Canadian Lighting Designers Shining on Global Stage
Lighting and shelter are often intertwined, as they evoke the warmth and familiarity of home — the porch light as a welcoming beacon or, perhaps, seen from the street through the windows, a glow hinting at the lively gathering inside.
Evocative as it is, lighting design has been garnering more appreciation recently. “While lighting will always be an essential product in both residential and commercial applications, it’s morphing into a powerhouse category of its own,” says Karen Kang, national director of the Interior Design Show (IDS), which showcases innovative new products and design concepts in Canada and beyond. “Canadian creatives, such as Matthew McCormick, Anony and Guillaume Sasseville, are making a significant impact on the world stage where they’re presenting lighting, not just as a necessary form but [also] re-imagining it with technology, provenance and design that push the boundaries of innovation.”
The signature sculptural and geometric designs of Vancouver-based Matthew McCormick are getting noticed internationally and at home. His Dodeca chandeliers grace Kit and Ace retail spaces in Vancouver and the stylishly cool Cactus Club Cafe in downtown Toronto. “My aim is to create handcrafted lighting that marries a graphical language with technical precision, usually centred around a clear two-dimensional statement,” he says. “My focus is always to distill an idea to its simplest form, where clean lines hide very complicated hardware.”
McCormick recently partnered with Toronto home furnishings retailer South Hill Home — an “early adopter” of his lighting design, he notes — and is excited about what the future holds. “There’s been significant advancement in lighting technology, such as the advent of LEDs, along with the exploration of things like the colour rendering index,” he says. McCormick is referring to the CRI quantitative measure that rates, from 0 to 100 percent, how an artificial light source displays colours compared to daylight; the higher the rating, the better the quality of the light fixture. “It’s these types of technical advancements that allow designers more flexibility. Components are getting smaller and lighter, thus removing the ‘design handcuffs’ that came with older technology, so we can now play with new shapes and forms.”
Innovative shape and form have made Anony’s Ohm pendant a bestseller. The Toronto-based studio’s founding partners, Christian Lo and David Ryan, attribute Ohm’s success to its distinctive spherical shape and range of finishes, as well as versatility, whether it’s hung singly or in a cluster. When they introduced their Anony residential line of lighting fixtures at IDS last year, Lo and Ryan took home a Best Collection Award. “We try to utilize Canadian manufacturing as much as possible and really appreciate what Canadian manufactures have to offer,” notes Lo. “We usually start off seeing what our production capabilities here in Canada are, then move on to creating something with those capabilities in mind.”
That “something” is resonating with their customers. “We think consumers are becoming more knowledgeable in terms of wanting to know where their product comes from, how it was made and what kind of impact it has on the environment,” says Ryan. “For us as designers, this is a great thing. We spend so much time making sure that every decision we make creates a good outcome for everyone involved. We love [it] that we are constantly challenged by this process and that our consumers see value in that.” Form and provenance aside, Anony fixtures are, simply, a joy to look at — and to touch. The Horizon wall sconce, for example, looks like a simple flat disk, but with a mere push, its surface moves and redirects the light. “There’s a playfulness and interaction that our lights provide,” explains Lo. “We think that intrigues people of all ages.”
Guillaume Sasseville recalls how he was intrigued with lighting at a young age and, not surprisingly, it was connected to home. “I remember a particular pattern of sunlight in the basement of the house where I grew up. A ray would appear between 1 and 2 p.m.,” says the Montreal designer. That ray of sunlight would become a huge influence on how Sasseville views the lighting medium. “[It’s] a bridge between product and space design. You can qualify a space from dramatic to joyful just by the type of light you use.”
Sasseville describes his design style as simple and always tinged with a sense of humour. This ethos is encapsulated in his latest project — the Mile Collection, comprised of suspended linear LED pendants — a collaboration with the Montreal lighting firm Lambert et Fils. “The Mile is a good example of my philosophy,” he notes. “I like to take an archetype and twist it.” The collection also reinforces the design notion of pushing boundaries beyond practicality. “Of course, the Mile is utilitarian because it integrates high-quality lighting, but it’s also like an art installation based on its very concept,” he says. LED technology and the way suspension wires are directly clamped into the models create a floating effect, evident in each of the collection’s light fixtures, which offer variations of two bars of light positioned at 90-degree angles. One bar provides direct light below, and the other, indirect light above. “As a result, each Mile light illuminates a space in a very new and particular way,” Sasseville explains.
While the use of small-size LEDs, a focus on provenance and a passion for artistic forms are at the forefront of this revitalization of lighting, it’s important to note that the human experience and the comfort of home are not far behind. “When I think of ‘shelter,’ I think about a homestead or an oasis, a place where I feel the most comfortable,” says McCormick. “As people become more aware of how lighting affects space and mood, they’ll see how fixtures can really contribute to a peaceful place to live in.