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Adventurous studio lighting design wins SOURCE Awards

During her junior year at Purdue University, Laura Blythe was named the overall winner of the 41st SOURCE Awards for her studio lighting design. The fictional Eclipse Studios is located in a remodeled barn in San Francisco, California. It is a contemporary design studio featuring a sustainable, energy-efficient lighting design. Inspired by the Japanese practice of Kintsukuroi, the space embodies the idea that an old building can be rebuilt into a more beautiful space.

The Eaton’s Lighting Division team talked with Blythe about her experience and award-winning design. 

What was it like winning a SOURCE Award? 

LB: It felt surreal at first. When I first told my family and friends, I couldn’t believe it, but after a little bit of time, it became more real.

The entire process was smooth — from the initial submission to my trip to LIGHTFAIR, where I was able to meet a lot of people who affirmed my talent in design. 

What motivated you to enter the contest? 

LB: I just completed my junior year at Purdue University. Thankfully, I had a professor who introduced my class to the SOURCE Awards and encouraged us to create a design that met the contest requirements as part of our curriculum. After my professor saw my design, he encouraged me to enter. 

Tell us about your award-winning lighting design.

LB: We were challenged to create a space that we would want to work in, so for my project, I created Eclipse Studios, a design and architecture firm. With my lighting design, I really wanted to focus on the users in the space and how to implement daylighting, because I know that for myself, lighting can affect emotions and productivity levels.

The waiting area is flooded with light from all directions and is open to a view of the upper studios. The LED strip lights that line the top of the north and south walls are included for aesthetic reasons and also to connect to the daylight sensor.

Plenty of lighting makes this a great task-oriented work space, and natural light allows designers to see finish selections clearly and know how they will look once installed. I created two full-angled window walls on the studio’s second floor to let in an abundance of natural light, which reduces the amount of energy needed for artificial ambient lighting. From these, light spills down into the first floor, creating a more effective use of the space. 

The broken mirror ceiling is unique to the design firm. This feature is simply a suspended ceiling that combines a thin layer of the broken mirror material attached to a metal panel. The broken mirror ceiling allows for a reflection of light in the space, reducing the need for ambient lighting. The ceiling, in combination with various lightly colored finishes become secondary light sources as they reflect both the natural and artificial lighting in the space, resulting in energy savings.

What inspired you to pursue an interior design major? Do you specialize in a particular aspect?  

LB: I always remember loving design, and I have an ability to visualize interior spaces before they’re created. When I began exploring options for using my skills and talents, I stumbled upon the Purdue interior design program and haven’t looked back.

The research and programming phase is my favorite part of the design process. When I’m developing my design, having a good foundation creates a great understanding of the project, and makes me more confident in the design that I can create.

What role does lighting play in design, and how does it transform a space?

LB: I think of lighting as the secret ingredient to any design; it can make or break a design and affect the way a user feels in a space. Lighting not only illuminates, but it also gives users the ability to really see all the other design aspects of the space and adds visual interest.

It provides visual stimulation, but lighting also contributes to a sense of well-being. Research has shown that daylighting has an effect on productivity and circadian rhythms of users in a space.

How has winning a SOURCE Award influenced your future plans?

LB: Winning this award has made me more confident in my designs. In the classroom, I usually took a backseat in discussions and collaboration and this award has made me confident in myself and my ability to collaborate and design well. I also feel more aware of all aspects of interior design, especially lighting, because of this project.

I’ve been thinking about pursuing healthcare and lighting design because of all of the opportunities in that field. The potential impact — on patient health and others in those spaces — really excites me.

What would you tell someone aspiring to win a SOURCE Award?

LB: I would tell them to design in a way that’s true to them and their design style, but don’t be afraid to take a risk. I created something I’ve never seen done before— the broken mirrored ceiling — and it paid off.

Do your due diligence, and research Eaton lighting and sustainable lighting concepts. Research will give a you a solid foundation for your lighting design. 

Also, be humbly confident. Know that you’re truly a wonderful designer, regardless of the results. 

The SOURCE Awards lighting design competition is open to current students who use Eaton’s lighting fixtures and controls in a conceptual interior or exterior lighting design. University students studying architecture, design, engineering or related disciplines are invited to enter.