Lighting: the Disappearing Decor


If there were an Endangered Designs list running alongside its biological counterpart, it’s possible light fittings just got added to the bottom.

Modern technology is all about shrinking. Take the shift from the hefty, brick-like cellphones of the early 90s to the hands-free sets that make people question your sanity when you’re chatting into the air. For gadgets and appliances to be really cool, they should be unobtrusive to the brink of invisibility. For example, solar power. A garden covered in wire-strewn paneling? Not elegant (this is better). So technological advances like Nanosolar’s solar cell film will help solar panels truly disappear and blend seamlessly into your home aesthetic.

Now it’s the turn of LEDs to go stealthy. As Metaefficient reports, a new variety of organic LED (OLED) is promising an efficiency near the hallowed Energy Star standard.

Why is this big news?

Because OLEDs are rather different from the bulbs and spotlights to which we’ve grown accustomed. They’re flat and paper-thin. They’re comprised of a film of organic material that glows when a current runs through it, making OLEDs ideal for digital watches, dashboard displays and nightlights. Unfortunately, efficiency has been lagging – until now.

There are some interesting implications in the wind. If electroluminous lighting takes off and form truly follows function, lights are going to disappear as a distinct item of decor. It’s possible that our dream eco-house of the future won’t have such a thing as a “light fitting” – and one of the most common items of household furniture will blend into the walls, ceilings, floors and sides of our furniture (here’s an early example). Lamps would become retro (fun, quirky, but definitely last-century) and our living spaces would be transformed.

Is it lights out for lights?

Image: moriza

Mike Sowden

Mike Sowden is a freelance writer based in the north of England, obsessed with travel, storytelling and terrifyingly strong coffee. He has written for online & offline publications including Mashable, Matador Network and the San Francisco Chronicle, and his work has been linked to by Lonely Planet, World Hum and Lifehacker. If all the world is a stage, he keeps tripping over scenery & getting tangled in the curtain - but he's just fine with that.