) but they become large black squares at night, or even worse, scary black squares. Aarrgghhhh!!! Therefore each of those beams above the windows are screaming for at least one cupped wall light every two metres or so. And even then, the vastness of (especially) the open plan downstairs living area means there'll still be a few underlit areas away from the windows. And then we have to also worry about the entrance area, central bit away from all the windows and the kitchen. And of course the bedrooms. And the bathrooms. And then we have the sweepy staircases and that whopping big 'suicide' gallery.

And finally, positioning yer posh dining table under the open gallery is all well and good, and probably a great opportunity for yer kids to throw stuff down upon the heads of dining guests. However, most of us want some lighting above the table, but the (sloping) ceiling's somewhere around eight metres above yer bonce.

An explanation of my terminology will help here: a window segment is the roughly 3m wide by 3m high square wot has a window in it. A wall segment is the equivalent, only with cement instead of glass. A roof segment is the equivalent roughly 3m by 3m square wot is above yer head. All segments are deliniated by wooden beams, so, the walls, windows and downstairs ceiling are all defined by (roughly) 3m by 3m wooden beam squares with either cement, glass or, erm, more cement in 'em.

With me so far?

Now the good news is that most of these issues will be discussed and (mainly) resolved during your Hartenfels trip. The nice Huf Haus chappy yer spend a couple of days with will devote around 2-3 hours to discuss yer electric cabling needs, and believe me, he'll be very proactive in suggestions. He needs to be, 'cos Claudia and I hadn't much of a clue.

The bad news is that, as is the norm outside of the UK, yer Huf Haus lighting facilities as delivered will amount to nothing more than a pair of twisted wires poking through a small hole. Still, might be a good idea to get at least that bit right up front, eh?

(Minor digression: these continental types sneer at the cheap plastic bulb sockets that dangle from the ceilings of almost every British household. But then again, you might still want to do it the Brit way, and good on yer for resisting the pressure. Needless to say, one's wife's a foreigner, so one's choices were somewhat limited).

What yer Huf Haus bod'll recommend will probably run along these lines:

One cable centrally up on the wooden beam above each window segment for those cupped wall lights. Very diffuse, very elegant, very Huf Haus, dontcha know. Fairly obvious downstairs, as every Huf Haus in christendom has the same solution, but less obvious upstairs in the bedrooms. Do those have one or two segments? Oo-err... turns out 3-axis and 4-axis house bedrooms have the equivalent of two. Two cables per bedroom then.

Now bear with me here, 'cos there'll be a punchline to all this...

The entrance area and kitchen needs plenty of downlight, and he'll nudge you towards a cable located right bang in the centre of each of the roof segments in that area. We went for two cables per ceiling segment in the entrance area, equally spaced, 'cos Claudia likes her spots, she does. Only one per ceiling segment in the kitchen because because, erm, just because.

The stairs need a wall light mounted left and right. They'll have to be fairly flush to the wall, though, 'cos they're positioned about elbow high. Ditto the upstairs gallery area, although they can have cupped wall lights 'cos they're up above your head. Easy-peasy, lemon squeezy.

The bathroom is shaped like a bedroom, so gets the two window segment treatment, but you'll also be needing a lighting cable above or behind yer bathroom mirror. Yer can't have too much light in a bathroom. Unless hung over, or spotty, or pale. Or me.

And that dining table light? Well, we all love to have some sort of light hanging down from the ceiling, beaming a cone of muted light down upon on those wonderous culinary creations wot you and your guests are scoffing. But that huge gallery above yer head is a big problem 'cos that big light needs to dangle from something, and also needs electricity. There's no easy solution. Well there is, but few of us will want an extra wooden beam above our heads just for the damn light. The more difficult solutions fall into one of the following categories:

1. An extra wooden beam above yer... - no way!

2. Super-long cables all the way down from the sloping roof far far above your head. The downside is that if yer as much as cough near your light, then it'll swing like Foucault's Pendulum for a month of sundays. That and the impracticality of hanging yer light from a cable that weighs more than, erm, your light.

3. Use one of those super-sized cantilever floor lights, which'll reach right over yer table. Hmm, not to everyone's taste. And an object ripe for bumping into, and knocking over, after a couple of digestive brandies.

