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  • By Jacqueline Hosford, ASID

OLED Lighting – FAR OUT FUTURUSTIC is here!

"Let there be light!": And, boy, oh, boy what we do with it!

Great! You feel all up-to-date having moved on from the old-standard incandescent light bulbs and embraced the LED (light emitting diodes) as a light source! You’ve invested in LED retrofit light bulbs for your home and have that sweet sense of satisfaction that you are being green by being energy efficient. (LED bulbs are highly energy efficient – more expensive upfront but last up to 50,000 hours (five years!) – and are cool to the touch which means little fingers aren’t in harm’s way!)

Well, now there is OLED (organic light emitting diodes). You might know that OLED is something to do with a flat screen TV or computer monitor or any number of small display screen digital devices. The OLED technology has many applications, many of which are still conceptual. But did you know that OLED lighting for your home or office is fairly readily available?

Today’s OLEDs may not yet replace your existing lighting. There are kinks still to be worked out, such as longevity, brightness, etc. But the possibilities are incredible and designers of all stripes are delving into the OLED universe with gusto.

rollable OLED material.

Imagine the design possibilities of a light source so flexible that is can be rolled up like a piece of paper?!

Several weeks back I attended an hugely inspiring OLED lighting exhibition at WhatisyourDNA’s Great Jones Studio.

KUMIKO is a decorative and functional OLED wall lighting application designed by the highly accomplished lighting designer Michiru Tanaka. This product is functional wall art done with light.

wall display using KUMIKO OLED modules by Kaneka

individual OLED modules for KUMIKO panels

(Note: Photography to illustrate lighting effects, is difficult. this is stunning in real life).

35 Great Jones Studio interview - all let with OLED modules

The KUMIKO decorative style is very much a modern interpretation of the ancient Japanese tradition of the handcrafted wood screens. Each 6x6 lighting module is an OLED sheet encased in a delicate Kumiko-style grille of polished metal.

four styles of Kumko inspired grilles for light modules

Each module easily, neatly and cleverly clicks (via invisible magnets) into a wall-mounted low-voltage panel to power up. The whole installation sits about ¼” proud of the wall. A wall lit in this manner can provide sufficient ambient lighting to replace a few ceiling lights—your lighting designer will need to make the appropriate lighting calculations. See the traditional Kumiko grille mentioned in my May 28th blog).

OLED light module in mirror mode

I particularly love that one can rearrange these lit tiles at will and that the whole installation can be dimmable. And I especially love the option of the modules functioning as mirrors when not lit. A lighted wall and decorative wall mirror installation all in one. I immediately wished I could convince one of my current design clients to incorporate this into their living room feature wall!

This product is new enough that at around $2,000 per 6-module (an approximately 12” x 18” panel) it is a high-end product. I would bet, though, in very short order, that these price points will come down as the technology advances and manufacturing and distribution channels open up, and as OLED light fixtures become common.

Of course, all these utterly cool and futuristic lighting technology and design applications also beg the question as to how we might continue to light those familiar sofa side table lamps with fabric lamp shades or any of the myriad “historically styled" and lit interiors. I suspect that for the time being retrofit light bulbs will be the stopgap, but eventually be phased out as we shift into an entire new evolution of technology and style. If you think about it, every historical form of lighting from the dawn of human history to the current trends has been a story of ongoing technological evolution. We no longer use oil- or gas-based lighting, and even a camp fire is less about lighting and more about cooking, perhaps warmth, and in our culture is mostly nostalgia.

However we use and enjoy light, it is a fascinating thing and essential to our being. Let there be light - of many kinds!

Jacqueline Hosford, ASID, principal of Jacqueline Hosford Interior Design, loves working with clients to design their spaces for optimum function and each client's ultimate delight. Jacqueline is a professional member of the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID); is certified by the National Council for Interior Design Qualification; and is an adjunct professor of interior design, State University of New York (Purchase). Jacqueline is a graduate of Barnard College-Columbia University, and the New York School of Interior Design with highest honors. She can be reached at

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