Cove lighting

Shanghai 14th July 2010

A bit of a techno blog today… As lighting designers we are all familiar with the cove lighting technique. A recess in the ceiling or in the wall concealing the generally linear lighting to create a fading or grazing light wash on to a ceiling or a decorative wall finish or artwork. Many interior designers and architect really do not understand the mechanics of lighting and generally leave us with impossible spaces (dimensions/ access) for our lights. I had a long discussion with my staff this afternoon discussing the “pitfalls” of cove lighting, following specific questions from the client and ID.

First of all interior designers generally provide the exterior dimensions and gap opening to a cove and rarely consider the crucial inner dimensions of a cove. By the time structural supports and finishes are applied a 100 mm outer cove section only has about 30 mm left on the inside. Too bad if your light fitting has a 50 mm sectional height. Uncoordinated progress of the design would result in a cove installation with lights clearly visible and protruding from the edge of the cove. I am sure you have seen those in real life, happens all the time.

The second pitfall is the continuous nature of our linear cove lighting. Contractors have a habit of not neatly finishing the inside of a cove as it is “out of sight”. But the result is a lot of dirt and construction rubbish with often lights hastily fixed inside the cove. The lighting effects follows suit…irregular light throws and brightness. Add to that the location of the light in relation to the edge as its distance away or proximity creates different cut off angles, with sharp shadows as possible result. It is rare that we find linear lights in a cove properly installed and aligned, regardless how much attention we put into the detail…nature of the beast…

Finally we find ourselves now in an interesting situation with the new LED technology. Conventional cove lighting with T5 fluorescent tubes or cold cathode typically require dimensions like 100×100 mm or thereabouts. With the new compact LED linear light strips we can now do with less than half. However with the performance (and the clients budget) not fully up there yet we have the dilemma of having to consider both options just in case …

14. July 2010 by Martin Klaasen
Categories: lighting design | Leave a comment

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