4. Some other approach.

According to Huf Haus, this always causes a few headaches so there's no prescribed solution. "Be creative", they say. Which translates to "Yer on your own, mate".

Well, in a fit of inventiveness, I went for the "some other approach" option. I reckon I might be able to use a couple of cross-wires braced left and right on the downstairs ceiling beams as both power cables and supporting points. Attach our above-table light to said cross-wires and bob's yer uncle. Hmm, at least that's the theory. Might end up looking like the cables above an electrified train line, but then again it might just look ok.

And the punchline?

Numbers, dear heart, numbers.

Our 3-axis house has a mere:

- 8 downstairs window segments (1x cupped wall light per)
- 6 bedroom window segments (1x cupped wall light per)
- 2 bathroom window segments (1x cupped wall light per)
- 2 bathroom mirrors (1x mirror light per)
- 1 Bastelraum (2x ceiling lights per)
- 3 Keller rooms (1x flourescent ceiling light per)
- 1 cubby hole room (1x ceiling light per)
- 1 downstairs loo (1x ceiling light per)
- 3 entrance area ceiling segments (2x spot lights per)
- 2 kitchen ceiling segments (1x spot light cluster per)
- 2 stair cases - down-to-Keller, up-to-bedrooms (2x flat wall lights per)
- 1 gallery area (2x cupped wall lights per)
- 1 dining table (1x dangly light per, and bloody complicated at that)

That lot comes to:

- 18 cupped wall lights
- 6 spot lights
- 4 flat wall lights
- 4 ceiling lights
- 3 fluorescent ceiling lights
- 2 mirror lights
- 2 spot light clusters
- 1 dangly dining table light

...and a partridge in a pear tree.

Count 'em. That's a grand total of 41 lights (including the partridge) to be found, paid for, wired up, and securely screwed to the wall or ceiling.


So, there's a logistical issue to be addressed here.

One thing's for sure, no one in their right mind's gonna choose a mixed bag of 18 totally different cupped wall light designs. Standardisation's the key here, and not only because they'll generally look better than way. The way I've presented the list above isn't the way that we carefully thought this out. Oh no. It's a sort of standardised list that we arrived at after a lot of discussion, poking about light shops, and after the realisation that we needed a lot of lights had slowly sunk in.

And then there's the cost.

The dangly dining table light's already paid for a few years back (I still shudder at the insane cost of that super-trendy italian design icon) as are the two spot light clusters for the kitchen. But the rest...

Well, if we're not too careful we'll end up spending a fortune on the rest. Not just the light units themselves, but we must also consider the installation costs... unless yer fancy wiring up around 40 lights yerself... No? Thought not. We budgeted (budgeted? Hah!) about 50 quid a pop, rising to 100 quid plus for the special stuff, i.e. the bathroom mirror lights. Roughly double that for the installation, and that gives yer a total of, erm, oooooooooh lordy, somewhere in the region of 4,000 quid.

So we slashed the per unit budget down to about 30 quid a pop... and generally found some half decent candidates. I'll have to do some of the installations myself; think fluorescents, spots and clusters, normal ceiling lights and, ahem, the dangly dining table light, in fact anything that feels generally like the sort of job that any normal bloke could do. The trickier stuff will need the services of a professional.

Who'd have thought there'd be so much to write about on interior lighting, eh? More anon regarding external lighting... (sigh)


A detailed look over the plans this morning's turned up a few more lights...

- +4 downstairs window segments (1x cupped wall light per)
- +1 bathroom window segments (1x cupped wall light per)
- +1 keller lobby area (1x ceiling light per)

But it turns out that 'only' two of the entrance hallway ceiling segments need two spots per. One of them's due for a single spot light cluster... which costs about the same as two single spots.


- 23 cupped wall lights
- 4 spot lights
- 4 flat wall lights
- 5 ceiling lights
- 3 fluorescent ceiling lights
- 2 mirror lights
- 3 spot light clusters
- 1 dangly dining table light

So we're up to 45 lights, not including the poultry.

On the bright side (too jaded for puns) we've already bought ten of the cupped wall lights... that's all the Interio warehouse had on stock. Interio's a sort of Swiss Habitat, and will figure large over the next couple of months, I'm sure.


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