In celebration of Earth Month, we are recognizing eco-friendly lighting and design innovators who are leading the way towards a more sustainable home of the future. Today we feature Joel Tomlinson, a designer from Hinkley Lighting who recently developed two eco-friendly, LED-powered product lines for Hinkley’s luxury Fredrick Ramond brand.
An LED pendant constructed of sustainably harvested bamboo? Fredrick Ramond combines sustainable materials, beauty, and efficiency all into one package.
For 90 years, Hinkley Lighting has been a leader in residential lighting. Whether you realized it or not, you’ve very likely seen many of their timeless interior lighting fixtures, or one of their award-winning exterior or landscape collections in the wild. Through their luxury Fredrick Ramond line, the company has chosen to break new ground in sustainable lighting, pushing the envelope with two exciting new collections. Loft & Zen are handmade in the U.S.A., and both utilize an energy-efficient LED source (or “engine”, as Joel puts it below); Zen takes that commitment a step further by using sustainably-harvested bamboo in the fixtures themselves. We caught up with the man behind the collections, designer Joel Tomlinson, to find out how it all came together.
[LUXALO] For the benefit of our audience, can you walk us through the creative process of developing the Zen & Loft product lines, starting with the concept?
[JOEL] Once we had an LED engine whose performance we were happy with, I began thinking of the cost of the LED and what it represents. Having a light source that was designed and engineered to truly last 25 years or longer, I had to ask myself; what attributes should a pendant have and what should it look like, having a light source that would last decades and is 10X the cost of a light bulb? How do you avoid the fixture feeling dated one third (8-9 years) of the way through the life of the LED? Does it make sense and is it really green if you are tired with the look in 2 - 5 years and replace it? Should it be sleek and “techy”? Traditional? Modern? At the current cost of the engine, who is the audience that will be in the market for these types of fixtures? The typical questions.
[LUXALO] Once you set those parameters, what type of market were you going after?
[JOEL] After going through the exercise of questioning the conventions of pendant lighting and the current marketplace, I determined the designs needed to appeal to a mid-high market, and the aesthetics of the fixtures should mimic what the LED represents. For the Zen and the Loft collections that meant a timeless finish that would meld with current, past and future finish trends. It should be environmentally conscious and modern. It needs to be sophisticated, taking advantage of the most current technology, but remain understated and simple. Most of all, it needs to be beautiful.
I wanted them to have a boutique, loft feel because it was appropriate for the price points, and would appeal to an audience that would appreciate the quality of the design and technology, while not being prohibited by the cost. The look I was going for also worked with the design concept and our forecasted volumes. Further, the engines were being made in the U.S., so it made sense to look for local/domestic sources for the fixture bodies and market them as being Made in the USA, allowing for a lower carbon footprint.
[LUXALO] What was it about using wood that was attractive?
[JOEL] I began exploring different veneer shades and other organic finishes. During a consult with a local furniture maker/designer (Freddy Hill – Bomb Factory Furniture) on an unrelated project, he had made large, round wooden pedestals for a glass blower to display his pieces, and that was the moment of inspiration for the Loft. What is more timeless than wood? It is ideal to warm up some of the new trends in kitchens (cement, stainless, “Euro” style cabinets), and it works well in existing interiors. It could fulfill all of my design criteria if executed properly. Most importantly, we had an LED element that generated a low amount of heat.
[LUXALO] How did you come up with the various shapes and forms that now make up the Zen & Loft collections?
[JOEL] Because the combination of the light source and material was very unique and modern to the application, I wanted the shapes to feel comfortable and safe; familiar to the end user. I decided to explore classic shapes for pendants with an incandescent light bulb and a glass shade. I also liked the idea of juxtaposing the modern wood finish on a classic pendant shape. These ideas and images were translated into quick form study sketches, followed by a relatively quick and smooth design review and selection meeting.
For the Zen collection, the shape came first; minimal, simple, clean and modern, yet, timeless. I decided to use a new material that I had recently used as a surface to display eco-fixtures in Hinkley’s Dallas showroom, Bamboo plywood, which was ideal for Zen. It is new, eco-friendly, soft and warming; much like the qualities of wood. It fulfilled our design criteria. I then worked out proportions in CAD and made samples in various woods for Loft, and a bamboo finish on the Zen. The samples were finished in differing lusters of eco-top-coat options. This was followed by the typical process of product selection and costing, final packaging, bills of materials, and associated manufacturing decisions.
[LUXALO] You talk about the low heat of the LED being a factor in these collections coming together with wood. How did that all come about?
[JOEL] Thanks to the quality of the engineering with the thermal management of the LED engine, it was possible to keep the heat generated by the LEDs low enough to house them in wood and bamboo safely. This was difficult to do in the past; to generate enough lumens of light needed to perform a task, especially with incandescent / CFL bulbs in a small compartment.
We had been developing LEDs for our landscape line in conjunction with a U.S. firm specializing in engineering and populating (assembling) circuit boards. Removing the heat created by the diode is critical for life and performance of an LED. Working with an outside specialist, we developed a custom heat sync for a 15V (ideal voltage to maximize the performance and life span), constant voltage 4.8W LED engine (35W MR16 equivalent), with 2700K light at a reasonable cost. The color and output was finally at a point that was equal to current bulbs. This was very exciting, and I thought I had to use it for something other than a spot light. Unfortunately, it was not dimmable.
In 2010, constant current LED became available and, significantly, they were now dimmable with the correct driver. With the advent of the constant current LED engine, the technology had advanced to a point that cost and functionality were no longer prohibitive to placing LEDs to specific areas inside the home, in particular areas that require task lighting. Once the functional elements of the design had been defined, it made sense to begin thinking about the aesthetics.
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