Magnolia + Lutron
In 2010, Joel S. Spira, the founder and Chairman of the Board of Lutron Electronics Company Inc, donated product samples representing a half century of innovation to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC. This event honored Mr. Spira as a great American inventor and founder of the global lighting control industry and reinforced his lifework in bringing about an evolution in the very manner to which humanity experiences light. But Spira did more than just invent a technology that would provide the control of lighting for much of the world –his inventions would also save billions of dollarsa year in electricity globally, reducing the amountof light bulbs in landfills dramatically andtherefore producing an incredibly positive effecton the environment.
A light bulb goes off - Spira gets inspired
Starting in the mid 1940s, as a young man in theNavy, studying nuclear physics during WorldWar II, Joel Spira was fascinated to the point ofpassion with the aesthetic manipulation of light,its physics and both its psychological andemotional effects. Spira believed that if peoplewere able to control their lighting environment,that there would be a fundamental improvementin everyday life. He first witnessed the control of lighting in theatrical settings, but quickly understood that the large, expensive, terribly energy-inefficient rheostat or autotransformer dimmer technologies he saw there could never be adapted into everyday life. Seeing these technologies as unacceptable, Spira was convinced that there had to be an easier way to manipulate light in a simple and intuitive manner. Then, on July 15, 1959, in the spare bedroom of his Brooklyn, New York apartment Joel S. Spira patented his invention and his dream became realty. A new industry, lighting control, was born. Two years later Mr. and Mrs. Spira became the founders of Lutron Electronics Company Inc., which they would use as the platform to pioneer the entire lighting control industry, including thousands of new inventions beyond just the original “Capri” Solid State Dimmer. In fact, 50 years later, Lutron is the proud owner of over 2,700 patents, specifically in the field that Lutron had pioneered, lighting control.
To Spira, layers of light set to the appropriate levels could be, in itself, beautiful, inviting – even flattering and romantic – adding an entirely new sense of depth and dimension to the spatial experience. On the flip side, Spira also witnessed how the application of the wrong lighting levels, which often included light which was far too bright, was actually depressing to the human psyche. This “wrong” light often decreased productivity, was uncomfortable, and in fact could cause headaches, nausea and put people in a bad mood. Spira envisioned a whole new type of lighting ambiance that could be applied to every home or building, appealing to the senses in a very personal, emotional and experiential manner; one which would lead to a happier, more content, and more productive environment. Spira also believed with control, one could “focus in” on the optimal light appropriate for a specific task or activity, creating a much more versatile space.
Ultimately, he wanted to get more out of a room or space with the application of “lighting scenes,” a term borrowed from the theatrical roots of dimming. In this application, each room would have two to four different lighting scenes, for various desired visual atmospheres, designed to inspire a mood for an activity. A practical example of this would be the area of a house where you have your kitchen table. With the light dimmed low, you could create a romantic mood for a special dinner with your spouse. Whereas when the room is being used for a family meal, the light would be brought up a bit higher. And for the times when the kids are at the table doing homework, or you’re using the table to pay the bills, full light might be most desired. Three unique moods or scenes created for one room per the task at hand – something that wouldn’t be possible without lighting control.
Light + reflection = color
Color is nothing more than the manner in which the brain perceives light reflecting off of an object and into the eye. And with the right light, the most optimal light, color and texture can become more brilliant and vibrant, more “true.” In other words, colors can be “brought to life” through light, enhancing the beauty of every object in the space, from the wall color to the cabinetry to the furniture - all while creating a warm feeling and calming ambiance. Spira believed that lighting control was the only technology that could make everything in a space look and feel its best. Why purchase high-end interiors, beautiful art work or use fine paint colors if you are not going to enable the home and all that is in it look the way it was intended to look. We’ve all witnessed a paint color or fabric choice that looks one way in the showroom and entirely differently in our home. Therefore, lighting scenes become an art form, akin to “painting with light” where the light is your paint and the space is your canvas. By using light properly, it increases the value of everything in the home as well as the home itself, bringing out the “best” in everything that is illuminated - adding style and drama, while creating a pleasant feeling.
Energy savings without sacrifice
The most significant tenet to Spira’s vision for why the average person would be compelled to control their lighting was that he believed he could not only bring the world a simple, compact way to control lighting – thyristors (solid-state semiconductor devices), he but that, due to his study of transistors and, specifically, could build a product that actually saved energy, saved money and dramatically extended the life of a light bulb, during the “dimming and control” process.
Furthermore, it would be a logical transition for the perspective customer, as everything else electronic in their home already had some type of “level control” options. As an example, no one would live with just a “super hot” and “super cold” switch as the only two choices for water temperature. These extremes are not at all popular, as, most of the time, people desire somewhere in the middle. This is exactly how Spira envisioned the extremes of “full bright light and off” as the only choices for lighting. He viewed lighting control and the “somewhere in the middle levels” as the logical next step for comfortable lighting.
In addition, and most importantly, lighting control represented a method of saving energy that actually enhances life – as opposed to asking you to sacrifice something. In today’s marketplace, nearly every product that offers some method of energy savings also offers some element of sacrifice that one must make in performance, control or power. Take hybrid cars for example – a very smart and environmentally conscious choice. But with that choice comes a car with less power and agility. Conversely, with lighting control you actually gain comfort, convenience and beauty while saving energy – there is no sacrifice! You lose nothing, you just gain savings.
The paradigm shift is only getting started
As impressive as Lutron has become and as broad as the lighting control industry is, the “transformation” from the oldest unchanged electric device in the home – the light switch, to the adoption of lighting control technology – has taken a great deal of time and has still only scratched the surface of its potential.
With exciting products like RadioRA2 and Sivoia
QS Wireless battery-powered automated shading – boasting a completely retrofit based, wireless lighting, shading, power and temperature control system solution, the technology has never been easier to implement. RadioRA2 can be controlled from a variety of intuitive keypads, sensors, a time clock application or even from your iPad®. Therefore, it has become cool and trendy to save energy with lighting control. Plus the technology now fits seamlessly into everyday life, with simple, scalable network integrated, RF, retrofit solutions. The costs have come down while quality has remained extremely high; therefore, the barriers and the excuses, are slipping away. And with companies like Magnolia offering a showroom environment where these technologies can be experienced first hand, as well as professional installers to make implementation even easier, using lighting control solutions is more feasible than ever.
50 years and counting
After 50 years of innovation and a very successful business, Lutron continues to lead with a proud legacy of helping to save the world’s environment, reducing CO2 emissions, while improving the atmosphere of everyday life for millions of people worldwide. Magnolia, also a proud supporter of all things energy efficient, is excited to be a retailer of Lutron lighting control solutions.
With everything from window blind control to lighting control, Magnolia and Lutron can bring a whole new environment to your home that was once impossible, in a way that’s good for the environment, your home and your psyche.